Make It Stop: “Everyone Flaked On The Surprise Party I Threw, And I’m Pissed”

Three weeks ago I threw a surprise birthday party for my boyfriend at the apartment we share. I worked on planning it for over a month and invited about 40 people through a secret Facebook invite. I wasn’t friends with some of his co-workers or college friends, so I had to track down their contact information to invite them. Twenty-five people said they’d show up, with five maybes. However, on the big day, only four of his friends showed. Four! And only one person bought a bottle of wine, the other three arrived empty handed. I’m pissed. Not only did it take time to organize, to buy the decorations, and to stock the house with booze, snacks, and cake, but so many people flaked. Obviously, I’m never throwing a surprise party again, but how do I stop being mad at his friends because every time I think about this surprise party from hell, I want to punch a pillow.

I’m sorry this happened to you. But unfortunately, parties, like wet cats, are unpredictable.

Here are the aspects of a party that are in your control: the invitation, the venue, the time, the food and the drinks. And here is the aspect of your party that are not in your control: who attends.

You were probably thinking, “What a fun way to honor my dude. Everyone will bring a bottle of wine or some snacks and it will be a fetching soiree that we’ll chuckle about for years to come.”

Other people might’ve heard, “I’ve known this guy since he smoked pot listening to Sublime freshman year. Why would I want to hang out with his co-workers? I’ll just grab a lager with him in the next few weeks.”

Another problem: Facebook invites have no soul. I know you spent serious time populating the event details–it should channel breezy fun yet sophisticated adult affair–but it arrived nestled in a stream of useless requests and idiotic group requests.

Receiving an invitation in the mail is special, that’s why, generally speaking, wedding invitations aren’t delivered via your inbox. I’m not faulting you for doing a Facebook invite, but that might help explain why people were able to rationalize flaking. Especially if the guests saw that twenty-something people were already attending, they could rationalize being a no-show.

There’s no use in being angry. Next time, if you’re worried about a repeat disaster, send paper invitations or email people personally. Yes, paper invites are expensive and time-consuming, which is also why they’re so effective. You can see the effort, you can weigh it in your hand. When pixels invite pixels, it’s hard to take any of it seriously.

Lastly, put the party into context. You don’t think deejays who have bopping Ibiza festivals in their heads spin to three drunk women who just want to keep the party going because they’ve paid for babysitters and they’re going to sip their vodka crans until they have to go home, dammit? Your favorite band has played to a near-empty audience. I guarantee it. It happens to anyone who tries to put an event together.

You can’t control who chooses to come to an event you throw, but you can accept that whatever happened. I mean, you weren’t physically harmed. You aren’t writing me from a hospital from a broken leg from a rowdy fight that broke out in your living room during the surprise party. That’s good, right?

Imagine the inverse scenario: what if dozens of uninvited guests mobbed the party? What if 150 people showed up and they drank all your liquor and stole some of your grandmother’s jewelry? Or someone jumped off your balcony and broke their neck and sued you? Or someone stole your Weezer Blue Album CD that you don’t play anymore, but it has sentimental value because it reminds you of grade school? Or any other combination of miserable outcomes?

So in the infinite ways your party could’ve gone wrong, you were left with your house and safety intact. That’s a good party!

Your expectation was that there’d be a chorus of “Surprise!” shouted out from your boyfriend’s closest buds, but it ended up being more of an a cappella affair from a handful of his homies. It’s not the end of the world.

Please, don’t stop throwing parties. Use this as a learning experience. You’re learning to synthesize your analog expectations with modern flippancies. At the end of the day, circle back to your intent with throwing the party: to make your boyfriend feel loved. Forgive the people who flaked. Be thankful your apartment wasn’t raided by lawless partygoers. Move on.