Born to Party, Forced to Work

The book of our dreams is here. And it couldn’t come at a better time.

WORDS BY
Nicole Najafi

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With everything going on in the world, we thought we’d take a moment to bring you a little escape.

And on that one front, we’re in luck. Our friend Bronson van Wyck — one of the world’s premiere party planners — has recently published a book dedicated to the history and art of the party. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, when we so wish we could enjoy the fun of a gathering among friends and loved ones.

Having planned parties for everyone from President Obama to Beyoncé, and amassed twenty years of party experience, Bronson distilled some of his vast knowledge into one fabulous book: Born to Party, Forced to Work. It’s a true public service.

So while our current party plans are on hold, we hope Bronson’s words inspire dreams for celebrations to come — because when we’re finally able to embrace everyone again, we’re going to have a lot to celebrate!

On how he got into party planning…

I lacked any other marketable skills. But I always loved to give parties. I grew up on a farm one hundred miles outside of Little Rock and one hundred miles from Memphis. Our closest neighbors were three miles away, and they were my grandparents. So when people came to visit, we really partied. In return for their effort of getting there, we showed them good hospitality. This is the southern culture of entertaining.

On the inspiration for this book…

The essentials of a party are the same things that always make a great event — a host looking out for and seeing to guests’ needs, be it temperature, drinks, food, and surrounding them with love and appreciation. I wanted to talk about hospitality as a return to this ritual. Every single culture on the planet from Mongolian nomads to East African Maasai to Celts to Native Americans — every culture developed its own set of rules and guidelines around hospitality. The foundational story of Christianity is a couple that comes into town, and no one will take them in, and his mission on Earth becomes to tell everyone that there is a place for them at the table.

On what he wishes more people would do when it comes entertaining…

I wish they would do it more!

The most enjoyable thing about any party is to see the host having a great time. So hire a bartender. It costs the same as about four bottles of vodka, and you’ve transformed your evening. If you don’t have anyone helping you in the kitchen, don’t prepare a soufflé!

On being a good guest…

The greatest gift a guest can give is to be fifteen minutes late. That grace period is priceless for every host, no matter their hosting experience.

On being a good host…

Think about the five senses. Not just what you see and taste. Think about scent. For example, in the winter, I mull cider, even if we’re not going to drink it. Nothing smells more beautiful, cozy, and warm than coming into that. Consider the sounds, the temperature. A party is a sensory experience.

On which party in history he would attend if he could…

The party Cleopatra gave Mark Antony on her barge in Tarsus.

Cleo and Mark hangin’ on the barge.

If you’re not familiar, Bronson tells us the story…

Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus. But she had no time to get summoned. She was the richest person in the world! A god in her kingdom. She didn’t even respond. She made him wait for months. She finally goes to Tarsus, and sits out on a barge covered in gold with ores made of sterling silver and purple silk sails. She sat on a throne wrapped in a cloth of gold, and they burned incense and perfume. News of her arrival spread, and the whole town goes to see this goddess, including Antony. He tells her to come in, and she essentially says to him, “No. You come to me.” She gave the dinner to end all dinners. They fell in love, and that was the start of the most epic love affair in history.

On his ideal party today [pre- and post- pandemic]…

I like just as much to get an invitation from a friend to come over for dinner. I bring over a bottle of wine, help them cook. We’re sharing time with each other. That’s what’s important.

Closing words...

We’re in an individualistic stage or phase in our culture, and good hospitality is not about the individual. Hosting is a service. It is about serving others. I am humbled to be a host.


DATE
March 17, 2020
CATEGORY
PHOTOS BY
Bogdana Ferguson

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