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What are your rules for giving a good party?

It’s the party season, here in London and presumably all around Christendom. Speaking for myself, I attended a dinner party on Christmas Eve, had a quiet day on Christmas Day, but then held a party at my home on the 28th. I have just now got back from a party at the home of a fellow Samizdatista, and will be attending another get-together on New Year’s Eve, i.e. tomorrow evening.

All of which events, my own one in particular, make me wonder: How are such events best organised? Rather than elaborate on the imperfections of my own party (imperfections which – before, during and after – got me wondering yet again about this question), let me just ask the question, of anyone who is willing to oblige with an answer or answers. How do you go about laying on a good party? What particular and perhaps rather surprising or counter-intuitive rules or recipes do you find yourself needing to keep in mind? What things, in your preparations, matter the most? What other things that many would assume to be crucial do you consider not to matter nearly so much?

Also, and closely related: What makes a great party? What’s the greatest party that you personally have ever attended? What was so great about it?

I’m leaving all these question deliberately vague just because I am hoping to be delighted and surprised by the answers, as well as merely, as a future host, informed and improved.

There are few joys like the joy of choosing what you hope will be great company and then being delighted at how well your choice worked out. But how do you, or the hosts you most admire, contrive this particular kind of miracle? I hope that any parties you have recently attended or organised, or which you are about to attend or are in the process of organising, are a great success. And I’d be delighted to hear how you think that such joy is best contrived.

Being in somewhat of a rush to get this up this evening, before I stagger into bed, I am not including any links to www-places where questions like these are already persuasively discussed and answered, basically because I do not now know of any such places, that being because I have never until now even thought to look. But that need not stop commenters rectifying this omission.

23 comments to What are your rules for giving a good party?

  • bobby b

    Neat idea! Here are some things I’ve learned:

    1). Mennonites and Amish at the same party – well, just don’t.

    2). If you have a 6′ Taiwanese Beauty snake, make sure the cage cover is secure before people arrive.

    3). My best parties usually involve having everyone show up to a pile of ingredients, and then involving everyone in making the meal. (A big kitchen helps.) No four-hour dishes, obviously, but get people chopping and dicing and sauteing and whipping, and the conversation and camaraderie just seem to flow. People get to know one another in unexpected combinations. A while back, I watched as a state senator raptly learned the proper treatment of a fresh vanilla bean from a young pig farmer. Everybody talks to everybody.

  • Ellen

    Invite good people, and not too many of them.

  • William H. Stoddard

    My favorite party ever was when, quite some years ago, a friend of C’s and mine celebrated her birthday with a themed party, as was her custom. The theme that year was “party of the gods”: Everyone showed up in costume as their favorite god, spirit, or supernatural being. Not being very good at costuming, I showed up in my best suit, with horns glued to my forehead, and with a briefcase holding contracts for people’s souls. C was Delirium of the Endless from the Vertigo comic, with hair dyed many colors. Other roles I remember were Caligula (a god by his own proclamation, at least), Jesus, and Bacchus (clad only in an animal skin). I think I actually got Caligula’s soul before the party was over.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Heh! William, next time glue on the horns, go naked to the waist, wear a pair of blousy brown long-pants with snug cuffs, and sew two pouches with points to put over your ears, sort of like Mr. Spock’s. Paint your feet black (or in winter, wear tennis shoes). Don’t forget a tassel to go on the pants for a tail. Don’t forget the pan-flute! 😆

    By the way, your briefcase of contracts for souls this time was an excellent touch. Very imaginative!

  • 1) Don’t invite politicians
    2) Don’t invite vegans / vegetarians – i dont trust them
    3) Get your guests their first drink, then just allow them to help themselves
    4) Lay on food that doesnt keep you cooking all night, or get it catered.

  • Chip

    From my experience over the holidays, invite fewer people who are compelled to talk all the time about themselves and things they care about, and more people who can listen patiently and ask stimulating questions.

