Month: February 2017

The Fine Art of Organizing a Mixer

Ah, the mixer. Arguably the most important events the social chair puts together next to the semi-formal and formal. Since I am obligated to host one of these every other week—the other week, we typically are invited somewhere by the fraternities—they can get kind of dull. The trick is to keep making them fun. Seriously, you can only go to so many luaus and toga parties. And those are typically thrown by the boys because they have no imagination or finesse whatsoever. But if you don’t throw fun parties, you won’t get invited to fun parties and then you fail as social chair. And I do not fail.

The whole point of a mixer is for people, typically in the different greek organizations, to meet each other. They are actually a really good rush tool as well, so they need to be well planned. Since I have been in this job, I have learned that there is definitely a fine art to organizing a mixer. The first thing is that you need to have the other people agree to come right up front. It’s the first question the girls are going to ask—who is going to be there? That means I have to have an answer. I try to rotate it around but a lot of the girls have boyfriends in one frat, which makes it easy to get them to hang out with us. Once you have boys locked down you can decide on the actual focus of the party. You need a draw. Ours aren’t mandatory for the girls to attend so I try to make it worth their time. If there is a sporting event, televised or at the school, that is a built-in get-together. Plus more of the guys will come that way. Holidays are also a big draw. There is another sorority who has Halloween on lockdown, you don’t dare throw a party that night (unless you don’t mind standing around in an empty room) but we do a fairly popular Bunny Hop right before Spring Break, and we had an Ugly Sweater Contest for our holiday party. I’ve also had “stress-buster” parties during finals week. Anything to make it stand out from what other sororities are doing will get people to come and—more importantly—have fun. Once you have the reason everyone is going to get together, you have to decide what to serve them. Beer can get boring but everyone expects it. So I try to at least rotate what kind of beer we serve. We don’t always have real food at these, but when we do, again, I like to serve different things. You can only stand around a frat house lounge drinking flat Bud Light and eating stale tortilla chips so many times before you want to run away screaming. To break the monotony, sometimes I will find a bar or a club to host the mixer at. These cost more and can affect attendance, so I have to do them strategically.  But we always have fun when we go out, so it can be worth it. And there you have it—a mixer.

A quick summary:

  • Be sure you have somebody to mix with beforehand. Get with their social chair and set a firm date.
  • Make it worth their time to come. Have a fun concept or a cool location. Know what people will likely be doing anyway and build something around that if you ca-.
  • Don’t be boring with what you serve. It doesn’t always need a clever tie-in to the “theme” but it is a good way to get people in the door AND stay there.

Hope you find this helpful when you plan your next mixer!

Not My Usual Weekend

I didn’t grow up with guns in the house and never even knew what a gun safe was. My father didn’t hunt or feel he needed a weapon for protection. He always thought he would rely on the prompt action of the police should something happen. I respect everyone’s right to own a gun and don’t make a big issue about it one way or another; it is just not for me—now or in the future. Maybe if I hear of a nearby robbery or mugging I will feel a bit different about it. Meanwhile, my experience with guns is very limited. At summer camp, they offered riflery but I chose swimming and archery instead. The kids enjoyed the air rifles when they were old enough to qualify for the classes, but I wasn’t among them. Now it is a different tune.

I went home one long weekend with a sorority sister and to my surprise, the plan was to go hunting with her father in the woods. I balked at first since this was not my idea of a good time, but at least an expert would go along. He would teach me the ropes and help me handle my rifle. We aimed for rabbits which were overrunning the local farms. That didn’t make me feel any better, but I wanted to cooperate as I was a guest in their home. Right before the designated hour, my friend’s father opened his gun safe which was carefully locked in the basement. He pulled out three rifles that were unloaded. He said we don’t carry a loaded weapon into the fields but wait until we get to our stakeout spot. He carried my rifle and showed me the best way to distribute the weight and where to point it, even though it was not loaded. We had a quick breakfast and set out for the hunt. I was a bit apprehensive.

The day wore on and I did take a shot now and then. My friend and her father each “bagged” a few bunnies. I was glad that I didn’t. I just watched and learned, but I knew I would never go hunting again. Don’t look so gloomy, my friend said. We are going to eat the rabbits. It is not a matter of killing for its own sake. We do have an obligation to thin the population or local farmers won’t have much of a crop. I understood. It was just that I didn’t want to participate in any kind of massacre, needed or not. I was so glad when dinner time rolled around. The rifles were returned to the gun safe and I emitted a sign of relief. Let them stay there until the next father-daughter hunt. But I won’t be there. I think my friend knew not to invite me again. Of course, I was not surprised to see roasted rabbit on the table. I had eaten it many times in restaurants and why should this time be different. It was just that I saw it being killed. Yes, I get it. It was so fresh.

