The Ward Party

Social events in wards[1] have enjoyed a checkered history. The dance parties of the 19th century seem to mostly be ghosts of the past, while the Relief Society Bazars and Budget Dinners of the 20th century are dead but I want to talk here and now. I’ll go first.

Last evening we had our annual food-bash, a tradition begun by an Elders Quorum President a decade or so back called “Taste of the 10th” (we’re in the 10th ward). In this exercise of culinary perspicacity the men of the ward are supposed to reveal (or maybe exorcise) their metrosexual bas and cook a dish or bring a salad or dessert and everyone gets to sample the eats. We have some ethnic stuff going on which is pretty good and a few artists whose contribution is anticipated every year.

Anyway, consider this a request to reveal your ward party secrets of success (or failure if you want). Do you actually still do something by tradition that everyone looks forward to as a kind of Mormon rebonding or something? Whatever it is, spit it out. Worst or best or funniest.

[1] Just in case you are unfamiliar with the term, a “ward” in Mormon parlance is the fundamental congregational unit. Something like a parish.


  1. It will be interesting to see what happens with the elimination of ward activities committees.

    Our ward has done anything since the announcement. We used to do a New Years & Valentines event. Today, I heard that they hoped to do a campout in August. My guess is this year will do the campout and a Christmas Party — that’s down from 5-6 events in the past.

    What are you seeing?

  2. Re the elimination of the all-powerful activities commitee: yawn. Nothing will change. The same people will plan the same activities, EXCEPT now that their actions and spending will fall under the auspices of the ward council.

    I like quality over quantity. We no longer do 5-6 activities a year, but 3-4 “nicer” ones. We did a chili cookoff with our trunk-or-treat. That was nice and well-attended and wasn’t just a big candy grab.

    I like having a mix of “adults only” and “family” activities.

    Our EQ used to do break-the-fast lunches which were great (we used to do these in the building, but you had to be the last ward to meet).

  3. The story goes like this: the ward was having a tough time getting men out to the Priesthood Session of Conference, so they drew on their German heritage and started a bratwurst dinner for the boys before the session started. It is a long-beloved tradition in our ward that is looked forward to with great anticipation by all. Primary boys yearn for the day they turn twelve so they can go.

  4. The annual Christmas dinner is the big event of the year in my ward, and is attended by as many people as I don’t know as that I do know. The other major event is a pre-Halloween chili-feed/trunk-or-treat–same with attendance patterns. That’s mostly it. The ward campout is pretty much DOA now, and we don’t have anything like pot-lucks, carnivals, dances, etc. Outside of ward-wide, the relief society puts on three or four nice activities a year just for the sisters, and the EQ and HP group usually do one or two things each for their members/spouses/families. It’s a far cry from my youth in the 1960s and 1970s, when my family life often revolved around the ward social calendar. Times change.

  5. One aspect of our party that I failed to mention is that the activity is adults only. In the history of our adult activities, this one is far and away the best attended across all adult-age spectrums I think.

  6. Frankly, with all of the school and community activities (soccer, musicals, etc.), if there was a bi-monthly activity we still probably wouldn’t have time to attend…

  7. gwenydd mccoy says:

    “to reveal … their metrosexual bas and cook”…I’m glad that the priesthood-holder in our house gets to always show his “metrosexual bas”. Thanks for the information…i just thought cooking was the manly thing to do.

  8. As far as our ward goes, I don’t think we’ll miss the activities committee much. This kind of thing in my experience is personality driven as much as anything. YMMV

  9. StillConfused says:

    I find most LDS activities to be quite lame. If I go, it is out of a sense of obligation not out of an actual desire to attend the specific event. Most seem to be the same — folding tables set up in the gym, lots of dairy and sugar based foods, non professional entertainment.

  10. Mark Brown says:

    Next month the elder’s quorum is sponsoring a ward activity. They are planning to cook a pig in the ground, Polynesian-style.

  11. The activity I hear the most run-up for year after year is the Scout Spaghetti dinner and Auction. I have never been, but apparently it is a big deal (they regularly make thousands of dollars).

    Other than that, I predict we will continue to have: Memorial Day and Labor Day picnics, Halloween Trunk or Treat (youth run it), and the Christmas party, although I don’t know how that will shake out in the future–wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it just became a pot-luck.

