Throw a Party--and Look Like a Pro While Doing It

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Entertaining ideas for the party-planning faint of heart

The first cocktail party we ever threw together—in the apartment we shared when we moved to New York City—was not a success. Oh, nothing particularly dreadful happened. The food tasted fine, the drinks flowed freely. But the party just never seemed to jell. Lauren's friends (journalists, mostly) talked shop on one side of the living room, while Anne's friends (financial types, mostly) congregated on the other side. We’d had visions of everyone mingling animatedly.

Maybe dancing would spontaneously break out! Perhaps someone would meet his true love at our party and we'd be toasted at their wedding! But no. Our guests just placidly munched their hors d’oeuvres and traded chit-chat with people they already knew. We were crushed.

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But we were also determined. We grew up in the small-town South, land of lawn parties and mint juleps—it would be very nearly traitorous not to be good hosts. Plus we remembered the parties our parents threw when we were kids, and how magical they seemed. We would sneak out into the hallway long after we’d been sent to bed and peek at the grown-ups all dressed up, smiling and laughing, obviously having a wonderful time. When we became grown-ups ourselves, of course we wanted to recreate that.We were long on ideas, but after our disappointing debut, a little short on confidence.

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