hen I was in college, my father restored a boat. A zippy 1936 wooden Chris-Craft he’d bought years before off a guy in Montana. When it was done, the man who grouses at the sight of a candle on his birthday decided this (and his move into a new house) was a more genuine cause for celebration than one’s inexorable march toward senior discounts.
He declared a party theme—yes, obviously it was “whatever floats your boat”—and dispatched invitations, a printed page of details wrapped around little tin toy boats. Next he rented a crane big enough to hoist a 22-foot speedboat over the back fence and into his swimming pool, where the guest of honor bobbed placidly on a rope while attendees ate barbecue under strings of white lights.
Unlikely origin stories make for especially memorable shindigs. In this month’s cover story (“Party Time, Excellent: The Ultimate Guide to Entertaining in Seattle”), restaurant owners Mark and Brian Canlis enumerate the effort their staff puts into some of the town’s most detail-oriented ragers. These mostly center on traditional joymaking events, like the holiday season or New Year’s Eve. But after ringing in 2019 with a Hawaiian-themed bacchanal, the Brothers Canlis rented, yes, a crane to lift and relocate a pair of thatched tiki huts to the restaurant’s lower parking lot. The huts’ unexpected presence next to the outdoor pizza oven—plus an eff-ton of planning—spawned a summerlong Hawaiian Nights popup that had revelers sipping coconut drinks around a (temporary) pool while fine dining happened per usual indoors.
Proscribed occasions like birthdays and showers ensure revelry gets wedged onto our to-do lists. But sometimes you need to declare your own cause to celebrate. Either way, our first-ever guide to planning a rocking soiree examines the party industrial complex that’s sprung up of late, turning restaurants into caterers, old stables into event spaces, and any meaningful occasion into an excuse to order an ice luge. No heavy machinery rental required.