  12. One of the wards I recently belonged to began an annual activity that I truly loved. It’s a chili-and-pie-cookoff and it was great because there was fantastic food and the ward itself is composed of great people.

    If there’s excellent food involved and a lot of people participate, it’s hard to go wrong.

    I’ll add that Kyle M. helped provide music as well – along with some other talented members of the ward. Good fun for all.

  13. Left Field says:

    Don’t tell me you folks have never had a ward crawfish boil?

  14. observer (fka eric s) says:

    We have a corn roast each fall at the beach here. If it has not rained recently, sea water goes into an aluminum trash can (oscar the grouch style trash can). Then we fill it with sweet corn and onto the bon fire it goes. Delicious. Last year it was even better because we stoked the bon fire so big that it got out of control. The RS pres and the like were tee hee’ing. Kids were going nuts. An all out marshmellow war broke out. One year Doheny was a little more polluted than usual from san juan creek oozage, and attendance at sacrament mtg was half the next morning.

  15. Agree with Danithew. Those chilli-and-pie cookoffs are great fun.

    MNShep’s idea is awesome too…Brats and priesthood meeting! I’ve already forwarded the idea to the EQP.

  16. For us, a ward Christmas party with “spiritual” talent show, and two church landscaping activities, one in spring and one in fall. RS has activities 6X per year and primary does one or two activities. Our last YM activity was in 2009.

  17. I once planned the ward Valentine’s Day party (it was a Value Project…sigh). The day before the event, we get a wicked snowstorm, and no one–not even the bishop–made it. On the bright side, we did have an iPod full of swing music and an indecent amount of chips and soda for the 5 people who were there.

  18. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    The ward I was in until last year used to have regular pot-luck mix’n’mingles after church. Maybe about once a month? We got restructured out of existence last October and spliced into a couple different wards. The one I’m now hasn’t really done much and I’ve heard people from my old ward say how much they miss the old get togethers. However, we just had a mix’n’mingle after ward conference so maybe the tradition will be revived. It’s not anything big but it’s nice, especially out here in “The Mission Field” where church is just about the only place you ever see any of these people anyway, to have the chance to catch-up and to make new acquaintances. It’s hard to befriend new people (or anyone, really) when you only have the few minutes between lessons to talk.

  19. True story: At the beginning of my freshman year at BYU, I was invited to our ward’s first Thursday night Relief Society activity. Earlier in the afternoon I was on the phone with my mom and I said, “wouldn’t it be the most BYU Mormony thing if we made…like…centerpieces made out of pine cones?” And do you want to know what we did at Relief Society that night? We made centerpieces. Out of pine cones.

  20. I can’t stand reg ward christmas parties… so I decided to do the most crazy thing and make the christmas party.. happen in the tropics.. I threw a luau in december…. got many a mixed reaction when people heard santa wasn’t going to come and we wern’t having salad turkey and potatoes…and that made my heart proud! After it happened everyone told me it was the best christmas party they’d ever gone too. My whole goal with being activities committee chair was to make people in the ward meet other people.. make it more interactive than usual.. I also did an ice cream social …and I had a girls night…game night tradition that I think helped unify the ward…its all about stepping out of the “normal ok things to do” also I appreciate adult only activities it’s nearly impossible for me to enjoy them with 3 kids under 3- so I meet people when it’s adult only… I already miss activities!

  21. A couple of the rural branches in my stake (Florida) have annual “Beast Feasts.” Everyone brings cooked meat, but you don’t find out what kind of meat it is until after you have eaten!

    Not a lot of vegans in rural Florida.

  22. We do a brunch for our Christmas party–too hard to schedule an evening event during that season, and who needs another heavy meal.

  23. Not seeing much worst activities here yet, so I’ll throw one in. When my wife was RS President, she started having the Relief Society do a Cookie Exchange around Christmas time. The idea being each sister would bring in 3 dozen cookies, then refill their plates with everybody else’ cookies to take home.

    The result was my wife would take 3 dozen awesome and delicious cookies to church, and come home with 3 dozen mediocre and miserable cookies none of us would eat. After 2 years of that I began lobbying against such activities without success.

