Whether it’s a backyard barbecue, a glittering gala, a sprawling music festival or an intimate dinner, our city loves a party.
And 2016 gave us plenty of golden chances to meet fellow Austinites and hear their stories.
Yet some of those parties … oy.
In my head, I can count at least 10 sour outings from 2016. (You didn’t really think I was going to name and shame, did you? You haven’t been reading this column for the past 10 or so years.)
Be of good cheer, prospective hosts, you can easily avoid that sour social aftertaste by watching out for these 10 perils. Then yours won’t be one of the 10 worst of 2017.
When in doubt, follow one rule: Be kind. Don’t waste time.
- Program started too early. Be mindful of the web of daily activities in your guests’ lives. Example: Quite a few new social spots opened in the Domain Northside this year. Virtually every one of the opening bashes started at 6 p.m. Has nobody been on our roads at that time of day? Make it 7 p.m. and maybe we’ll call it a deal.
- Program started too late. I kid you not, more than one host in 2016 assembled guests as early as 5 p.m., yet the main event had not begun by 9 p.m. As much as I like learning about other guests, that’s a lot of chat time to fill, or a lot of time in the lobby scrolling through emails.
- Program started on time, but lasted way too long. Oh my. Such a widespread sin. Cut off speeches. Show one really good video instead. Take the temperature of the room. If your guests are noisy and restless, there’s a reason.
- Live auction killed the buzz. This beast devoured some of the most fabled Austin parties in 2016. Don’t get me wrong: A good, short, lively — not necessarily loud — auction can be entertaining for the 95 percent of us not bidding. Ten, maybe 15 minutes max. Instead, why not hold a very quick “fund a cause” or, better yet, a raffle? They’re coming back.
- Too many people honored. Look, I think it’s great that this city honors its worthy citizens. But oh my: Dozens of awards followed by dozens of acceptance speeches? Even Hollywood can’t make that work, and they’ve hired the best talent on the planet.
- Lines too long. How often I am tempted to turn around and walk back home when I see a registration line snaking out of the lobby, down the hall and even, in one case, up a grand staircase. Buffet and bar lines are to be expected, but spread the stations out and make sure that their numbers are proportionate to the size of your crowd.
- Too many acts. Many parties engage a warm-up band, then a late-night dance band. A few appear to invite every act in town up on the stage. We love our Austin musical greats, but this is too much. Guests start to wander off.
- Too much internal transit time. Some hosts get creative and spread a party out over several locales. This makes for something of an adventure — and certainly we can use the exercise — but tick tock.
- Parking snarled. This one doesn’t apply very often to me, but I’ve watched the aggravation at the curb. If everyone is required to valet, and they all leave at the same time, somebody is going to wait a very long time. (Stray note: Always tip your valet handsomely. It’s not an easy job in the best of circumstances.)
- Segregated tables. This one applies to just a few of us. When a host segregates the press to one table, we are robbed of any opportunity to engage other guests and, presumably, tell their stories. Another waste of social time.