Sunday, November 29, 2009

Throwing Parties, Making Invitations, and Being All Around Rad

I'm pretty sure there are more parties thrown during the month of December than any other month of the year. December offers a little something for everyone, even if it's just an excuse to make fun of drunk co-workers or avoid work for a few days. So, chances are good that, this month (well, in a few days...), you're either throwing a party or you know someone that is. That's why I wanted to give you a few 101 tips to make your party great. Specifically, I want to implore you to use these fandangled devices known as party invitations.

Now, the first thing any party needs is an occasion and a venue - because after you establish that, you can just add people. The occasion and the venue can dictate a lot - most obviously, they can dictate size - so if the occasion is a tea party, you probably don't want to invite a hundred people. At the same time, if the only place you can throw your shindig is the warehouse your uncle's renovating, you might not want to invite so few people that the size of the party echoes. Obviously, once you know roughly how many people you want, you can decide who those people are going to be; but of course, this is so much easier in theory than in practice.

Be mindful in planning your guest list. Smaller parties are going to require more careful planning, but even large parties need some thought, too. Sometimes it's just a matter of choosing people to introduce to each other - like Karen, who's a vegan straight edge drummer, and David, who has a spot in his vegan straight edge band. Other times, it's consciously keeping people apart - like Ellie, who is working towards recovery from anorexia, and Diane, who only speaks in pounds, inches, and diets. If it's the kind of party where extra guests are just assumed, don't make a point of inviting people you know will invite someone completely unwelcome, either - so for instance, don't call up the partner of a rapist that refuses to go through an accountability process and say, "Hey, want to come to my party!" because you're probably going to get the rapist, too. (And if you're welcoming unrepentant sexual assaulters into your party, you've got much bigger problems than whether or not to serve some Tofutti three days past expiration.)

Once you've established who you're inviting, you need to figure out how to invite them. Again, a lot of this will be dictated by the size of your soiree, but no matter what the size - do not resort to texting or social networking sites. Impersonal mass invites undo any and all personal touches. Sure, they save a little time, maybe money, but they're careless. Send real invitations. Real invitations are special because they affirm the person holding them as special. They say, "I consciously choose you to come to my party, and I'm so committed to that choice that I bothered choosing this invitation and making sure you got it." Plus, they distinguish your party. Let's say you're organizing a get-together on a night where there are going to be loads of them - a night like New Year's Eve, for example. You could send some invites on facebook to inevitably get lost in the thousands of other invites your facebook friends are surely receiving, or you could send an honest-to-goodness invitation people can admire aesthetically, tape to their fridges, and carry the accompanying directions from, in their car. Think of your invitation as an advertisement: you want people to come, so show people it's worth coming to. Otherwise, why bother with all this planning in the first place?

As for the invitation itself, there are a thousand different ways you can approach it. For bigger parties, use your computer to make flyers for doling out or mailing. For incredibly small ones, hand make each announcement. You can buy invitations, too, and while there are interesting finds at places like etsy, I prefer to keep my eye out for cheap and unusual cards at thrifstores, flea markets, and clearance sales. One time, I found the perfect invitations to announce a board game I'd made, at an art store's sidewalk sale. The invitations featured an early nineties glamor shot of this five-year-old dressed like a biker flashing a "mom" tattoo, so I used a really fine-tip permanent pen to alter it and read "Marx" because the game had Marxist undertones. Unfortunately, the game never got finished, but just subtly altering each one made them the best invitations I've ever bought. (And I've bought neon Batman invitations!) The trick is to be creative, so here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

+ detail your event on pages ripped from a picture book (especially if the pictures relate to your party in some way)
+ draw the invitation
+ collage the invitation
+ send a message in a bottle
+ make a tape or CD with a recorded message, plus good music
+ make a mini-comic or zine about your party
+ use calligraphy
+ silkscreen it
+ embroider it
+ sew it
+ make objects into invitations (tshirts with the party details ironed on, boxes of candy with the info written on them, customized matchbooks, bubbles or jam with homemade labels, etc. etc.)
+ modify coloring book pages
+ use origami
+ graffiti your party details (erasably!) on friends' bathroom mirrors, fridges, etc.
+ turn a library checkout card into an invitation and hide it in books (NOT library books - like, books you'll give to your friends)

Be creative in your delivery, too. Mail and hand delivery are both fine options (especially in this digital age...), but there's something to be said about delivering an invitation that looks like a newspaper... as a newspaper. Or hiding your invitation to a clothing swap in your best friend's dresser. Or wheat pasting instructions to call you on the telephone pole outside someone's apartment. (You get the idea.) Even a tired old e-vite becomes cool when it's an email to a youtube video or a website made explicitly for this party. When you put thought into your party, people notice, and that thoughtfulness goes a long way.


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