  24. My old ward in Tucson was activities-obsessed. One full-blown event each month, and of course my husband and I were landed on the committee. It was a true nightmare, especially since it was just us and the two AC Leaders (I wonder what that ward is doing now, with the elimination of the committee). The ward demanded these monthly activities and was very vocal about the outcome (we would get “complaints” regularly), though the few times I had to break down and ask for help from members outside the committee, I was turned down. One example: At a retreat, I asked a woman to open the ball closet and sprinkle a few basketballs on the court, and she said no. That was such a weird ward.

    My home ward in Nevada did an activity honoring the high school grads each June that everyone LOVED. The parents would each arrange a display of their child’s interests, awards, and accomplishments. My weird Tucson ward was fresh out of ideas for a June activity so I introduced that idea which turned out to be a big hit there, too. Lots of praise and very few complaints.

  25. Our ward doesn’t have ANY social activities. Apparently our bishop is against socializing. We did not even get a Christmas party this past December.

  26. Moniker Challenged says:

    I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to ask this question, and it seems like now it might be vaguely on-topic:

    Does anyone else’s ward expect the members to pay for all of the activities? Whenever there’s a Relief Society or ward activity here they pass around sign up sheets and the members are supposed to supply everything. Well, to be clear, if it’s a RS activity, the women are supposed to supply all of the food and most of the supplies for an activity–the ward does the napkins, plates, and cutlery. If it’s a ward activity, the ward will supply some component (but not usually all) of the main dish, but the rest of the main dish, the side dishes, dessert, and activity supplies are all up to the members. And there’s only been 2-3 ward activities per year.

    It reminds me of the Music Man song about Iowa: “you can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself”

  27. 26, that sounds about right. Ward budgets simply aren’t big enough to pay for it all.

  28. We used to have an annual ward “corn boil” which involved quite a lot of corn-on-the-cob and homemade rootbeer. That was fun — probably my favorite of the ward dinner activities.

  29. my wife was on one of these committees once and had the nerve to move what had traditionally been an ‘outside’ event ‘inside’… that was quite an event to see that sacred cow slaughtered and the resulting aftermath by disgruntled members who where so aghast at the change… so, yeah, I’m not much of a fan of ward socials – too often they don’t come close to the stated purpose, folks feel guilty for not supporting them, and in many ways they are a hardship for those that do.

  30. 26, I’ve been using that exact method to try and cut down on the number of full blown ward meals. Last year, my ward spent 10% of our annual budget on paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic utensils alone (I didn’t have the courage to look up how much the food cost, but a rough guess would be in the vicinity of 33%). The activities committee and relief society both exceeded their budgets by September–an accomplishment achieved easily, since the Activities Committee Chairperson and Relief Society President were in full agreement that the only way to increase the social circles of ward members is through firesides and meals (To the point that all ten of last year’s Relief Society meetings were firesides, several of them being accompanied by a meal).

    That being said, I do expect to have 2 – 3 meals that will be primarily funded by the ward budget.

    The activities that I like the best are when we play a movie in the cultural hall for the kids and set up board games in another room for the adults. Unfortunately, it’s a battle keeping it on the calendar because of the select people on the ward council that think it must be a pointless activity since there’s no meal involved.

  31. My husband and I lived in a small branch right after we were married. We suggested that once a month, we have a pot-luck right after church on Sunday. We have moved away, but 8 years later, the branch is still having these potlucks and loving them. You definitely have to have the right group of people to make something like this work.

  32. “For us, a ward Christmas party with “spiritual” talent show, and two church landscaping activities, one in spring and one in fall.”

    (1) What in the hell is a “spiritual” talent show?
    (2) Landscaping activities–is this the Gulag 1st Ward?

  33. gst:

    See anything in common between href=”″>this and this?

  34. Eric Russell says:

    “spiritual” talent show

    AKA Sacrament Meeting musical number.

  35. My stake has a Green Jello Festival every August. Bounce castles, rock climbing, face painting, snow cones, a meal,a jello eating contest, and the stake presidency’s faces sculpted out of jello. It’s pretty much the coolest thing ever, and I love it. Can’t figure out where the budget comes from, though. I think a lot of it is donated by stake members.