What if you threw a party…and nobody came?

When I was a caterer (in the years BC – before children), my husband would often watch me preparing madly for a party and comment, “What if they throw this big party and nobody shows up?”

Luckily for me – not so much for the hosts – my contracts required at least 50 percent of the payment up front, so in most cases, my ingredients and labor for the prep staff were covered.

This question came back to me again recently, but this time I was on the host side.

A fellow health coach/my own peer coach Paula Roelands and I planned a weekend women’s wellness retreat in her beautiful family cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, but by our registration deadline, only one of the eight or so people who said, “Oh yes – I’ll be there!” had actually committed and paid…and then she broke her ankle and had to bow out.

Was it our choice of location, the timing, the price tag, or faulty marketing and publicity? We may never know.

As health coaches, what we do know is to view everything with curiosity rather than judgment and to ask – why is this happening for us rather than to us?

When we asked ourselves the latter, it was clear that rather than being a disappointment, this was a gift…so we decided to hold the retreat anyway – just for the two of us!


Both of us have been busy with our growing practices, so not having to do the last-minute preparations, while sad in some ways, was in other ways an unburdening of our schedules.

Paula decided to save herself some time and fly to Michigan – rather than drive, which was the original plan – and spend the extra time with her family here. I broke the news that I was still going to my family and tried to ignore the panic in their eyes – Mom going “off the grid” (literally, as the cottage has no phone signal, much less wifi) was going to be a novel experience.

Paula and I spent two days together more or less running through the retreat itinerary – taking long beach walks, spending an hour on morning yoga, making tougher dune climbs, “forest bathing,” taking photos of our experience, cooking wholesome meals from scratch using seasonal, sustainably-grown ingredients and sharing them with intention and enjoyment, swapping one-on-one coaching sessions that explored our relationships, career paths, and intentions together in a way that our usual twice a month sessions can’t begin to cover…and planning the next retreat! (See below for a slideshow of our time together!)

Going off the grid was one of the best experiences of the past year – okay, I will admit our morning walk included reaching a high point by the dunes where we could get a good enough signal to check in with the family once a day and post a quick update to Facebook, but we did limit it to just once a day!

Spending so much time with someone I love and respect, someone who simultaneously challenges me and gives me permission to find my own answers, was another enormous reward – one that will continue to reverberate in my life as I make the subtle shifts and tweaks to my direction and daily activities.

The-Retreat-that-Wasn’t turned out to be an experience that will not only inform my future offerings but also benefit my one-on-one clients, and I look forward to sharing all that I gained.

So what do you do if you throw a party and nobody comes? I recommend you enjoy the food, drink the wine, and dance to the music until you’re full – not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

Want to go on a retreat? The next one I’m offering is Nourish, a one-day retreat this coming Sunday, October 4; you can find more on my upcoming events page. See you at the “party.”

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