How not to plan a party

Man plans and God laughs, as the proverb says. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when our plans for a 15th anniversary party went slightly awry.

We had decided to celebrate number 15 and not wait for the traditional 25th, because we married late and we’ll be in our 70s by then. I hope we’re still up for a party when we’re 70-something, but why risk it?

For simplicity’s sake we decided to keep it local. Some of our dearest friends live at a distance, but we didn’t want to oblige them to drive for hours to what would be a casual affair. The one exception was George’s cousins from the city. Four of the seven brothers said yes, along with wives, a girlfriend, a couple of the kids and of course their mom, Aunt Tess.

With the guest list approaching 30, we rejected the idea of an open house. We didn’t think we could accommodate that many, and we didn’t want to stress over cooking and cleanup. Instead we decided on a cocktail party at a nearby restaurant, with a variety of hors d’oeuvres and a couple of trays of hot food. All very simple and elegant. Afterwards, we would ask the relatives back to the house for an actual meal.

So, this is the part where God laughs.

Somewhere before noon on Saturday, the day of the party, the lights went out all over town and into far-flung neighboring communities. The restaurant couldn’t let us in until electricity was restored, and that wouldn’t be for hours, according to the power company. We got on the phone and told people to come to the house instead.

Let me just say here that I get anxious when things don’t go according to plan. I’d like to be one of those relaxed, carefree people who shrugs off setbacks and goes with the flow. But it ain’t me, babe.

As George got out the kerosene lanterns in case the lights remained off into the evening, I fretted over the food. We had plenty to drink but not much to eat. The restaurant was supposed to handle all that! The stove has an electronic ignition—no power, no oven—so the one dish I was planning to make at home, eggplant, remained uncooked. And we couldn’t run out to buy anything, since even Walmart had closed because of the blackout.

Just then a couple of angels materialized with cheeses, dips and chips they had bought en route in New Jersey, which was unaffected by the power outage. Other friends began arriving with extra drinks, and there was a huge fruit basket already on the table that a friend had sent us earlier in the week. Somehow, in true loaves-and-fishes style, it proved more than enough.

After a while the power came back, ending our unintentional open house. We meandered over to the restaurant, where there was so much food that people left with doggie bags. The cousins had to get back to the city and couldn’t come to the house after all, so I guess George and I will be eating eggplant into the foreseeable future.

All in all, I’d call the day a success. And for one control freak, it was a valuable lesson in letting go.

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  • Blog Author

    Jacqueline Damian

    Jacqueline Damian is a writer and editor living in Milford, PA. The author of "Sasha’s Tail: Lessons from a Life with Cats" (W.W. Norton), she has worked in newspapers, magazines, book publishing and technology journalism. Read Full
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