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Ted: New Rules for a New(ish) Era

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So the American people have chosen the candidate they found least objectionable, and President Bush will no doubt be soliciting donations for inaugural balls by the time you read this. That means we’ll have the same president, in a new term, leading a country that could use some get-togethers to, well, get itself together. Here to (kind of) help is a set of suggestions to give us all a fresh start.

DINNER AT EIGHT

Let’s go through this again, shall we? Cocktails are from 6 to 8; 6:30 to 8:30 is acceptable for business and charity functions. I expect to be fed dinner between 8 to 10 PM, don’t you? So those who straddle the evening by inviting guests to drinks parties from 7 to 9 should either serve substantial food or get with the program. At your house you can eat whenever the hell you want.

SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE

An example of the relentless pursuit of the authentic and upscale by just about everyone is the need to have custom-made cocktails, and party throwers have embraced this pseudo-nod to individuality with a vengeance. But at a large event, with 10 people waiting for just a glass of water or wine, a whiny request for three cosmos (the one “cocktail” everyone knows)—“one with Citron, one with Absolut Vanilla, and one ‘dirrrty’”—sends me over the moon. Factor in that caterwaiters are rarely professional bartenders, and you’ve got a recipe for tedium. I don’t know why these drinks aren’t all made in big pitchers beforehand, and then quickly iced and served, but I do know that having separate bars for regular versus made-to-order makes sense and works. By the way, real vodka is made from potatoes, not grapes (those are used to make wine) or corn (the next wave, I fear). Just clearing that up.

“CAN YOU HOLD THIS?”

Little plates of food have their role in life, je regret. At tapas bars and at those foodie events where a dozen restaurants are dishing it up, they’re necessary. But skimping on waitstaff with appetizer bars and little help-yourself plates—superannoying. At a recent gala at the Waldorf (which served plentiful and expensive hors d’oeuvres of acceptable quality), about half the people I asked would not approach the buffets. And the little piggies who make a little food mound and then run to a cocktail table just compound the issue.

DON’T CALL ME, I’LL CALL YOU

I think that during business hours, an RSVP line should be manned by a live human. Likewise, calling to “RSVP” a guest, while often necessary (we’ve all thrown a dog that no one jumps to attend), should be in the form of a call during business hours, not leaving a message and requesting yet another phone call.

FOR MY NEXT TRICK, I’LL PUT THE WHOLE ROOM TO SLEEP

A well-planned event that bills itself as a live auction is one thing, but not every event can sustain one. When the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund does its Liz Tilberis auctions (this year’s honored Cathie Black and Trudie Styler), the items are thematically correct and presented in a visually compelling way, for example. But this is not always the case. Keep in mind that often it is the event chairs and hosts who end up with the goods. (My entire apartment is furnished with unwanted auction items.) Do the math to decide if it is worth alienating repeat attendees for that extra 10 grand. I think three or four live items is the max. (P.S. Learn auction house rules, too.)

TIME TO GO

Fashion editor Polly Mellen taught me that it is rude to stay past the call time. If an invitation states 7 to 9, you should be gone by 9 (no matter how much food they are or aren’t serving). There are exceptions, of course, but often hosts who say they’d love you to linger don’t mean it. Does it go without saying that it’s even worse to arrive after the call time?

And if you don’t like these rules, send me yours!

Posted 11.17.04

Columnist Ted Kruckel is an experienced and opinionated former event and PR pro who ran events for 20 years for high-profile clients like Vanity Fair, Elle Decor, Christian Dior and Carolina Herrera. He shuttered his firm, Ted Inc., in 2003. You can email him at [email protected].