Dinner party disaster :(

mrs_tlcAugust 11, 2008

I am new to this board and hoping to find some suggestions...

okay, so DH says I worry to much but last night we had some friends over, casusal cookout - Just two other couples. And here's what happened: One is Vegan and One is just very picky so I tried to have a menu that would cover "normal" cookout food to appeal to the picky one and the opposite for the Vegan.

For appetizers we had raw veggies with hummus dip and a ranch dip and a cheese ball that DH makes with crackers. For dinner we had burgers, bratts, grilled veggies, baked beans, cucumber dill salad (Williams Sonoma recipe) and sun dried tomato potato salad (Williams Sonoma recipe too), Lemon Cello Torte from Cheesecake Factory. The picky one ate two burgers and that's it- not even desert, the Vegan brought her own burger and tabouli salad and I have pretty much everything left over.

Then, the grill ran out of gas in the middle of cooking. Fortunately we keep a backup tank. During dinner one of our cats jumped into a cement planter on the far side of the pool, in clear view of the dinner table and started peeing in it. Then jumped out and pooped on the patio next to the planter! Then DH is sitting there and the seat base of the dining room chair broke through!

DH says everyone had a great time. Conversation was great, we laughed like crazy most of the night and everyone stayed til 10:00 but I just felt inside like it was a big flop.

Any suggestions????????????

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A disaster?! I think it sounds like this party was a huge success:

"everyone had a great time"
"Conversation was great"
"we laughed like crazy most of the night"
"everyone stayed til 10:00"

This by you is a DISASTER? You achieved exactly what every host aims for.

And yet ...
"I just felt inside like it was a big flop."

I can't even think of anything that went wrong; it sounds like you had a great menu and did everything well. They didn't all eat everything you made (for reasons you knew in advance anyway)? You had to change the gas tank? The cat relieved itself -- outdoors? So what? I wouldn't even call those things glitches, even problems, much less "disasters." When I saw the title of this post, I thought you were going to say that the guests had to go to the emergency room, or the toilet exploded, or someone made a dreadful scene or something.

Perhaps you are really just fishing for compliments on what sounds like a beautifully hosted and really terrific party, but if you really do feel like those little things ruined your party -- well, you asked for suggestions, so here is mine:

Adjust your criteria for "successful" entertaining. The point is not to have your guests eat exactly the quantities of the foods you prepare and to admire the perfection of your home and talents -- right down to the cat. It is to give your guests a wonderful evening. And that is exactly what you did! I hope you didn't spoil your own enjoyment by fretting over trivialities.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 3:08PM
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If everyone had fun it was NOT a flop. that's whay you give a party....that's why it's cause "entertaining"...because even if the fun comes from a cat's potty stop[ and your husband's pratfall, it's still fun.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 3:09PM
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What they said. And, if everything had gone smoothly six months from now no-one would remember what a good time they had. With some memorable stuff happening, last night's dinner will bring a smile to everyone's face when they think of it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 8:48PM
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Why would you want to be Martha Stewart? I doubt your friends or family expect you to be, nor would it make them happy.

Sounds like you are personalizing your friends' not eating as rejection. It isn't - it's their loss, not yours. I've done a lot of entertaining over the years and to be honest, I save the gourmet cooking for people who I KNOW will appreciate it. A lot of people simply don't, or can't (allergies, special diet, etc.). Nothing wrong with a simple potluck, or even a soy dog on a whole wheat bun, for that matter.

Nobody starved, nobody got injured. Your friends and family had a great time. To paraphrase Wayne Dwyer, nobody is going to say at the end of their life, "Boy, I wish I could make a better potato salad!"

You did just fine. Remember that all too often, we try to count our successes in life, when it is really our failures that define our character. Your guests will have a good time if YOU are having a good time. A stressed-out hostess is no fun for anyone, no matter how lavish or wonderful the food is.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 11:03AM
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You all have VERY valid points **..Adjust your criteria for "successful" entertaining** is exactly right.

