Whether you’re a party-goer or a party-thrower, these tips by society writer Shinan Govani will make you the star of any occasion this season
Don’t be a scrooge. Having covered the social beat for various media for eons, I’ve long found that being interesting and interested is the supreme elegance. Drawing on experiences from a lifetime of party-going, here, now, some tips and strategies for both guest and host.
A trick of the socialite trade is always sending a bouquet before a party. Belinda Stronach, the Canadian heiress, always remembers to do this. Accompanied by an “I’m so looking forward to it…” note, it not only shows thoughtfulness by freeing up the host from scurrying during the actual party, but also eliminates the need of sending a post-note.
When in doubt, Chicken Pot Pie
If it’s good enough for the Vanity Fair Oscar party, it’s good enough for you: the no-fuss, crowd-pleasing chicken pot pie. (The VF iteration, served annually at Hollywood’s glitziest party, is one inspired by a childhood dish of masthead head Graydon Carter). It also has the seated-meal seal-of-approval of a certain Vogue editor, as her private chef once blabbed: “It’s Anna Wintour’s favorite dish because it’s quick to serve and moves things right along… everything you need in there—vegetables and a meat for meat-eaters, in one course.” (Pssst… if it’s a sit-down dinner, never let the eating party go on longer than an hour and fifteen minutes. The pre-cocktail? A half-hour.)
Create a Moment
A party, or dinner, is theatre, and when the host, you are the director. In this vein, try toasting your guests at some point during a soirée. Even a very simple “We’re so glad to have you all here!” should do it.
Couples at seated dinners? They should be separated so that they’re within eye-shot but not right beside because, as uber-Washington hostess Sally Quinn once told me, “I find that it saps the energy from the table when spouses are practically in each other’s laps.” Mix it up! The vogue for spousal security blankets—something I often see—can make us conversationally lazy. Social skills, like any other muscle, have to be exercised.
A good guest arrives ready to interact. And the best way to do this is to crib! Read the newspaper! Be up on stuff. Ask questions! Avoid talking about yourself, or your recent “awful flight.” Debbie Downers who go on about their travel woes is the new-century equivalent of holding people hostage with your children’s photos. One’s airport tales are generally only interesting if they’re your own.
As Tom Ford demonstrated at the party he threw in Toronto during TIFF, in September, re-casting the Gardiner Museum with a dark, all-black palette: black carpets! black walls! black napkins!—the ultimate coup d’état is a conga line of universally handsome servers, all in black suit, white shirt, and black tie. Hey, what’s not to like?
You can never have too much ice. Stock up!