Although you don't have to display napkins of which the Ritz-Carlton would approve, some basic skill with napkin folding will add an elegant touch to your table.
TriangleFold napkin in half diagonally. Fold corners up to meet the top point. Turn napkin over and fold in half diagonally. Pick up at center and stand on base of triangle (see Figure 3.1).
Glass fanFold napkin in half lengthwise. Accordion pleat napkin from top to bottom. Fold bottom third of napkin back under. Place bottom in wine glass and spread out top pleats of napkin so that it resembles a fan (see Figure 3.2).
Standing fanFold napkin in half lengthwise. Fold into 1/2" accordion pleats, beginning at the bottom of the napkin and only pleating half the napkin. Fold the whole napkin in half, so that pleat meets pleat, with the accordion fold on the outside. Fold upper-right corner of unpleated sides diagonally down to folded base of pleats, and turn under edge, adjusting the fan until it feels stable. Place on table and spread pleats to form fan (see Figure 3.3).
TowerFold napkin in half diagonally. Fold corners to meet at top point. Turn napkin over and fold bottom two thirds way up. Turn napkin around and bring corners together, tucking one corner into the other. Turn napkin around and stand on base (see Figure 3.4).
No-brainerFold napkin in half diagonally. Holding the top point of the triangle, pull it through a round napkin holder. Attractively arrange bottom portion of napkin.
Figure 3.1 The triangle.
Figure 3.2 The glass fan.
Figure 3.3 The standing fan.
Figure 3.4 The tower.
Although napkin-folding isn't for everyone, some people really enjoy the added touch of class. If you find yourself adept at linen origami, consider investing in one of the many handy books on napkin folding, which you will find in the "entertaining" section of your bookstore.
Putting Your Party to Music
Music is perhaps the single-most important ingredient to the paella that is your party. Without music, you run the risk of long, uncomfortable silences, during which your party can nose dive. A prominently displayed CD collection will also give nervous guests and wallflower types something with which to occupy themselves until the party has moved into full swing.
Music sets the atmosphere; consider carefully the soundtrack for your party. If you can, coordinate your music with your party's theme: country/western for barbecues, disco for disco parties, and swing for martini parties. Also think about the types of activities you'll feature, and coordinate your soundtrack to reflect the mood you'll want to set. For example
For a seated dinner, plan a few lively CDs for pre-dinner festivities. When the guests move to the dining table, switch to mellow musicclassical, vocals, or ambient house musicso you can hear conversation without shouting. Also remember to adjust the volume accordingly.
A casual mixer will fare well with classic or contemporary rock, country, bluegrass, or R&Bjust make sure to keep the volume loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to encourage chatter.
If you're having a cocktail party, opt for smooth jazz, swingy '60s vocals (Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra) or low-key house music. Again, watch the volume.
Whatever your soundtrack, select your CDs ahead of time. You don't want to waste valuable party time fumbling with CD cases or rifling through your collection. Stack up about 10 CDs next to the player, in the order you'd like to play them. Toward the end of the party, as things wind down (or get nuts!), take requests.
You'll want to experiment with different sounds and styles before the party. Try to achieve a mix of the standard and the unexpected. For interesting ideas, visit your local independent music store and chat up the clerks.
After you select your party soundtrack, check each CD to ensure there aren't any scratches. Also, make sure you keep the remote in your pocket at all times, just to make certain the volume fluctuates with the party.
If you're on a budget and your CD collection reflects it, visit used CD stores, where you can find great albums at rock-bottom prices. Also considering visiting your local public library, where you will find many great CDsfree!
A CD Collection That Knows How to Party
Although your musical tastes might run to speed metal, British punk, or Broadway show tunes, your guests might prefer something a little more diverse. You can't please all your guests at once, but you can acquire a CD collection that will get the party grooving.
Recommended in no particular order, the following CDs can enliven even the most staid party, serving as everything from a background for conversation to a shake-your-booty enticer.
Pink Martini, SympathiqueFabulous standards, classical, and world music interpreted by an acid-cool jazz band and vocalist, this album's variety and scope make this CD a perfect party opener.