I also realized that I was PMSing and I'm a bit on the Menopausal side too so another lesson learned......no dinner parties at that time of the month! Everything seems bigger than it really is during those times....LOL

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 12:18PM
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Good for you, mrs tlc! I bet next time you will be able to enjoy your party as much as your lucky guests obviously did.

jkom52 wrote, "Why would you want to be Martha Stewart?" Excellent point -- but it made me think of something else, too. Martha Stewart's parties probably have plenty of little glitches, too. EVERYONE'S do. What makes people great hosts is their attitude, not their flawlessness.

The "Marthas" we all know don't have only guests who clean their plates, robotic pets that never need to "go," or perpetual propane tanks. What they DO have is a gracious "oh-so-what" attitude when little things go awry, so that nothing short of having to call an ambulance or the cops ruins their parties. Anything smaller just bounces like a rubber dart off of their giant-size hospitality. We have all heard the stories of Julia Child and the uncarvable pig and Jackie Kennedy (or Mrs. Astor, or anyone else who turns up as the star in this urban legend) unflappably asking the maid to bring in "the other turkey." I cheerfully confess that there have MANY "disasters," sometimes at our very best parties and holidays, many of which our guests never realized.

And you don't have to be born that way -- indeed, no one is. Ask your local "Marthas" -- I bet they will tell you that they were complete wrecks the first few times they entertained. Anyone can become a great host. Here are some of the things the regulars on this forum have shared as the way to do it:

1) Keep the focus on your guests, not on yourself. (This should probably be numbers 1- 10, as all the others seem to flow from it.) Lindac is the expert at expressing this one. You are not being graded. Your guests are not there either to critique your imperfections or to applaud your skills; they are there to have a nice time. What will help them do that?

2) Don't bite off more than you can chew. Some people try to serve 75 people ten untried complicated recipes without any help preparing or cleaning up. How could things NOT go wrong? But even worse, it makes the hosts frazzled and distracted and therefore unable to follow rule #1. A burnt dish or a broken glass never ruined a party. A stressed out host always will.

3) BE NICE. Even if a guest brings an uninvited guest of her own, your spouse forgot to pick up the dessert, or no one eats your specialty, LET IT GO (you can deal with your spouse later!). Do not embarrass your other guests or throw cold water on your own party by chastising or arguing. Even if you are 100% right, hospitality comes first.

4) I suppose this is also a natural corollary of all the others, too -- roll with the punches. When something doesn't go as you'd planned or hoped -- and something always will -- keep smiling and don't let it throw you or take over the event. Your guests are going to take their cue from you to behave as if it is a big deal or not; therefore, you have the power to make it NOT a big deal. So use it!

Can you imagine the guests of someone following all those rules NOT having a great time?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 4:56PM
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no trust me, you had a great time and I kind of wish I had been there!

A big flop...let me tell you a big flop...we were invited about 15 years ago to a cook out on Labor Day. We showed up 30 minutes after it started and there was no one there. We were the ONLY guests. The host had food for 50 people and it was just the three of us. I never knew what happened but it was horrible and I felt sorry for him. No one ever came. We stayed an hour or so and then left ourselves.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 4:55PM
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oh that is pretty horrible dgmarie! We had something similar happen when we first moved to FL. It was our first Christmas that we wouldn't have extended family around but we had met lots of nice people through the kids (preschool parents, sports, etc.) so I decided to do a holiday open house. Had a time frame to "just stop by" with no RSVP on the invitations. BIG MISTAKE!! I wasn't thinking that everyone else DID have family and roots here! One couple showed up.............so in comparison I guess Sunday went really well.....LOL I had totally forgotten about that until your story.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 12:13PM
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I am new to this board.... Your party sounds like if was fun. No worries.... It's over any way! Think of it like this... You made memories! Enjoy life!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 4:34PM
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