Sally D’Iberville Hudgens was a heck of a woman who may have locked her children in a closet for safe keeping when she gave a grand party, but boy could she throw a party!

DisclaimerI am absolutely not an advocate of safekeeping your children in a closet by any stretch of the imagination.  I mention Sally’s methodology only because I grew up with her children, actually played in that closet a time or two, and had the pleasure as a young adult of actually attending some of her parties.  And Sally’s parties and that closet are what, to this day, I immediately associate with her name.  (More on Sally’s methodology as we go along.)

Newspaper Society Columns, in Small Southern Capitol City Towns, are what celebrity gossip magazines and internet sites are today – a focal point of public attention to minute details that:

  1. Mean nothing to the betterment of society as a whole and
  2. Are always a wonderful conversation starter in said same Towns – “Did you see who went to the Hudgens party at The Club last week?  My, my – to have that much money…

Disclaimer (continued):  The Hudgens family truly put the “fun” in “dysfunction”, as they say.  Sally came from Old New Orleans Money.  Her husband, Ron, came from Old Louisiana Agricultural Money.  And they did have a lovely nest-egg from their combined inheritances – but were quite tight with the dollar when it came to dressing and supervising the children, paying their employees, giving to the church and the like – all to better protect the next-egg for the, um, next generation.

This particular Sally Soiree, upon which I base my party suggestion today, was given in honor of one of the children’s friends, who was also of dubious Small Town Society heritage, belonged to The Club, and was Society-Column-Worthy (the very first and most important pre-requisite of being an Honoree at a Sally Soiree) and was “Marrying Well”.  The Theme was Las Vegas night, and it was a couple’s shower – with liquor being the recommended gift of choice. So consider it a “Stock the Bar” party, with a Sally-Vegas slant.

The invitations arrived in a black envelope – if you were lucky enough to get one – and your name and address were calligraphed in flourished silver on the front.  I might also mention that they were hand-delivered by a courier who was actually an agricultural employee of the family cattle farm, dressed up in tails with a top hat in the middle of a wonderfully humid Southern Summer (and boy did he smell of cattle farms and hot sweat).  If you were not at home when he called, your invitation was slipped under the front door to await your return.

The proper dress was formal (as was the standard in the early days of Las Vegas, according to the invite), the suggested gifts were bar-related, and the appointed time was three weeks away – on a Saturday night, at 7:30 pm.

  Arriving in formal-dress spendor at the door of the Grand Hudgens Home, you were greeted by a tuxedoed, white-gloved gentleman (another agricltural cattle farm employee appropriately dressed and groomed for the occasion – but this one smelled better),  who welcomed your arrival with a small bow and a sweeping hand motion toward the Grand Salon, where the rest of the invitees were enjoying an amazing array of sophisticated cocktails – Cosmopolitans, martinis with your choice of olives or onions, Manhattans – all in the most glorious barware known to mankind! 

 

Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits played softly in the background over speakers strategically placed around and about to set the mood and, promptly at 8:00 pm, the doors opened to the large and gracious courtyard area where tiny lights sparkled in the lush, landscaped crepe myrtles and hydrangea bushes – and tables were set out with Roulette Wheels and a Craps table and other games of entertainment.  Oh what a vision!  Hor’s douvres were passed on silver trays and by night’s end, those who could still walk unattended drove away with cute little prizes and stories to tell.  Those who were not ambulatory were directed (or lifted) to an assortment of fainting couches or spare downstairs bedrooms for the necessary recuperation in order to make their way home. (Beverly Blackmon still, to this day, giggles when she tells the story about waking up the next morning, completely naked save for her grandmother’s opera length, hand-tied heirloom pearl necklace.)

And yes, Sally even provided a midnight breakfast buffet in the kitchen with gracious plenty carbohydrate-filled dishes to sop up a bit of the “fruit of the grain” in hopes that more people would make it home safely.  The local society columnist, who spent the first part of the night rapidly scribbling down the details on her pad and the second half of the night passed out on a fainting couch, downed a full plate of eggs suissard and croissants, then went back for seconds, followed by an emergency dash to the powder room, the details of which I leave to your imagination.

