The Velvet Rope: Why every hostess needs boundaries

Guest post by Beretta Fleur

Ariel’s talked boundaries over on Offbeat Bride, and today we bring you a fresh take on boundaries, from the perspective of a party host.

My college roommate loved throwing huge parties. At first it was fun, but after about the third or fourth shindig, I began spending these parties locked behind my bedroom door. I wanted to read myself to sleep, not listen to people throw up to the same DeeLite CD over and over. After spending the last several months writing a hosting book, the concept of letting people into personal space has been heavy on my mind. It’s an important part of hosting, and one that I’ve given literally years of thought to. It’s also a pretty sensitive topic to many people.

These are things that I’ve come up with after trial and error, and lots of serious thought. I encourage anyone who likes to entertain to develop his or her own hosting boundaries and set in place what I call a “velvet rope” policy.

I’ve seen friends with an open door policy get robbed repeatedly by former guests. I’ve hosted people I didn’t trust or like out of pity, and have had bad parties and sleepless nights because of this. The truth is, even though we may want to be open-minded and open-hearted to everyone we meet and like, we are responsible to our dependents, housemates, and ourselves or our landlords as homeowners or tenants. There are safety and legal issues to consider.

I keep in mind that anyone I host:

  • Knows who I am
  • Knows where I live
  • Knows if I have pets or an alarm
  • Knows the layout of my home
  • Knows what items I have/where to find them (computers, weapons)
  • May know my schedule, and my housemates’ and/or family’s
  • May know what my/our cars look like

Yet I strongly feel that there’s a way to be gracious and still be discerning. I always loved in Steel Magnolias when Julia Roberts invites Daryl Hannah to her wedding for ‘bleedin’ armadilla cake’ the morning of the event. That’s totally me! Up until a month before our wedding, if I met someone I really liked, I invited them. I went with instinct, combined with references. These spontaneously invited guests came, had a blast, and we’ve grown closer since. Conversely, I DIDN’T pity-invite someone, even though I almost guilt-tripped myself into it several times. I stopped because I knew I wasn’t 100%. This person turned out to be extremely troubled, and though I feel for them, I’m thankful nearly every day that they were not at our wedding and in our home.

Finally, like any good club with a velvet rope, I also know that I’m responsible for creating a safe, guest-friendly environment. If there are things I don’t want them to find, I lock them up. If there’s a pet behind a closed door, there’s a sign. If there’s drinking going on, there’s a sleepover invite. I knew several housemates who threw legendary parties every summer; since they couldn’t vouch for the extended friends of six people, they simply locked up parts of the house while the good times raged. This worked well for them, for years.

Over the years, my “velvet rope” has had hugely positive results, for my housemates and my friends. The drama has dwindled and the parties I throw are fun, happy, and safe. If there are people I want to engage that I don’t know well enough to invite to my home, or if I’m hosting a party for someone else’s guest list (such as a shower or birthday), I plan events at clubs, restaurants, or bars instead.

What about you? Who will you let into your home and under what circumstances?

Comments on The Velvet Rope: Why every hostess needs boundaries

  1. Omg, I had a velvet rope policy after I found crusty mirrors and white powdery snail-trails all over my dresser after a rager. 1. My room was filth nasty and nobody had any right to be in it; 2. Blowing rails w.o inviting the hostess? Oh no they dit-int.

    I love having my own clean room I can retreat into at parties.

  2. Generally I host parties at someone else’s place on their behalf. It was a running joke through college–I’m very introverted, but since I was at a number of regular shindigs & on the planning committee for all the formal dance parties, I was always involved in throwing some sort of celebration. Just not at my place! And I’ve always known every person who’s come into my house, even if it was through a roommate when I lived with 2 other people & hosted Easter dinner. I need my very own space.

  3. I’ve only ever held “velvet rope” parties. Why? My sister decided in high school that it would be a good idea to put with word out on MSN messanger that she was have a New Year’s Party. I came home around 2 am to find my parent’s house trashed, valuables stolen, family heirlooms destroyed, and my sister crying in her room.

    I only invite people I know, and they must ask me first if they want to invite someone. I get the final say if they are allowed or not. All of my friends are mature, but sometimes their friends are not always so good.

    Does this mean my parties are mellow and boring? NO! It just means I get to focus on partying and not on random strangers touching my shit.