ABBA, ABBA Gold: Greatest HitsDisco, disco, and more disco! You might be tired of hearing Dancing Queen, but isn't there certain value in knowing all the words?
Massive Attack, Blue LinesThe definitive trip-hop album, Blue Lines lends perfect atmosphere to almost any kind of party.
Kruder & Dorfmeister, The K&D SessionsCool, low-key, trippy music characterizes this brilliant album by German remixers Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister. Your hip guests will love this CD.
Seal, Seal (1994)The production value alone makes this CD a keeper, but the songs are great, too! Perfect for the first two hours of the party.
Sade, Love DeluxeWhen you've finished listening to Seal, slip on Sade, whose cool, "dancey" vocals will keep the party warm.
Annie Lennox, BareFormer Eurythmics chanteuse Annie Lennox has an amazing voice, showcased nicely by this collection of original songs, perfect for ambient moments.
Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter SongbookNothing says "class" like the First Lady of Jazz. Ella is at her best when singing Cole Porter, whose clever lyrics will be familiar to any guests born before the year 1980.
Peggy Lee, The Best of Miss Peggy LeeAn upbeat complement to Ella and Annie, Peggy Lee will inspire your guests to sing along as they sip martinis.
Various Artists, Bossa Nova BrasilWhat's a party without a little Bossa Nova? The cool, Latin rhythms will enhance any party, seated or standing.
Ry Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social ClubCuban rhythms have become popular in the last decade; check out the album that started it all.
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IIYour collection would be incomplete without at least one solid rock album. This is the album.
Steely Dan, A Decade Of Steely DanThe definitive party band of the 1970s, Steely Dan will leave guests nostalgic for the days when uninhibited drug use and casual sex were socially and medically acceptable.
Various Artists, Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 4You might think "Instrumental versions of my favorite rock music? No way!" Way. Perfect for quiet parties and seated dinners, where the original recordings might be far too disruptive and loud, this album really rocks.
Sly & the Family Stone, AnthologySly gives disco a little soul, as evidenced by this classic collection that contains some of the best dancing songs you will ever hear.
Sugarhill Gang, The Best Of Sugarhill Gang: Rapper's DelightOld-school rap is perfect when your guests are likely to know every single word. Slap on this CD and watch your guests sing as they groove.
Yo-Yo Ma, Bach: The Cello SuitesWhen understated occasions demand classic music, Yo-Yo Ma's take on Bach can lend a poignant air of beauty to any gathering.
Although you will certainly want to amass a larger, more extensive collection of albums that reflects your personal tastesave the speed metal for after the guests leavethese CDs will give you a great start.
Party games and other activities might seem passé, but really, they aren't. When presented with the proper attitudemirth, optimism, and a tongue-in-cheek attitudegames and activities can add an element of fun to even the stuffiest gathering. You might be surprised by how many guests will demand games and activities at your next party.
Although you'll do best wandering through a game store or consulting a party activities book (yes, these do exist), keep in mind a few options that have worked well for me:
Adult party gamesAllowing guests to showcase their particular talents, knowledge, and skills, adult party games can bring disparate guests together into a cohesive group. Although you probably don't want to pull out the Trivial Pursuit game for a party of 40 people, smaller gatherings are perfectly suited for an hour or two of challenging mind games. See the sidebar for specific ideas about which games work well.
Scavenger huntsThis childhood favorite can become a favorite with adults when given a mature spin. At the beginning of a destination party, hand the guests a list of items (perhaps a few naughty items?) they should be able to locate throughout the evening. You also can host a video or musical scavenger hunt, or plan an entire party around a city-wide scavenger hunt.
Shower gamesAlthough some guests will claim to abhor the silly little games played at wedding and baby showers, I adore them. Keep it simple, no more than two or three games per party, and offer fun prizes. If you adopt a festive spirit, your guests will, too.
Although some gatherings, such as a Games Night, demand certain activities, games should never be forced on anyone. Take your party's temperature before pulling out the Pictionary game: If everyone is having a great time already, leave well enough alone. If your guests seem to be looking for something to do, suggest an activity or game.
