Throwing A Valentine’s Day Party!
Okay, so last year I wrote a piece on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day properly. No simpering kitten-emblazoned greeting cards, no big box o’ chocolates, just lots of weird, fun suggestions to help you enjoy the day.
This year, I wanted to give you a guide to something a little more complex — throwing a Valentine’s Day party. This article is an excerpt from my digital book, How To Throw A Fantastic Party, which I recently rewrote with lots of gusto! It is a whole new book — page upon page of luscious ideas & tricks to make any soiree the best ever. Head over to the shop to have a peek! (There will be more stuff appearing in the shop soon, too… & if you bought the previous edition, flick me an email & I will send you the new one free of charge!)
A Valentine’s Day party is an excellent way to get all your friends together, buy up way too many red or pink products & have fun. It’s also an excellent antidote to the vulgarity of the holiday, which often makes single & coupled people alike just want to say “Bleah”! Really though, any excuse to get your favourite people together is a good thing, especially if it will help prevent your chronically-single friend from feeling bad about him- or herself.
Sometimes it can be a big job to throw a themed party, so if you can rope one of your enthusiastic & hard-working friends into helping you organise it, so much the better!
The very first thing is that if you’re going to throw a Valentine’s Day party, you must swear — cross-your-heart-&-hope-to-die style — that you won’t invite any sickeningly cutesy couples. Trust me, the entire world panders to them on the 14th of February, & you don’t need to! There are florists & restauranteurs & soft toy manufacturers falling all over themselves to get their hands on the money of the madly in love. Leave them to it!
The thing is, even if the cutesy couple are your best friends, if they show up at a Valentine’s Day party they will throw off the whole dynamic. The single people will feel bad or resentful, the other couples will be all, “Get a room!”, & you risk a messy debacle which might involve pink-frosted cookies being hurled at the offending unit. You don’t want a food fight, I’m sure. So, you know, encourage them to stay at home & snuggle. If you’re not entirely sure if Jim & Miranda are a cutesy couple, here’s how to tell.
1. Do they call each other “fuzzy wuzzy muffins” or “punkin”?
2. Do they hold hands at all times?
3. Do they speak to one another in cooing, childish voices?
4. Do they insist on constantly plunging the depths of the others’ aesophagus — even at family dinners?
5. Do they only ever go out in public as a duo?
If you think the answer might be a partial “yes” to even ONE of those questions, sorry, they’re not invited. Oh, Jim & Miranda! You’re lovely, but come over for pizza tomorrow or something instead.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. Grab a piece of paper & make a list of prospective attendees. Scribble names but don’t feel obliged to invite all of them — you need to strike a good balance, & some people just aren’t going to make the cut. If, for example, your friend Ken is single & depressed — but is also a single, depressed misanthropist who revels in his misery — you should probably leave him off the list. On the other hand, if your friend Natasha is single & a bit miffed about it, but still has a sense of humour about life, she is definitely invited!
The amount of people you invited will probably depend on the size of your house & (maybe) on how many friends you have, & even then (possibly) on how many of them are socially anxious. Think about your friends & how they operate best. If you mostly hang out with vivacious extroverts, then consider your party one of those “the more the merrier” occasions. But if, like most people, some of your friends are outgoing while some are a bit introverted, keep the numbers on the smaller side.
Try to make it seem even & try to put people at ease. This means: don’t invite your one gay or lesbian friend to a room full of people pining for the opposite sex — or vice versa. Since Valentine’s Day is all about love, lust & things that go grunt in the night, if anyone feels exiled or marginalised, they might not enjoy themselves too much. Encourage them to bring a friend if you think that will help.
Remember to mix it up a little bit too. If your guests all work at the same place & know each other really well, odds are it will just be like another night at the pizza parlour, except with more pink trimmings. Invite new people — people you don’t know very well, people your friends don’t know, the cool old man from the magazine shop, your Grandma, your best friend from high school. Make it exciting!
Single people might feel weird coming to a Valentine’s Day party if they think there are going to be people smooching in every slightly dark corner, so you need to pre-empt that fear. After all, no one wants to be the only person in the room with lonely lips. Perhaps it would be a good idea to write “NO KISSING ALLOWED” on the invitation, or maybe just declare it the first unofficial meeting of the Anti-Smooching League. You will know what works best for your friends — swearing is okay, too!
Some people think an invitation should just be a way of giving information. “My place, tomorrow night, BYO” & the like. But really, you know, the world is an exciting place, full of distractions, with thrills at every turn. You need to start thinking of your invitation as an advertisement — an enticement. Otherwise your friends might opt to go bowling instead, heaven forbid. You need to lure them in, fill their heart with joy, ensnare them with intangible rapture! After all, having to get on the phone on the 13th of January & beg people to drink your pink punch & eat your delicious broken-heart shaped cookies would be a sad start.