  4. I don’t think I could invite people I didn’t know well. Heck, I have problems inviting people over, period.

    It wasn’t a party, but a funeral I was at, that the family had to lock up all bedrooms because people were trying to steal items that belonged to the deceased. VERY sad and made me furious that anyone would rob a grieving family.

  5. And if you aren’t being discriminating, please let your guests know. I went to a birthday party for a friend and had my wallet stolen. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to keep a close eye on my purse since I assumed that everyone there was a friend of my friend (and thus trustworthy). I found out later that there were tons of people coming through that were people she only peripherally knew or were friends of friends. If I’d realized that, I would have kept a closer eye on my things.

    • So true. Years ago a close group of my friends had a bit of a routine of partying pretty hard at one of the guy’s houses because he lived alone, and we’d always stay the night and clean up in the morning. Because they were never open to everyone we didn’t keep our valuable stuff on our person. Then one night about 30 people showed up and we assumed they were friends from his new job and course, they sort of were but he didn’t know them at all and they stole cameras, purses, phones, alcohol…we didn’t realise until they left strangely early.

    • Agree. I strongly feel that it’s the job of the host(s) to create a safe environment for all guests. And if they can’t? Move the party to a club or something, where you instinctively know to not leave your stuff around…

  6. I don’t have a velvet rope policy. I have an Area 51 policy. I have old friends that still don’t know where I live, and family who have never seen the inside of our place.

    Our condo is my one safe place, where I can 100% be me and put things inside of it that make me happy. I take my time with people figuring out if they would come into my house and make fun of it, trash it, or make another guest uncomfortable.

    I have about 8 friends who are always invited inside, but for all other functions with others, we have them off site. I know my husband wishes I was a little less strict…there are certain family members we’ve left standing at the door, but if I have reason to distrust them, they aren’t coming in.

    • Me too. My home is where I go for security and solitude. The few people I will invite over are very close friends/family who would take a bullet for me.

      When I was younger and had housemates, they had guests over almost every day, and I came home to find a party raging more often than not. I do have some amusing anecdotes (like the time I found the lead guitarist of a certain heavy metal band passed out on the couch), but after a while, I got sick of having the next day’s packed lunch vanish from the fridge (good thing I couldn’t afford anything valuable at the time or it might’ve gone missing too…), discovering someone had left the front door unlocked, tripping over piles of empties, and slipping in puddles of spilled vodka.

      I do have a social life, but it’s on MY terms. If I’m meeting a friend who likes to party harder than I do, we go somewhere public.

    • I’m much the same, though we have a policy that people have to call and arrange a time to come over in advance or the door just won’t be opened. Once had an incident of coming down stairs in my underwear to find a relative (who unknown to me had a key to our place) in our kitchen at 7am on a Sunday, just making a sandwich. I’ve never really gotten over the panic that sent me into.

      • Me too – ever since the time my grandmother let herself into my uncle’s home, late at night – he thought she was a burglar and nearly shot her.

        I do have an “open door” policy for one very close friend who lives with her alcoholic, sometimes-violent dad, but she always calls first anyway.

  7. This is such very, very good advice. At an earlier stage in my life, I’d have lots of low-key parties and events at home but I now am much more choosy about whom I invite over. I now feel that my home — and garden — are big safety bubbles for me and unsettling to recreate after they, well, blow up. 😉

    In addition to safety, I think there’s also the issue of opening yourself up to judgment. Obviously (Hopefully!) this is an non-issue with true friends but much trickier when it comes to acquaintances and coworkers. (The latter whom I really enjoy working with but also never plan to invite over; fortunately, as Beretta said, there are plenty of public spots to do the after-hours activities!)

    I trust family and old friends, the friends of my siblings (I know they have good judgement!), people on exchanges, and I even trust people I’ve met online (you know, after that initial meeting, even though I know there’s still a risk.) However, I don’t always trust friends of friends and, while I think the idea of couchsurfing is great and yields mostly positive results, I just don’t feel comfortable enough hosting or being hosted by people on the site.

  8. When I lived in a shared house we threw epic parties. I always locked my door, though, because exactly everything you said. Public areas were fair game and cleared of all the good stuff, the good stuff was all in my bedroom behind a locked door (it also meant I always had a clean bed to collapse into).

  9. I am pretty open about who gets to visit and who does not – every year, the BF and one of his guys throw a birthday party together, and usually we only know about one fourth of the people who come to our place. There is only one guy who is explicitly not invited, and that is because he has got a bad reputation for stealing. Of course I always have got my office declared “off limits” – that is where I go to hide when the party becomes “too much” for me. I think if I were not at home, I would lock that room for a party, because there is very personal stuff in there.

