partyNov 8, 2023–For the semi-pro party planners that lurk among us, the holidays are their Olympics, Super Bowl, and Academy Awards, wrapped in a bow with a Christmas carol soundtrack.

No group is more motivated to create a memorable event from scraps of paper and inedible garnishes. To illustrate, I’ll reconstruct a party by a group I was part of last year. They were planning a surprise confab for a mutual acquaintance. Like all disasters, it sprang from a well-meaning premise: I casually mentioned that we should “do something” to show our appreciation for an individual. By “doing something,” I meant sign a card. I even volunteered to buy the card. For the group, it meant an all-out assault that rivaled Patton’s campaign in the Mediterranean.

Within one day of exchanging emails, they had assembled the following menu:

  • Cupcakes
  • Fruit Tray
  • Champagne
  • Sparkling cider
  • Cheese tray and mixed nuts

We needed ways to convey these comestibles to our lips, hence:

  • Tablecloths, napkins, plastic ware, plates
  • Flutes for champagne/cider
  • Toothpicks

And, no party merits social media sharing without:

  • Balloons
  • Streamers

One of our sleuths discovered the guest of honor’s favorite color, requiring another round of emails to color coordinate the napkins, plates, and streamers.

So far, none of this sounds unreasonable. But the dedicated party planner is always seeking the next level. So suddenly we were producing an original skit, along the lines of “This is Your Life.” Someone wrote a script, roles were assigned, costumes designed, and rehearsals scheduled.

Then the ad hoc troubleshooting team spontaneously formed.

Dilemma: Another group was scheduled to use the building at the same time
Solution: Scramble to find an alternate site

Dilemma: The honoree will notice us all arriving as a group
Solution: Synchronize watches and stagger our arrivals in singles and pairs

Dilemma: What if we are caught in the act?
Solution: Lie

Logistics grew so complex, someone built a minute-by-minute Excel schedule: 15:00) meet under a pretense; 15:10) distract the guest of honor, while Team A decorates the room and sets out the refreshments,15:30) Team C leads the honoree into the party room, 15:33) we all yell “Surprise,” perform the skit, and present the card.

At least the original idea of handing her a card stayed on the agenda.

The party was a success, due in no small part to the fact there were a couple of retired teachers in the group. No other profession is better suited at a) planning an event, b) anticipating any complications, c) scrounging up supplies. One brought party favors left by a deceased relative.

I am not disparaging the process or the participants. I am not a Party Pooper; I just do not possess the “party” gene. I have no interest or ability in putting gumdrop faces on cupcakes or stringing garlands of balloons in the rafters. I haven’t figured out how to gracefully stab a wet grape with a toothpick or to make small talk while balancing a tiny plateful of cream cheese and olives, catching crumbs with a 2-inch square non-absorbent purple napkin, and sipping wine from a two-piece plastic flute. Humans are built to either eat, or to speak. It is impossible to do both simultaneously. Yet we never stop trying.

I am thankful, however, that there are persons who do enjoy party planning and are fabulous at it. They are creative, unselfish souls who derive pleasure in surprising and pleasing those they love. I am glad they are in the world, dicing and decorating, color coordinating and cooking, so that I don’t have to.