Closing Time

As Robert Sylvester Kelly (AKA R. Kelly) identified in 2003, “after the show it’s the after-party”. We’ve all been there. A party’s flagging, you look at your buddies, you gaze at the girl or boy across the room you’ve decided you’re into, and you think: time for an after-party. Maybe it’s a wedding, or a corporate thing, or simply a night out. Maybe you’ve already thought ahead, and you knew there’d be that moment when you’d despairingly look around at your wilting older family members, your snoozing boss, and think: “time for an after-partaaaay”.

Because an after-party is where you—in the sacred, proselytizing role of Organizer—can pull together the best bits of the original party; the best people, really—the ones you like most or, you know, want to go to bed with—while discarding everything else, from bad music to stuffy service. Plan it badly, though, and you will find the path is riddled with pitfalls. That your exclusive guest list has been a PR disaster, and the only people still awake are ones you loathe. Oh, and you’ve run out of booze.

So here’s how you should have done it.

Step One: invite the right people. “Go by the natural lines created by friendship groups and work colleagues”, says Juliet Oldfield, founder of party planning business Bedazzled. You know already, don’t you, that if Anna comes she’ll tell Becky, and if Becky finds out she wasn’t invited she’ll be furious, and if Becky isn’t happy you’ll be cut from the office tea round quicker than you can say “faux pas”. Invite all or invite small. Resist as far as you can your inclination to cherry-pick.

Step Two: How do pick the invitations? According to Debrett’s (the authority on modern British etiquette): “invitations should always reflect the comparative formality or informality of the occasion”. That means that if you are organizing—say—the Oscars after-party, it’s got to be embossed, it’s got to be gold, it’s got to be fancy. The rest of you, though, who are just collaring people you sort of know at the end of your work’s summer garden party? Just mutter in their ears about more drinks elsewhere, and make sure you don’t insult the first party’s host (the Original Organizer) by leaving early.

Step Three: The next demon you must slay is fatigue. “You’ve got to change the vibe completely”, says Oldfield. She explains there’s usually one person in a group—that’s you, as the Organizer—who is able to change the mood. Music helps, whether you’re putting something gnarly on at home or leading the way to a club. And so does alcohol, obviously. Edie Hancock, wine writer and occasional after-party host, advises: “Always stick beers in the fridge before you leave for the night out so there’s something for when people get in.”

If you’re out, then you won’t have to worry about an endpoint: the bar won’t run dry, and nothing ends a night out more quickly than the sudden turning on of the lights. Your friends, horrid frozen gargoyles that they’ve become, will never have seemed more repulsive (and, let’s face it, that includes you). The same effect applies at home: turning on the lights is your option of a last resort. But, before that, if you evince signs of party-poopiness, such as beginning to tidy up, your guests should—we said should—get the message.

And if all that doesn’t work, says a less civically minded events planner, “you get a group of trusted people, or big lads, to bounce”.

NB: Sorbet does not endorse the “bouncing” of elderly relatives and colleagues.