Guide to French Parties


Photos, Emmanuel Vivier. Bottom photo, Becoming a Parisian.

When Americans don't have a lot of clothes or furniture, their home, wardrobe, and life is deemed sub-functional. In Paris, stuff gets in the way. Our friends love to congregate in the kitchen or on the balcony, and they prefer standing to sitting, perhaps because it facilitates greater gesturing with a wine glass. We borrowed enough Eames chairs for everybody- our apartment seats 16 already- lugging them four Metro stops to our place. Much to Kar and Toffel's delight, nobody used them. With views like these, people happily sit on the floor.

Here are a few tips for hosting (or attending) a fun Parisian party:

  • Relax. Hostesses don't seem to care- nor do they apologize- if their apartment isn't perfect, the food doesn't turn out right, or they don't have oyster forks. Going-out tops don't exist in Paris; day to night style is the same. It's better to be casually dressed than overdressed.
  • Make food that reheats well. Parties here are informal, unhurried affairs spanning hours, and guests are typically late (see below). Tell your friends 8 o'clock, but forget serving dinner before 10 pm. Parisians prefer small bites for uninhibited conversation. 
  • Select fine cheese. This is one thing no French person skimps on. Wine can be cheap, food can be little more than a bag of Vico chips and Picard, but cheese must always be excellent quality and well-presented. Cathare is popular. Remember, cheese must be served as a separate course- it's dessert, not an appetizer- and everybody loves raclette.
  • Serve apéritifs. We keep olives, almonds, cherry tomatoes, bulk chips and tea on hand for unexpected guests. Don't rush- let guests snack before each course.
  • Don't arrive empty handed. Our guests are generous and bring everything from Veuve Clicquot, whiskey and tequila to chocolates, tea, flowers, and a box of Pierre Hermé macarons with a cat on it. If you put a lot of effort into hosting, people will respond in kind.
  • Buy enough bread. Don't think because you bought Poilâne or pain de campagne, you don't have to serve baguette. You do, and don't forget butter and rillettes. Other suitable accompaniments: foie gras, cheese, confits.
  • Stock a liquor cabinet. One mistake I made at my first party was not having different drinks for different parts of the meal. You'll need a light apéritif (Lillet and Pastis are traditional, but dry champagne is fine), rosé for people who don't drink red wine, eau pétillante (Badoit is common), red and white wines, and a digestif.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. Everyone I've met here enjoys a nice argument. Nobody minds if you tell them to take their shoes off or smoke outside. So far, only Americans made a big deal of that sort of thing in my home...
There are two rules I hear are changing in French society- 1) arrive late and 2) don't cater to dietary restrictions. Maybe it's just our friends, but most French people we know are considerate, punctual, and willing to eat gluten-free.

P.S. There's plastic on one of the cheeses pictured- I didn't buy it! My fromager disapproves of keeping cheese in plastic (or the refrigerator, for that matter).

Paris to Go


  1. Hi, I found you through Apartment Therapy and I think your home is stunning. The view is INCREDIBLE and you chose the perfect pieces for all that light and space!!! Your life and wardrobe don't need to change. We could all use a little less material distraction!!

    1. Hi Georgina, thank you so much! With the view, I think no one would notice if we had more art on the walls anyway.

      When we do change our lifestyle, it will be a push towards further simplification, if anything. Thanks for reading and for your kind words!

  2. That plastic around the cheese thing - it's insane. Even in France, because of supermarket practices, you see more and more saran-wrapped cheeses. So polluting, and definitely the cheese can't breathe in there. Last week we tried to buy cheese in the US by specifically asking the vendor to cut a piece for us at the counter, and wrap it in paper. Guess what happened: the person took out the main block of cheese - which was itself covered in saran wrap - cut a piece for us, and instead of simply closing back the wrap, CHANGED THE ENTIRE PLASTIC WRAP TO A NEW ONE. It's such a battle...

    1. That's crazy! I didn't think it would be harder for me to buy plastic-free in the US- it's my native country, native language- but no matter how many ways I explain that I do not want plastic, they're trained to bag things in plastic immediately and can't break the habit.

      I wonder what would happen if we told them we were allergic to plastic!

  3. So funny to get how foreigners see the parisian way of life ! I really love your blog Ariana, not only because I get a different point of view, but it's very inspiring. And thanks for the Grand Train idea, we went today and had a lot of fun (despite I was sorry for the disposable korean flower plate under our bibimbaps ...)

    1. Hello Pandore! Thank you for this sweet comment, it made my day. And I'm happy you had fun at Grand Train! Love that place :)

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