Disclaimer (completed):  It wasn’t just any old closet into which Sally secreted the children in during these parties.  She’d herself enjoyed such a closet in her own childhood and, we assume, so had many of her ancestors.  This closet was specially built under the stairs with much spaciousness, adequate lighting and ventillation, shelves along the walls filled with games and toys available only during these special parties, and completed with a little silver bell that could be “tinkled” at just the moment when a little darling needed to go “pee”.  A special employee was always assigned to listen for the bell, or to check on the children periodically.  But please don’t think that this manner of baby sitting fosters better grown-up children!  Of Sally’s six issues, two are confirmed alcoholics (one of which actually made a sloppy, drunk-driving appearance on the locally televised edition of “Cops”, much to the family’s consternation and embarrassment), one is on his third marriage at the ripe old age of 26, one daughter is now the proud entrepreneur of a New Orleans tattoo shop where they will read your Tarot while you wait your turn, and two, somehow, seem a bit normal.  Moral of this story – DO NOT LOCK YOUR CHILDEN IN A CLOSET – EVER!

Now, we might not have the money nor the social connections to throw a Sally Soiree – but we certainly have the desire and the creativity to celebrate the marriage of friends.  So here are some suggestions for throwing your own “Lucky In Love” Las Vegas-themed couples party.

Make your own invitations on the computer!  Do a two-sided invitation with the front showing a hand of cards or a pair of dice – something like these (made available through the kindness of PowerPoint)..

     

The headline could be “Lucky in Love – A Special Couples Shower for — and —!”

The back side would read something like:  We’re celebrating the upcoming marriage of — and — with a Las Vegas Couples Shower!  Please join us on September 22 at 7:30 pm for a night full of fun!  Dress in your Las Vegas Cocktail Best and enjoy games and good food at (location).  RSVP, etc. etc. etc.  If you want to suggest a gift theme to go along with the party, add a post-script at the end – “Gift Suggestion – Stock the Bar” or “Portions for the Pantry” or “Kitchen Keepsakes” – you get the idea.  Be sure send them out at least 3 weeks before the party.

Decorations and party ideas:  If you are so inclined, Party Rental stores stock perfectly legal Las Vegas-type mock roulette wheels and other gaming devices.  Do not use real money for these games or you may get a visit from some uniformed folks who are not the least bit interested in celebrating the soon-to-be-married couple.

Instead, use play money or poker chips and these very precious little party favors as prizes…

   Bottle stoppers – cleverly handy, don’t cha think?

  Playing card magnets – how cute!

  Perfectly Suited Coasters with the happy couple’s engagement photo tucked inside – precious memories!

  Lucky in Love  dice favor boxes, filled with gold foil wrapped chocolate coins!  How fun!

If you don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of renting Las Vegas themed games, make it a Bunko Party!  Borrow card tables, drape them in inexpensive red cloth cut into squares, put the chairs in place and have a set of dice and a pad and pencil for keeping score on each table.  If you don’t know about Bunko – read about it here.

Food?  Make it finger foods.  And make it yourself or make it easy.  Miniature corn dogs can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store, frozen little quiches, make a seven layer dip and serve with fritos, tiny pizza bites, pigs in a blanket it doesn’t have to be fancy, but here’s the fun part – serve them on elegant, faux silver platters – available at your local dollar store! 

Drinks – virgin or otherwise – read up on fancy cocktail party drink ingredients and then create your own!  Freeze mint leaves in water in ice cube trays and add those to your drinks for a festive touch. 

Decorations?  Go to your local Home Depot or Lowes and buy a bunch of in-season dish-garden type plantings.  Buy a deck of plain playing cards and either some wooden food skewers (found at the grocery store) or long wooden craft sticks.  Get out your glue gun and create “hands” of five assorted cards, fan them out like you’d hold them in your hands to play, fasten them together with a few dots of glue, and then glue the “card fan” to the end of the wooden stick.  Insert one or several into the dish gardens and set around the house. 

Do you have a hanging light fixture or chandelier above your serving table?  Drape fuzzy dice (yes, fuzzy dice) in varying heights in your light fixture, then curl some long lengths of  gift ribbon in black and red and silver and drape those in clusters as well along with with fuzzy dice.  Kitzchy fun!

Be sure to have a table available to load up the presents!  Drape black and red and silver squares of fabric randomly across the table and set one gift in the middle to give guests the idea (doesn’t matter if it’s empty – just a sample to get them going). 

Do yourself a favor if you can and hire someone from a temp agency to refill the food trays as they get empty, make sure the guests drinks are always refilled, and generally tidy up behind the scenes while you enjoy your party and direct the festivities.  It’s well worth the investment!

Celebrating Lucky Soon-To-Be-Married couples with a Las Vegas themed party!

Remember to Celebrate Something Everyday!

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