  10. When my husband was in college the rental house he shared with a few other friends was close to campus and the bars and thus the perfect party house. After a few minor incidences including some people wandering in off the street he’s taken to sending out invites with the line, “Your non-crazy, non-klepto friends are welcome to come.” It’s lighthearted and a little joking, but so far that’s worked. Maybe it’s because we’re not in college and that environment anymore, or maybe because our friends are more mature and wouldn’t bring unknown crazies, but I also think that if you bring someone over to a party YOUR reputation is on the line as well. If people have been warned that we don’t want drama and a friend brings someone over that’s a mess, then we might not invite that friend anymore either.

  11. Boundaries rock, and everyone should have ones that work for them. That said, I really enjoy/appreciate that some friends are willing to have their houses fairly open and be the default hosts to a rather extended network. I know I can just show up and hang out on any given night, and walk in the next day if I forgot anything. Luckily it’s a smallish college community, so their trust is met with respect. I’m glad that other, chiller people host, because then I don’t have to 🙂

  12. I completely agree with this! And I love it! If it weren’t for boundaries, I wouldn’t enjoy hosting a party at all. I’d be too paranoid. My fiance’s old roommates are known to have a deluge of people over. During one party, several of them meandered into my fiance’s bedroom and shut the door behind them. Of course, I puffed up like an old hen and freaked out. I could tell fiance was really uncomfortable with the idea of leaving, which we were going to do. His room is always off-limits at parties, beings that he’s not a big partier and he locks up his cat in there for safety. I felt like we had totally been disrespected and trampled over. I’m glad there are others like me, who prefer to set up safety zones. I’m very much for a party, but when I’m done, I’m done. I like to know there’s a safe haven near by.

  13. We definitely have a velvet rope policy. The rules are simple but effective:

    No drinking and driving – guests are welcome to stay the night if needed
    No uninvited guests without asking permission
    No smoking inside
    No one allowed upstairs (where all the valuables are kept)

    We have 2-3 parties a year and rarely have any trouble:)

  14. I’d also mention that when you have people over, be sure you remember to keep any medications put away. At worst, they could be targets for stealing. In any case, you may not want everyone to know you’re on birth control, on antidepressants, or have athlete’s foot. Or all three.

    Same goes or very personal health items safely hidden away. Your medicine cabinet may be a tempting place for certain people to snoop (or, more charitably, maybe innocently looking for a Q-tip). You may not want people seeing your nose hair clippers, for instance, or you and your spouse’s bath toys!

  15. I have never been much of a partier. When I did/do go to parties (usually not at my own home) I feel immensely uncomfortable and try to stick around the people I know. I do not trust anyone at the party and if it is a rager I (perhaps unjustly) assume that at least half of these people just walked in from the street. Maybe that is the result of too many teenage movies with parties gone wrong.

    As for my own parties (usually small dinner/game night affairs) I have always invited only people that I trust. I am having a game night tonight, the first in our once a month game night series. I purposefully only invited people who live in my town, who I either know well or am interested in developing better friendships with, and who I think will keep the atmosphere relaxed. There are some people who didn’t make the cut. One in particular is a self-confessed sore loser and extremely competitive. I love them, but I will never play another board game with them for as long as I live. They are not welcome at game night. My uber-dramatic, always going through a crisis friend is also not invited. We got out for lunch once or twice a month and that is good because it keeps the weeping and yelling to a minimum since we are in public. I trust most of my friends and to be honest, at this point in my life, I trust most of their friends too. If they say this person is nice, I believe them. I have found that as my friends crawl into their thirties (usually kicking and screaming) they have long since left the horrible “friends” behind. At least that is the way it is with my friends, I don’t know about yours.

  16. Interesting. Perhaps I’m boring, but I have such a hard time talking to strangers- never mind inviting them home! I don’t really host parties, but if I had to name my policy with guests, I’d call it a nest.

    If a friend needs a place to stay, they can show up. They will be fed, etc. I don’t even have to be super close. But, I never invite people over for fun. Even when friends come over casually, it’s for a reason: studying, baking, working on something…

  17. Having felt like an outsider or”considerate roomie” in almost every home I have lived in until I met my husband I have never had any possessive or protective feelings towards the main areas of my home. Don’t go in my room. Don’t. I’m territorial and don’t like people in my space.

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