One Party and Four Reasons You Should Try It

One time John and I went to a party where a guy was accidentally set on fire.

It kind of put a damper on a very fun evening, but we all took him to the hospital to get checked out and his heavy fisherman knit sweater saved him from being badly burned.  It ended up being a great story we tell and a cautionary tale for those who think making flaming Rice Krispy Treats might be a good idea. (NOTE TO FILE: do NOT pour the brandy and light the flame at the same time. Fire tends to travel up the liquid stream and on to pourer)

I share this because I was talking to daughter, Katy recently and suggested a party like the one we attended years ago and have copied since.  It might be called “The Stretch Yourself and Get to Know Some New People While Making a Mess Together Party”.

There’s no one right way to do hospitality. But always, hospitality is about “There you are!” not “Here I am!”

It’s about welcome not wow. Knitting together hands and hearts with thanksgiving and a little laughter. And this party did all of those things.

We showed up on a cold February night all those years ago responding to an invitation for dinner. When we arrived, there were some snacks out, but there were no other signs that we were expected. The hostess announced that she had not prepared dinner. That was our job.

She paired us up with someone we didn’t know well and gave each pair detailed instructions. It was a simple dinner – pasta, salad, bread, and…yes, Rice Krispy Treats (assigned to two creative men who decided flambé would be fun). In addition, a pair was assigned to set the table, make place cards, and come up with a discussion question.


It was one of the best parties we’ve been to because:

  1. It was about participation not perfection. This was true hospitality and community building. Everyone felt a part.
  2. It was comfortable. People in social situations often feel much more at ease DOING something side by side or collaborating rather than grasping for conversation with someone they don’t know.
  3. It was messy. This home did NOT have a gourmet kitchen or a lot of room, but that was ok! Our hosts set up stations and part of the fun was tripping over each other as we worked together.
  4. It was simple. The plan and menu were simple, but there was room for each pair to add creative flair.

Since then, we’ve adapted this idea and done a menu that includes Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry, Chinese salad, egg rolls, and an ice cream dessert, but you can do whatever feels comfortable.

And if something doesn’t turn out perfect (or someone catches on fire) hopefully you’ll all be able to laugh and move on.

What are some creative hospitality ideas you’ve tried? I’d love to learn from you!

*The picture is a free printable I got and framed from The Nesting Place.


  1. “The Stretch Yourself and Get to Know Some New People While Making a Mess Together Party” – Great Idea!

    We’ve tried:

    Egg Roll Party: On the kitchen counters: egg roll skins ready to roll, ingredients assembled in separate dishes, spices. At the stove: a pot of hot oil. At the dining room table: dips and accoutrements and beverages. Guests take turns creating and cooking their own egg rolls. Meet, visit, create, share, experiment. Casual.

    Mongolian Fondue: Sit down dinner that takes a LONG time, so younger kids eat in the kitchen and go play while grown-ups visit and eat – all night. Set the table with place settings and an electric wok in the center, plugged in, with chicken broth boiling. Each place gets a net to fill and immerse in the broth. Pass trays of ingredients: small slices of meat/fish/tofu, vegetables, noodles. Guests fill their own nets, immerse to cook. and then dump on their own plates to enjoy. Sauces available on the table. The wok broth is a tasty soup for the finale – pass soup bowls and spoons.

    Mongolian BBQ – same concept but over a grill on the back patio. Guests assemble their own combos of meat & veggies & noodles & sauces to grill, as everyone visits on the terrace. Beverages in the ice bucket. Games in the back yard. Can go on all day/evening.

    Any American holiday, traditional style, WITH internationals (immigrants? visitors? diplomats? students? refugees?) as guests. We have invited those who would not invite us back – as Scripture says – and treated them to full blown American holidays as if they were our extended family. Great learning experience for our own kids and very, very interesting guests. Memorable conversations, experiences. (Know the dietary restrictions of guests.)

    Sons in the kitchen: our sons take over the kitchen – one per event is the planner and chef. Parents supply the ingredients (they email the list), and serve as sous-chefs. Everyone invites friends. We have had interesting events with a son at the helm. Their interpretation of a meal is unique.

    • LOVE all these ideas!! Thanks so much for sharing! I especially would like to try inviting some immigrant friends for an American holiday!

      • For the American traditional holiday one with international guests, of course there is Christmas (Hanukkah), Easter (Passover), or Thanksgiving. However, we have even done 4th of July, with a backyard patio grill – salmon instead of steak, with grilled vegetables, and then rice from the kitchen rice cooker. The family was from India (no meat) – he works in IT and she is a teller at our US Bank. Red/white/blue cake and ice cream for dessert. Fruit punch and iced tea. No alcohol in this case. Outdoor games. Great time. I believe they brought all three generations – very Asian. We loved that.

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