Five Steps to Your Perfect Condo Garden Party

Condo Party

Spring is springing in Toronto, finally.  (Finally?  And sticking?  Please?)  Now that we’re all preemptively breaking out the summer clothes, making plans with those friends we didn’t see all winter, and staring longingly at the Canadian Tire flyer and the Food and Drink Magazine, it’s a good time for the cottage-free among us to throw an outdoor shindig.  If you’re a condo-dweller looking to get some air, here’s how to make that happen without hitting a hidden snag.

  1) Book the space—and find out the rules

Lots of new condos have outdoor common areas that sit on green roofs, terraces, or courtyards, making the building’s rental ads shine—and otherwise getting absolutely no love.  Those views, plants, and benches are part of your rent as a condominium tenant, and instead of culling down your guest list to the handful who can fit on your balcony, take that party upstairs to the garden, spread out, and enjoy.

The first thing to find out is what the building’s expectations are for having a do in a common area.  You’ll likely have to book the space with your building’s property manager, and there are some important questions to ask: Is there a damage deposit like there can be with an elevator?  Can you decorate the space for the day?  How many people can occupy the space at one time?  Most importantly, can you have and serve alcohol in a common area of your building?  If not, it’s best to make that lemonade plain and take a little punch out of the punchbowl.

  2) Get the lay of the land

Outdoor entertaining always has its unique needs.  If you’re in Muskoka, bring the bug spray; if you’re hanging out in Bellwoods, get there early before the whole neighbourhood snags the shade.  And if you’re in a condo outdoor area, it’s a good idea to see how that space interacts with the elements.  Head outside before writing your invites and check out what the space does in terms of wind, shade, and the local Toronto wildlife.

All that will let you know if you’re going to be telling your guests to bring a sunhat to your afternoon do, if the money’s being spent on light paper cups or heavier plastic or glass ones that won’t blow away, and whether you’ll need to be on the lookout for pigeons or gulls, or setting up some citronella candles as it gets into the evening.  Anything planned for is a feature; it’s only the problems nobody anticipated that can sour a good party.

  3) Design your good time with the space in mind

A good party takes advantage of the environment, so now that you know what you’re working with, think in terms of creatively using that space to your advantage.

If the space is smaller, bring an iPod dock upstairs and use those walls to give yourself a little bit of (reasonable) background music.  If there aren’t many surfaces to set things down, grab a few small folding tables, drop light tablecloths on top, and revel in your sudden, affordable classiness.  If you’re serving snacks that’ll leave a bit of waste, like chicken or bocconcini-tomato skewers, make sure there are a few visible garbage cans for everyone to use, or set out a clearly marked jar to collect them.

More to the point, invite with an eye to comfortable capacity.  The rule of thumb wedding planners use is that you’ll probably get 85% of invitees showing up, and that’s for your wedding; for an average party fit in among everyone’s busy Toronto schedules, it’s probably more like 65%.  But if you’re working in a space with a set capacity, it’s better to aim conservatively.  If your guest list gets a little low, there’s no harm in telling someone a few days before, “Hey, I’m doing a thing this weekend.  Want to come by?”

  4) Drop your neighbours a courtesy note

The City of Toronto gets, every weekend, about ten party noise complaints per hour after the 11:00pm bylaw cutoff.  It’s good to not be that guy.  So if you’re hosting in a common area, or think the party might drift back to your unit after hours, it’s good courtesy to drop a note or a knock to your neighbours and any neighbours of the common space, letting them know you’ll have guests over that night, and inviting them to tell you if there’s too much noise.

Most arguments about noise in condominiums are really arguments about consideration: It’s easy to transform people not knowing how noise travels into not caring.  Preemptively showing that yes, you do care, will probably help your neighbours be a little more tolerant on the night of, keep the cops out of it, and raise the likelihood that if you’re bothering them, they’ll just come and let you know.

The important thing, though: If someone does knock on the night of, you have to back up your good word.  Turn the party down, and you’ll be the great, reasonable neighbour, not “the intolerant” next door.

  5) Leave it better than you found it

The end of a party is when you want to wander into bed, go face down, and sort it all out tomorrow.  But when you’re throwing a party in a common area, being considerate of your neighbours isn’t just a matter of noise levels (although, hey, be considerate about those too, or at least observe the rule that anyone who can hear the party is invited).  If you’ve got a common area for the day, cleanup’s part of the job, and it’s neighbourly to be thorough about your cleanup.  Make sure the plants are pristine, garbage is bagged and down the chute, anything you brought out has gone back home, and nothing’s sticky.  Sticky is unkind.

Enjoy your springtime!

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