    So simple yet so increasingly rare.

  • Paul Marks

    I have never organised such an event – and I never will.

    However, I have made sure that people are orderly (at least to some extent) during such events, and made sure that they get home safely (an important thing – and something that is often overlooked). And washed and cleaned up after such events.

    Happy New Year.

  • Ian

    Fancy-dress parties can be great or they can be kinda awkward. I’ve only ever been to two: one as Sir Patrick Moore when a child, the other as the Hierophant for a Tarot-themed party. Both parties were pretty bad, but then it has a lot to do with the guests (and sometimes the kinds of drugs available).

    My recommendation for when one simply must invite politicians to a party, if it’s summertime in the countryside, is – after a few drinks – to bring out some firearms and suggest some casual target practice. But seriously, I think it’s a good plan to have some form of entertainment on hand to get things going, and at the last party I hosted (and before everyone got squiffy) I brought out a .177 air pistol and we did some target practice in the garden – with safety goggles and instruction, etc. You might point out there’s no such thing as safety precautions with alcohol involved, but everyone had fun.

    Also, if you have guests staying over, make sure to cook them a proper breakfast in the morning.

    P.S. Happy New Year’s everyone, and here’s to another year of Samizdata…

  • Bilwick

    Rule #1: Everyone gets naked.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Hi, Julie! I’m not visual enough to do that level of costuming. I came up with something minimal that fit the spirit of the occasion.

    The same friend had a 30th birthday party themed as a double quinceañera. We bought a piñata and hung it from the stairs outside her apartment, and when people broke it open they discovered that it was stuffed with condoms and lube and such. . . .

  • bobby b

    “Rule #1: Everyone gets naked.”

    This loses much of its luster as your social circle ages.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Did you use 10W30 or 10W40? 😆

    PS. I love the costume you came up with. It’s just that the horns made me think of the faunstastic idea. :>))



    Perhaps, but then you can rightly require that everyone wear purple.
    And that no one let it all hang out. 😈

  • William H. Stoddard


    I was wondering if that was where the panpipes came froim. . . .

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yep! 😆



    HAPPY NEW YEAR to all Samizdatistas everywhere !!!

    😀 😀 😀

  • William H. Stoddard


    Happy New Year to you.

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Confused Old Misfit

    THE RULE is that there are NO rules!
    Happy New Year!

  • Julie near Chicago

    RULES???? Where we’re going, we don’t need RULES !!!! 😆

  • bobby b

    They’re more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.

    (There’s probably a fair bit of overlap between a good set of party rules and the Pirate’s Code.)

  • AnnCapp

    Bobby, your first two ideas make a lot of sense. But #3 is hilarious. Please tell me you’re kidding!

  • Gong

    1. While you might be kind and want to invite everyone, avoid anyone with asshole/jag-off tendencies.
    2. Supply good food and drink.
    3. Have decent background music and limit the dance stuff for only an hour.
    4. Have an outdoor fire. 5. Be judicious in your use of various recreational drugs- you may have to plan for a sleepover or at least several Uber rides for your guests. ..
    6. Don’t be surprised if it gets weird.7.If you are the least bit musical, have a guitar or keyboard or percussion for your musically inclined guests to jam on- preferably without pisising of your neighbors. 8. Keep the pyrotechnics to visuals and stop after 12:30.
    9. DO NOT FIRE HANDGUNS OR RIFLES TO BRING IN THE NEW YEAR. 10. Expect to be in less than perfect form in the morning..
    Always worked for me @

  • The Pedant-General

    Only one really fundamental rule:

    1) Invite some nice people; give them something to eat and drink and then let them get on with it.

    There is nothing worse than trying to cajole fun into an evening. It is almost inevitably counter-productive.
    Once you have done those basics, circulate with bottles to top people up and chat to each of them, introducing people who you think might be interested to talk to each other by telling them what you think they might interested in in the other person. Then let them get on with it. 🙂