Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.

You know how it goes. A party without music is like a Manhattan without a cherry. It just ain’t right. Music is essential to the success of any party. It creates a backdrop that supports the theme, sets the party’s pace and manages the energy level.

Duran Duran Hungry like the wolf

The easiest way to add music to a party is with a mix that supports your occasion or theme. For example, when I hosted a cocktail party in honor of chic caterer to the stars and House Beautiful columnist, Lulu Powers, I created a playlist filled with songs that were food related, including “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran, “Ladyfingers,” “Tangerine,” and “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, “Sweet Potato Pie” by James Taylor, “Pulling Mussels from the Shell” by Squeeze, “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, and “Eggs and Sausage” by Tom Waits. As a host, it’s always fun to see who catches on.


Our Labor Day Party Playlist on Spotify

The easiest way to create a themed playlist is by using a digital music service like Spotify or iTunes that gives you access to millions of songs. Just type in key words that describe your theme – they could be “love” or “beach” or “birthday” – and then choose the songs that appeal to you and fit the vibe you’ll be trying to create. Once you’ve selected your songs, put them in an order that will work for the pace of your party. Start with softer music that won’t overwhelm the early birds and build from there. Slow things down again in an hour or so if you’ll be moving from cocktails to a seated dinner. Speed things back up in another 90 minutes or so to reawaken the crowd for dessert and conversation in another room.


If you want to signal that the night’s coming to an end, finish things off with a few fun song choices like “Just a Song Before I Go” and “One More for the Road.” Finally, make sure to take your playlist for a spin before the big night to make sure the songs flow well and there’s a nice mix of singers and musical genres. On party night, remember to play your list in order. Don’t hit shuffle or all that good playlist planning will be for naught.

Welcome photo: Marlene Dietrich
Welcome quote: Casablanca, 1942

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