Please offer prizes for winners! Although selecting and wrapping these small gifts might seem like one extra chore, prizes make the games even more fun, giving guests something to vie for. The prizes don't have to be expensivescented candles, a CD or DVD, or a funky coffee mugbut they should reflect some thought. Don't forget to remove the price tags!
Before your party, make sure all your boxed games contain all the pieces and that any tools you'll need are on hand.
If you can't afford a bunch of adult gamesmost cost around $25don't despair. Hit the kids section of your local Target or Wal-Mart and select a few lower-priced options, such as Uno, Yahtzee, or Operation. Look for games that allow several players, and don't forget to hype up the kitsch value!
If you and your guests love charades, have at it. Otherwise, you might want to check out one of these other games, all suitable for adults:
PictionaryWhether you make your own set or buy the game, Pictionary is a great group game just about anyone can play.
TwisterYes, it's kitschy, but isn't that the point?
TabooThis cheeky game is a great ice- breaker for adults who think they know one another. Don't take the game too seriously, and you'll have a great time.
Hide-and-seekBest played outdoors, in a park or while camping, hide-and-seek, when played with adults (especially those who have been drinking just a little bit), can be just as fun as it was when you were a kid.
Trivial PursuitIt's a classic, with good reason. Playing in teams allows to you match skills and knowledge, and players can have a great time arguing about their final answers.
"I Never"This sorority-days holdover is actually quite fun in the right company. A drinking game, one person states something they profess never to have done, such as making out in public, and whoever has actually performed this feat takes a drink. Yes, this isn't a very mature game, but if begun at the right time, with the right group of people, you'll have a fabulous time.
CraniumAnother game marketed for adults, Cranium contains a little bit for everyone: trivia, acting skills, drawing, and modeling with clay. Best suited for smaller gatherings, Cranium is one of the more fun games to emerge in recent years.
Keep a variety of games on hand, perhaps a book on party games, and you'll be able to enliven a party that is dying prematurely.
If you have the inclination, consider hiring professional entertainment for your party. Although not every gatheringor budget!is suited to this type of activity, a little creativity and effort on your part can make your evening's entertainment spectacular.
Instead of hiring your brother's garage band, why not explore one of these ideas?
MusicQuality performers are always welcome at any party, especially when they function more as ambience, rather than the central focus. Consider a string quartet, jazz trio, or even a harpist, all of whom can add wonderful atmosphere to your gathering without overpowering it.
Live entertainmentA hypnotist, comedian, or balloon artist can add a lively, silly element to the right party, such as a barbecue, retirement or reunion party, children's party, or picnic. Before you dismiss this idea as childish, think about it: What could be more entertaining than a group of adults laughing their heads off at a professional clown?
ServicesA really creative hostess will have fun planning special services for the right party: a psychic, a tarot card reader, or a palm-reader for a Halloween party; an esthetician for a Beauty Night; a 5-minute masseuse for a Happy Hour; or even a babysitter for a party at which several children will be present. Think about the theme of your party and your guests' needs and preferences, and then look through your local community paper to discover what kinds of services are available near you.
If you're working with a limited budget, but are dying for professional musicians at your party, contact a local university or music school, where you can often find talented students who are more than happy to play for the exposure and a small fee.
Although not every party will require or benefit from hired entertainmenta dinner party for six might be an odd place for a babysittermany parties can be enhanced by such offerings. Be creative and ask your friends for feedback. You might be surprised by what you hear!
Always keep your guests' happiness in mind. Not everyone will appreciate a comedian who tells off-color jokes or a performance by a psychic or fortuneteller, which many people negatively associate with the occult. If your guests are on the conservative side, plan accordingly.
If you have the budget for a professional entertainer or service provider, don't skimp on quality. Ask for references, attend an event at which the person will be performing, and make sure you are getting your money's worth.
Give yourself plenty of time to research, evaluate, and select your entertainment. Because this is one task you can definitely perform far ahead of your party date, don't leave it to the last minute, or else you might find yourself settling for second-rate talent.