Editor’s note: Today we invited two guests to add to the 20-40-60 team’s answers. Questions about co-hosting parties have come up before, and we think it is important that all hosts participate together in party planning, especially since they are coming together to honor a mutual friend. Readers, let us know what you think.
QUESTION: My friend has a very demanding job that has never allowed her to do much outside of the work realm. Consequently, she has never developed an understanding of how to host social events. She has compensated by buying a food platter, bringing drinks or contributing money when needed. Yet when it comes to actually planning the details, she is clueless.
I, on the other hand, have lots of experience. I seem to always get stuck doing everything from cleaning the house to buying flowers, cooking and setting out china and crystal. Oh, and don’t forget, the cleanup after the party.
How do I get my friend to better understand that when it is your turn to entertain in your home, you can’t just show up five minutes before the party with a fruit bowl?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Why don’t you just tell her? Let her know what she needs to do before the party. Maybe even make her a “to do” list. That always helps me!
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: First, I don’t think your question has anything to do with whether your friend works a demanding job or not. Different people have different skills. Assuming that people who work full-time don’t know how to throw a proper party just because they work a demanding job furthers the divide between those who are employed outside the home or work in the home. You may not have meant that, but your question comes across that way. We’re all on the same team here — the one of making the best decisions for our individual families — and attributing the lack of a skill to either situation is unnecessary and patronizing.
I apologize for the lecture. That is a discussion for another day. Your question about how to get your friend to participate fully in the party process is a good one. Meet well ahead of time to divide up tasks and list them out so the different hosts can volunteer for different jobs. Your friend may have volunteered to take an easier route before because she knew her schedule better than anyone else. Maybe she’s ready to do something more, and you don’t have to take on all the tasks like a martyr. Assign them out before the event so the expectations are clear. Everyone should be chipping in equally, but sometimes people absentmindedly let others take the brunt of it in a communication vacuum.
HELEN’S ANSWER: When party planning, make sure all of the hostesses have a role that requires some action. That way, they have a vested interest in the event. It might be ordering flowers, ordering food, providing the house, bringing the fruit bowl or paying to have these things done. The person with the house has the biggest job, and everyone usually understands that and does not give her a job other than getting the house ready. Everyone should join in the cleanup.
If there are only two of you, then communicate to the other hostess what is needed. She needs to be told if she is expected to pay for everything or half of everything since you are providing the house. She needs to know exactly what she needs to pick up in the way of gifts or food. All the plans and expenses should be in order before you send out the invitations. Good communication is very important in party planning with other people!
GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman night news director and University of Central Oklahoma Media Ethics Chair: One quick way is to tell her that YOU will bring the food platter, drinks or contribute money. When the party doesn’t go off without a hitch and she is stuck with cleaning up, maybe she’ll get the idea. STOP enabling her and she will learn. Of course, perhaps she should outsource social events that she doesn’t have time for. There is no blame in hiring people to prepare, serve and clean.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Mary Hicks McReynolds, book author: Plan A: If the event is shared, provide your friend a list of tasks from which she may choose as her contribution. Include helpful tasks unrelated to food such as setting the table with you, picking up the flowers, helping tidy up afterwards. Then no one's feelings are hurt and all the bases are covered. She may even learn a trick or two about hostessing.
Plan B: Do not ask for her help or attend an event at her home that only features a fruit bowl.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.