Make the most of your political party
When hosting an election-night party, dress in purple, Danielle Rollins advises.
Purple is the merge point between the red and blue electoral mapping of state party allegiances, which makes it politically neutral.
“As a hostess, it's a good idea to keep it neutral,” says Rollins, an Atlanta-based philanthropist, hostess and the author of “Soiree Entertaining with Style” (Rizzoli, $50). “You want something cohesive that brings people together.”
To encourage a convivial social experience, she suggests focusing on common goals and interests, not divisions. “You want something that keeps people focused on how good it is to live in a democracy.”
To further that spirit, Rollins suggests beginning with invitation art that shows a Democrat donkey and a Republican elephant facing each across a banner with blue and red ends that fade to a gray or purple middle.
Conduct a trivia game composed of questions from elementary-school history and civics lessons to keep guests busy while they wait for election results to begin trickling in.
Election night is not the time for a sit-down dinner.
Expect people to be arriving and departing at different times, and keep it casual, she advises.
Pots of chili and casual casseroles like Frito pie allow hosts and guests to keep tabs on who's winning and who's falling behind. To maintain the national election theme, Rollins suggests offering a selection of five or six different chilis, each of which represents the cuisine of one of the many swing states.
Add some patriotic touches to the evening, such as concocting frozen Margaritas with liquid layers of red, white and blue.
However, this is a party where it's especially wise to moderate the availability and intake of alcohol, she adds: “Discussions can become charged if not everybody shares the same political opinions.”
Here are more ideas to keep the evening humming along nicely.
Use a map to track the candidates' state-by-state progress in accumulating electoral-college votes. Mark the states in red or blue as they're called or simply circle those that went for your preferred candidate. You can download an outline map of all 50 states at www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html and select the United States of America from the pulldown menu of locations. Have red and blue markers available to fill in states as returns are reported.
Dress for success
Election Day must have been planned to follow Halloween so we'd have ready access to rubber masks of candidates. Skimmer hats give a nostalgic touch, while stylish and clever T-shirts offer a current take on the candidates. More sophisticated guests might prefer to wear their hearts on their sleeve — end of sleeve really, with cufflinks — or in a silk tie. And there is plenty of crystal-studded bling around to doll up a lapel.
Pull out all of the red, white and blue flags and bunting you packed away after your Fourth of July barbecue. Toothpick flags can decorate cheese plates. Gather flags into patriotic bunches in vases. Stores like Party City offer a lineup of plates and cups festooned with election symbols, as well as more generic red-white and blue, patriotic designs. Helium balloons, hanging swirl mobiles and decorative centerpieces will complete the look.
You're likely to work up an appetite while following election coverage and rooting for your favorite candidate. Sure, you could opt for the obvious with red, white and blue dishes that celebrate the election process.
Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama appreciate fresh locally grown, organic foods — Mitt's according to Mormon practices and Barack's according to his wife's White House garden — so farmers market purchases would be appropriate.
But why not celebrate the candidates differences with a buffet of foods they've enjoyed on the road to the Big Day.
Barack leans toward bowls of chili and pumpkin pie. Shaved ice is indicative of his Hawaiian childhood, and deep-dish pizza reminds us of his Chicago background.
Mitt prefers a peanut butter and honey sandwich with a glass of milk for his comfort food. Peanut butter cups are an indulgence as well. Kashi cereal, hummus and organic applesauce are healthy snacks that keep him fueled. And for a home-style treat, he'll take meatloaf.
What are the odds?
A little friendly betting heightens the excitement. Ask your guests for their predictions on the following questions. Award prizes to the winners.
• What color will the wives be wearing while they wait for the results? Will the candidates opt for full-press business suits, shirts and ties or take off their ties and jackets and roll up their sleeves?
• What time will the losing candidate make his concession speech?
• What will the “point spread” be for the electoral-college count when the loser concedes?
• How long will it be from the end of the concession speech until the first pundit begins speculating on the 2016 election?
• Which state's results will decide the race?
One of the major pitfalls of an election-night party is that, unlike Super Bowl, Oscar night and Tony night parties, the results may not arrive in a timely manner. To prevent your party from evolving into an overnight, set some gentle departure clues, Rollins advises:
• Invitations should specify starting and ending times.
• Indicate that trivia — or other contest — entries will be collected at a specific time, as will a time for the awarding of prizes.
• Create goody bags to be collected on the way out and make sure everyone knows when they are ready for pickup.
• Circulate to let guests know that doughnuts and coffee — and carryout containers — are available for the trip home. If guests still don't take the hint, Rollins says, tell them the Freedom Train is departing.