Planning a Family Reunion Everyone Can Enjoy

I have a large family. And they are all very…supportive…of me and let me plan birthday parties and the like. Or at least, they did until I went away to school. Now I only see them at holidays and birthdays in the summertime. I usually don’t get to plan anymore because they figure I’m “always so busy” or something. So I decided to host a family reunion last summer. Some of my cousins thought I was crazy; first of all, they still all see each other pretty regularly. I am the only one who really went away somewhere. Second, my family is big. And opinionated. How was I going to make sure everyone had a good time?

The answer was easy. Here’s how I did it.

The first thing you need to do when you are dealing with a party for a large group is to set a date. Set it as early as you can. Be prepared to badger people and remind them. Try to schedule it around a weekend or a day that the majority of people will have off. Once you have a date that most people can agree on, figure out where you are going to have it. Think logistically. If you have a big backyard but only one bathroom, inviting 50 relatives to your house might not be the greatest idea you’ve ever had. You can try your luck renting a portapotty or you can have it somewhere else. You also have to think logically. If you plan an outdoor BBQ, will there be a sheltered space for everyone if it rains? Are there going to be small kids there? If so, is it child-friendly? Is there anything to do, or are you planning on feeding everyone and then sending them on their way? Questions like these will help you narrow down the type of location. Once you know what you need in a venue, it is easier to find a good place to hold your reunion. A centralized or familiar pace works best. I decided to rent a pavilion on a nearby lake.

Next, you have to decide what kind of entertainment to provide. When you have something like a family reunion, there are many different age groups and people with a variety of interests. In order for people to have a good time, you need to provide different types of activities that will appeal to the majority of attendees. This is your family, so think about the things they would want to do. Sometimes it is as easy as arranging the seating into little conversation pockets so they can chat in small groups, or as big as hiring a DJ. Luckily my venue choice helped me out with most of that. It was near a playground, had kayak rentals for the adventurous types, and there was a volleyball net. There was a covered area where we could eat and be free from the sun and bugs.There were also clean, indoor facilities that would accommodate everyone. I decided on a potluck so nobody felt too put out making the all the food and I didn’t have to get money from everyone. I checked with everyone to make sure there were no duplicates (otherwise we would have gotten four serving bowls of Great Grandma’s Potato Salad. One’s enough, thanks) and gave suggestions when people didn’t know what to bring.

Then you have to set the mood, so to speak. I didn’t have to do a lot of setup or provide much in the way of decorations. I made a family reunion banner as a kind of as a photo backdrop and that was it. I lucked out in that it was a nice day and so the lake looked more beautiful than anything I could have hung up. That’s more of a preference thing I think. It is another time where you have to know your crowd and whether they are going to be looking for tablecloths and centerpieces or if they expect a piñata or fireworks.

Just a warning, though: if you do too good of a job, your family might be like mine and expect it to be an annual event!

Party Planning is in the Details

Creating a memorable event is not easy. If there is anything I have learned as social chair, good parties do not just happen. Good parties are made. There is always some poor organizer pulling their hair out in the corner because something didn’t go exactly the right way while everyone else is having a great time all around. Been there, done that! The most successful parties I have thrown have worked out because I put a lot of time, effort, and thought intothem.

It sounds overwhelming, I know. But focusing on details will make things a lot easier. The first one is how you plan to let people know about your event. The way you invite people will really set a tone for your event. For example, if you are throwing a casual get together, it is fine to text people to let them know all the info. However, if you are going for a black tie kind of thing, a printed invitation letting your guests know the dress code will be appreciated. The design of the invitation will also give the attendee some idea of what kind of event it is. An invitation cut in the shape of a bib is going to clue people in that it is baby-related right away, whereas an invite on heavy cardstock with a lined envelope is going to scream “fancy party!”

Always check out a venue beforehand. Really evaluate the space you plan to use so you’ll know what you need. It will help you figure out the best way to use the space. A party at home might have everything you need, but it might require rearranging furniture to create a dancefloor.Renting a banquet hall may give you all the space you want but you may have to provide your own lighting or seating. Knowing that kind of thing beforehand makes your job way easier. This way, you can add setup time into your schedule or get rental equipmentin time for the big event. This is also the time where you plan for how you are going to decorate. It is up to you whether you want to go big with decorations but choose them thoughtfully. I’ve had sorority sisters buy every item on the shelf at the party store that went with the theme of the party with no idea how to use it all. Or you start getting everything ready and realize you are about twelve balloons short for your balloon arch. If people are going to be sitting at tables, a centerpiece is a must. They need something to look at besides just each other. You can go small or tall. Just be sure that it does not block the view of people sitting across from each other. So—tall, thin vase of tulips=great. A medium-sized, bushy topiary=not so much. Decide whether you need to make a seating chart—if everyone knows everyone, you might not need one. But if there are different groups or lots of singles, assigned seating can ease any awkwardness.

Have some kind of entertainment. Don’t just wait for that one drunken frat boy to start building a tower of beers. Have something for people to do. Whether it is a party game, eating a meal, dancing, or something else entirely, be sure that there is more to do than just staring at one another. Don’t assume because they know each other that the conversation will flow naturally. Give them something to talk about and a reason to interact with each other.

And there you have it: get these details right and you are going to have a great party on your hands.