Carolyn Hax: Perfect party or a good one?

DEAR CAROLYN: When I was married four years ago, a shocking number of people did not understand the etiquette of being invited to a formal event. Some people showed up in jeans. Some people showed up without having RSVP’d. However, the worst was people showing up with dates who were clearly not invited

Now I am planning a smaller party to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and I need a way to communicate information to my guests without being rude myself. The venue is quite small and holds a maximum of 45 people. It also is one of those “if you show up without a jacket one will be provided for you” places.

I have a couple of friends who are dating less-than-stellar people – one is a terrifying, angry drunk, and this party will be open bar. The other is a terribly inappropriate “lady” who apparently has a personal quest to simultaneously be as loud and braying as possible while wearing as little clothing as possible. I do not want these people showing up expecting to get in. I am at a loss.

– Stressed Hostess

DEAR HOSTESS: There’s no one answer that fits all of your complaints. The no-RSVPs and no-shows, of course, are flat rude, and I feel for you. But wearing jeans? That’s more complicated. It starts with ignorance, I believe – and vagaries like “cocktail attire” don’t help, especially when 99 percent of the cocktails I see in the wild are attached to someone wearing jeans.

The angry drunk, meanwhile, isn’t a party problem, it’s a problem. You talk to your friend, give examples of terrifying behavior you witnessed firsthand, and express concern for your friend’s well-being. Then, weeks later when you regretfully insist the angry drinker is not welcome at your event, you won’t appear more concerned about your party than about your friend. Ahem.

And the woman you give the quote-unquote treatment? The one you write about with your lips pursed, like she’s a surface in a public restroom? She called, and she’d like her humanity back.

So let’s back up all the way to what your motives are for this party. Is it to spend time with loved ones, celebrating your good luck? And you assume parties are supposed to be a certain way? Or is it to create an image of how you’d like others to perceive you?

My advice is to change your baseline intentions for this party. Right now, your baseline is your idea of the perfect party, and you’re trying to get all the jaggedy pieces to fit that image. Instead, I suggest you use those pieces themselves as your baseline and build a party from there. It’s not as photogenic, but it’s a lot more fun. Not to mention, kind.