How To Plan Beautiful, Original and Fun Parties for Any Occasion
Party Planning Expert Jonathan Fong, author of Parties That Wow: Setting the Stage for Creative Entertaining, reveals why you don't have to be a great cook to host a great party.
Commitment: Parties That Wow is a beautiful book with incredibly unique ideas for party themes. Where do you find your inspiration?
Jonathan Fong: I find inspiration by going to the movies, watching TV, walking around the mall, just about anywhere. You never know how something will inspire you, so I just recommend being open to finding ideas as you go through your day. Inspiration isn’t necessarily going to hit you at a party store, or watching a decorating show. It usually comes from more unexpected places.
Commitment: Parties That Wow features a section of “World Tours” - party themes from different locations around the world, including Morocco, Egypt and Paris. How has international travel influenced you?
Jonathan: Actually, it’s the lack of international travel that has influenced me. I have only traveled to a few foreign cities, so I let my imagination take over and let my party ideas transport me (and my guests) to exotic locations we’ve only dreamed about. It’s more fun to be fantastical than authentic when it comes to parties.
Commitment: Each of your entertaining ideas is more than a party – it is a theatrical experience! Do you think a great party should please all the senses?
Jonathan: For some people, a party is just about the food, but it is so much more than that. For me, a great party always pleases the eye first, because when someone walks through that door I want them to be wowed visually. That sets the expectation for the party to come. Add a mix of pleasant aromas (both from food and candles) and mood-setting music, and it’s a celebration for the senses.
Commitment: Your book seems, above all, a source of ideas to have a really fun party. (You look like you're having a blast in all the photos!) Is fun the most important ingredient in planning a party?
Jonathan: It seems so basic, but I put fun at the top of my list because people forget to have a party for FUN. Usually the person giving a party is so busy and stressed, he or she forgets to have fun. You can get so focused on having the “perfect” party that you’ve lost focus on the purpose of the celebration, which is really about enjoying your friends and family. And when you have fun, your guests do. They don’t care if your food is catered or your décor impeccable. They want to have fun. So relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t take it so seriously.
Commitment: Some of your ideas are so simple, yet are so effective. An example is a champagne glass filled with pink jelly beans and an orchid in your “Think Pink: A Pink Party for Breast Cancer Awareness Month” chapter. Did you intentionally include these simple but elegant ideas for the novice party planner?
Jonathan: What I wanted to show was that you can do one simple thing for a party, and that can make the whole event. You don’t have to do a gazillion complicated, expensive things to dazzle your guests. No one expects you to be Super Host. Friends will be more impressed by the little things that make an impact.
Commitment: What was your goal in writing this book?
Jonathan: I wanted to inspire people to see all the ways they can throw a fun party, so that they can bring joy into their lives and the lives of their loved ones. A party is a good excuse to share fellowship, and we don’t often do it enough because we’re afraid that our party skills aren’t good enough. I wanted to take that fear away from people.
Commitment: Can those who are not culinarily gifted still host a great party?
Jonathan: I’m the least culinarily gifted person there is. But I still host a great party because my focus isn’t on my cooking skills. It’s focused on my guests’ having a great time. And they would have a much greater time if I bought my party food and plated it beautifully. That’s what I recommend to people who can’t cook.
Commitment: You state in your introduction that making the effort to stage a remarkable affair honors one's guests. Can you elaborate on that?
Jonathan: When someone commits to come to my house for a party, I am touched. This person is taking time out of his or her life to spend time with me and other guests. In this age of e-mail and Facebook, it’s easy to go through a whole year without actually seeing a friend. So when friends honor me with their presence, I want to honor them by hosting an evening that is warm and memorable. I think what I will remember years from now isn’t what I served at a party or what I wore, but the communion and friendship. So I want to put in the effort to create an evening where friends are literally the guests of honor.
Commitment: What is the best reason to have a party?
Jonathan: Besides the obvious occasions like birthdays and holidays, the best reason to have a party is to see friends and family. Yeah, just to get the whole gang together.
Commitment: What was your favorite party?
Jonathan: One of my favorite parties was a talent show party I had, where various friends performed in my living room as part of a “cabaret night.” You wouldn’t believe how many closet entertainers there were, so excited to get a chance to perform. I had friends who sang, juggled, told jokes, and played instruments. Everyone got involved – even those who didn’t perform, because as the audience they were participants. There were a lot of laughs, happy tears, and wonderful memories.
An interior designer known for his charming personality, witty work, and a flair for the unexpected, Jonathan has been featured in Life, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens' Do It Yourself, Woman's Day Budget Decorating Ideas, and Garden Ideas. He lives in Santa Monica, California. For more great ideas about party planning, visit Jonathan at his website, www.jonathanfong.com.
To purchase Parties that Wow, click here.