How you make the invitation is up to you & will probably depend on your proficiencies. Some people are best with a computer, while some are far more into scissors, paper & glue. However, you might like to try one of the following…
Make a cupcake card
Samantha Hahn has lots of beautiful cards, free to print & use!
Hipster Cards has a whole slew of free digital greeting cards. I like You BBQ My Heart!, You’re Just My Cup Of Tea! (NSFW!), I Love Me, Contract With The Devil, Let’s Be Bad!, One Cute Cupcake, Valentine’s Day Sucks, I’m Way Too Excited!, That’s Some Mustache! & Freud Advice
Make everyone a different card, using pictures from magazines & making envelopes from book pages
Buy packaged gummy hearts, write the invitation on the package, & post them off!
Write your invitations on the heart pages of old medical books
Ensure it contains the essential information (what, where, when, & any special instructions — BYO etc., as well as a way to RSVP).
Post or email your invitations & then follow it up. Check to make sure they’re received & see how people feel about the idea. Hopefully you will get a staggering list of RSVPs & you can move forward into the dawn of a new day!
Of course, jazzing up your digs is essential if you’re going to throw a fabulous party. You can go minimal by just using candles for lighting & moving all the chairs into one room… OR you can go for maximum impact. I think that if you’re going to throw a Valentine’s Day party, the best direction to head in is Camp As Hell. Do it up! Go nuts! Here are some ideas…
Play kitsch love movies on the television — with the sound off, please. Best picks include But I’m A Cheerleader, 10 Things I Hate About You, True Romance & Grease.
Fill heart-shaped pink & red balloons with helium & let them float up to the ceiling. If they have long ribbon tails on them, this can make for a cool impromptu curtain of sorts.
Serve pink or red food! Cupcakes are an obvious choice — who doesn’t want to eat something super-sugary-sweet on Valentine’s Day? Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry icing or pistachio cupcakes with pink rosewater icing would be fabulous & on theme! If all the pink & red is too much for you, you can always just make chocolate cupcakes with heart-shaped sprinkles or candy on the top, or you could use a little stencil to dust icing sugar on in the shape of a heart. Other options for food include conversation heart candy, red M&Ms, chocolate-dipped strawberries, raspberries, black forest gateau, pink or red popsicles, slices of watermelon or strawberry tarts.
Serve pink or red drinks, too! A big bowl of punch, a few stellar bottles of red wine or someone on Cosmopolitan duty should do it, but if you want to pick something outrageous & cool, Drinkalizer has a list of red & pink cocktails!
Stock up on candles & keep the lighting dim. If you’re going to use a scented candle, make it good quality (as Lil Kim says, “Spend a little dough”), & only use one that is scented. Make sure the rest are plain, otherwise your house will be a menagerie of different smells & your guests’ nostrils will flare with discontent. Ensure the candles are away from soft furnishings & the edges of things where they are likely to be bumped, & make sure your fire alarm has good batteries!
Decorate tables & benches with lace tablecloths, doilies & heart-shaped confetti. You can also find really great decorations at party shops, like banners & hanging hearts on clear fishing line.
If you want to incorporate games & activities into the evening, you might like to try Pin The Ache On The Heart (it’s like Pin The Tail On The Donkey for adults), throwing darts at a heart-shaped dartboard, reading one another’s palms & predicting future love affairs, Pass The Parcel with naughty treats, Spin The Bottle or that crazy x Minutes In Heaven game, where you & someone else get locked in a cupboard.
Set up a photobooth where your guests can pose together or alone with props. Chuck your digital camera on a tripod, aim it at a wall & post directions so that people know how to use the timer or remote. To make it extra Valentinesy, hang some sparkly or striped red or pink fabric so that it will make a festive backdrop. Make sure to send people their photos the next day! Another option is to use a Polaroid camera instead, & have a table nearby where people can decorate the Polaroids once they’re dry. Set out glitter, markers & stickers & let people go nuts!
Make your guests little goodie bags! Everyone loves free stuff. You can put in things like heart-shaped sweets, love-themed fortunes, lucky love amulets, inflatable dolls & other strange treats. If you need somewhere to start, Oriental Trading has hoards of fun heart-shaped novelties.
Take turns reading from How To Spot A Bastard By His Star Sign. Allow time for commiseration & discussion of the book’s contents.
While it is always tempting to play love songs — or anti-love songs — at a party like this, fight the urge. Most love songs are a bit pukesome & the majority of anti-love songs are just depressing, so abstain from both. Instead, continue the kitsch theme & play things that people will want to dance to after they’ve had a few drinks — like Kylie Minogue & Justin Timberlake!
Best of luck!