The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 30, 2001
Sunday Activity

Want to spring a surprise party?
Be your secretive best

Discreetly find out your guest of honour’s food preferences
Discreetly find out your guest of honour’s food preferences

YOUR childhood friend is in town after ages and you want to do something unusual for her. Or your old schoolteacheror boss has just moved into your neighbourhood and you want to plan a welcome for him. If you’re the sort who dislikes doing the usual stuff and are game for something novel and unexpected, go right ahead and take your prospective guest/s by surprise—host a surprise party.

The rules of the game are simple and the key to success is utmost secrecy and discretion. It is essential to maintain the surprise element right from the planning stage till its execution. You’ve got to be systematic even about surprising others. Any slips or misses and the game is over. Here’s how to go about it:

*Decide the date for the party after discretely finding out whether the prospective guest of honour will be available on that day.

  • Then enlist the help of a common friend to involve the guest of honour is some fake, alternative activity on that day. This will ensure that your guest will not be preoccupied with some other activity or engagement at the time of the planned party.

  • Extend invitations to the other guests and make it very clear that the party is intended as a surprise and they’re not to let the cat out of the bag.

  • Invite all guests to arrive 30 minutes before the guest of honour.

  • Tell the other guests to park their vehicles out of sight or at a distance from your place. This will deflect any suspicion that might arise in the mind of the incoming guest.

  • If possible, suggest to the other guests, who are in contact with the guest of honour, to casually mention to him/her that they will be attending to some fictitious activity that day. This is just meant to act as a cover-up.

  • Now keep your fingers crossed and hope that there are no leaks. And when your guest of honour arrives in the company of your ‘accomplice’ in the surprise endeavour, all other invitees pop out of your spruced up interiors to boom a hearty ‘hello’ to the star of the evening. You can stand back smugly to catch that look of surprise on your guest’s countenance.

Prepare lists

Other invitees must keep the secret
Other invitees must keep the secret

To make your endeavour an all-out success plan out your shopping list well in advance. But go about it secretly, lest the little ones in your home spill the beans and pre-empt all your efforts at making the event a surprise.

  • Assemble all the recipes you will be preparing.

  • Sit down with a notepad and pencil.

  • Label the first page of the notepad as the master list.

  • Go through each recipe and write on the master list all ingredients that you will need to purchase.

  • Write down on master list all the beverages you will need to buy.

  • Make a note of the party goods that you need to purchase on the master list if they are available in supermarket.

  • If the party goods are not available in supermarket, write them out on a separate sheet of paper.

  • Make a note of the flowers or other decorations that you need on the master list, if they’re available in or near your departmental store. Note them on a separate sheet of paper if they will require a trip to a different store.

  • Take out another sheet of paper and label it ‘last-minute purchases.’

  • Review the master list for ingredients that will need to be purchased at the last minute, such as fresh meat or chicken . Shift these items to the ‘last-minute purchases’ list.

Cross off last-minute items from the master list.

Schedule a day (or days) on your party timetable to go shopping for the items on your lists.

  • Make a separate list for each store you will need to shop in.

  • When you’ve completed this process, your master list will be the items you can purchase in advance.

Party etiquette

To be a good host :

  • Once seated at the table, no one should ever have to ask for a refill.

  • Avoid blinding your guests with candles or obstructing their views of each other with large flower arrangements or large centerpieces.

  • Do not use scented candles, they can have an unappetising effect.

  • Help guests shine in conversation. Stop a bore from droning on. Steer away from topics that might cause arguments or offend someone.

  • When serving, place food in distinct areas on each plate. If all the courses won’t fit on a single plate, make sure you provide an extra small one.

  • Before dessert is served, the table should be completely cleared of all dishes from the previous courses. This includes soup bowls, salt and pepper shakers, etc.

Be a good guest

  • If you have a special diet, let your host know in advance. This is better than leaving food uneaten. In case of a surprise party you can make discreet enquiries about the guest of honour’s special food preferences through a common friend.

  • As soon as you sit down, place your napkin in your lap. If you need to be excused, put it directly to the left of your dinner plate, not on your chair.

  • If serving yourself, never pile excessive food on your plate. Avoid overeating. And compliments about food should be subtle, not overblown.

  • Hold your wine glass by the stem, not the rim. Be careful not to leave fingerprints or lip-prints on glassware. If you do, discreetly remove them with your napkin.

  • Sit in an attitude of attentiveness to your host and other guests, with both feet on the floor, not crossed.

  • And never play with your silverware.

  • Invite an uneven number of people. This way, guests will not pair up on their own conversations and everyone feels involved.

(Compiled by Chetna Banerjee)

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