L is for Lonely, if nobody shows up
December 17, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

How to make an open house party enough fun that people will show up for another one?

In December, my family threw an afternoon open house where we served a wide variety of fancy store-bought cookies as well as tea and coffee. We called it "C is for Cookie." It was well-attended. I don't usually throw parties, but some friends and I got a running joke going about me continuing to do these things: D is for Donut next month, E is for Eclair the month after that, F is for Fudge, and so on. I was just kidding about it, but a party-loving friend talked me into at least trying to keep the ball rolling.

I like the idea--this was a very low-stress party to plan and host, and people enjoyed the playful theme. C is for Cookie was a sit-around-and-chat party. Attendance got a boost due to the recent death of my mother, and people wanting to come to show their support for me. I'm not sure how many we'd have gotten otherwise.

What can I do in the future--besides the tasty treats and the good coffee--to make an open-house style party enough fun that people will come back for it? Guests would be likely to include both children and adults. It seems unlikely that we could plan an all-at-once group activity, but are there optional activities we could set up that would be intriguing ("I really liked the decorate-your-own donut machine...I wonder what not that girl's got up her sleeve this month? I must go there to find out!")?

Party throwers, give me the benefit of your wisdom.
posted by not that girl to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if I'd make this a monthly thing. Maybe make it every other month. Because once people begin to feel like it's an obligation rather than a social gathering ("oh god, I gotta make FUDGE for that party at Not That Girl's house... didn't I just make deviled EGGS for her party last month?"), then you start to lose people.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

As someone who doesn't like free-form random socializing, but loves activities and games(and may also be useful since you may have kids in attendance):

-G is for Games
-S is for scavenger hunts (and let kids and/or creative people create clues, etc.).
-M is for Mystery Theater
-T is for Trivia

Not all of these, of course, but try one or two and see if it sticks.
posted by Wolfster at 11:06 AM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

You can't do it every month, because you need to allow demand to build.

Hold another one about a month from now to establish a pattern and a track record of success, and then wait for a couple of months.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:08 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find that keeping things causal and low key is the secret to keeping this kind of thing going.

You want to go when it's no big deal, and you're not expected to do much of anything.

For example, we used to get together for pizza and X-Files (WAY back in the stone-age). We were single, we were all going to watch it anyway, why not do it with a small group of friends.

I wouldn't make it a monthly thing, YOU'LL get tired of it. Just a random thing, when you're in the mood.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with HeyAllie - once a month sounds like too much stress for everyone involved, unless you're friends with some hardcore socialites. Why not once a year around the holiday season? As for things to do, I think a separate break-out area for kids with a tv playing a movie or with a Wii set up would certainly make it easier for parents to relax with each other.
posted by catch as catch can at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2012

You could also rotate the party through a few friends' houses. That will expand the variety of people coming to the events which make things fresh and fun.
posted by 26.2 at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to host a free-form get together once per quarter (i.e. every three months) for friends who had been in my theater group in college, but who didn't otherwise socialize with one another anymore. That was enough space for things to actually happen in the interim so that we were certain not to run out of topics for conversation.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:13 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think every other month, or at some other interval sounds like a great idea. Sounds better to me even. To be clear, I'm not interested in having potlucks. We provide food. I also like the idea of the names not always being food. Keep ideas coming, this is really helpful.
posted by not that girl at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2012

My friend does a quarterly clothes-swap gathering and it's incredibly fun. I don't go to every one but I usually go to two a year. It's always really low key and there's a constant rotation of people. Some times it's only a few and it's a couple hours in the afternoon type thing and sometimes everyone comes and it turns into an all-day into night extravaganza.

Quarterly would be great, I think. Happens regularly enough but not burdensome to you or guests. I think the key to having parties like this work is keeping it really low key, stress-free on your part and having it somewhat attendee-dependent i.e., some kind of potluck aspect. That way you don't wind up having a ton or stuff for a few people or not enough for many, and you are less stressed about hosting which always makes parties more fun.
posted by Katine at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you provide food and make it clear there's no obligation for partygoers to bring anything, that will probably help attendance. Getting the date out to everyone waaaay in advance also helps in my experience.

The other thing you need to do is just invite about twice as many people as you think you want. So if you want 50 people, invite 100, expecting about 50% regrets. At least that is the rule of thumb that I use for parties. (Although maybe this is high or low compared to others, you'll need to work it out yourself over time.)

One thing I have to do is try to be very good about writing down the names of people that I mention the party to. Frequently I'll be out somewhere and mention an upcoming party to someone, they'll express interest, and then I'll totally forget to send them an invite until the day of the party or something. Don't do that. Sometimes people may just be feigning interest to be polite, but that's not a reason not to send them an invitation anyway.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine often has a theme for his parties: mustache, hair, hats, glasses or something of that sort. It's pretty free form and low pressure but fun to dress up a little and chat with people how they came up with their "costume" ideas.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:35 AM on December 17, 2012

Keep the guest list small and rotate through your friends. People desperately want to be a part of things where they might not make the cut.
posted by xingcat at 11:49 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Quarterly at most.
An elaborate theme will keep a lot of people from attending - most people I know do not have time to come up with a costume for a get together.
Tasty treats (I love the letter of the alphabet as the key to what the tasty treat is going to be!! That to me emphasizes that we're getting together to hang out rather than for a Thing which I may or may not care about), good coffee, and low-key relaxation and seeing friends is the key - every quarter you should convey that that's going to be happening, and hey, if you want to play board games we'll have some for everyone, or whatever that kind of supplemental thing is. Not everyone will care about trivia or mystery night or board games, but a lot of people will want to have some fun and hang out, so make sure you appeal to all of them. And maybe they'll get into the trivia when they are there! (But I think 100% of people would want to decorate a donut that just came out of a donut making machine!)
Oh, and if you really don't want anyone bringing things, make that super clear so they don't feel obligated to do it anyway.
Make it clear the kids are really welcome, and have some things for them to do and let people know you will have those things.
posted by mrs. taters at 4:07 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone. This was really helpful to me in thinking through how I want to do this.
posted by not that girl at 8:34 AM on December 18, 2012

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