Wake up, it’s almost time for the Met Gala

True love’s kiss or an invitation to the Met Gala? Those in the rarefied ranks of international celebrity — and Anna Wintour’s good graces — need not choose. Stars of film, fashion, music, sports, politics and social media will ascend the steps of the on the first Monday in May — May 6, that is — to sip cocktails, have dinner and sample the new exhibit, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” As fashion’s biggest night approaches, it’s time for The Associated Press to issue the 2024 version of our annual guide.

What is the point of the Met Gala? It started in 1948 as a society midnight supper, and wasn’t even at the Met. Fast forward 70-plus years, and it’s one of the most photographed events in the world, renowned for its head-spinning red carpet — though the carpet isn’t always red. It’s important to note, though, that the party has a purpose, raising money for the — nearly $22 million last year, a record for the self-funding department — and launching the annual spring exhibit that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum. But it’s the carpet itself that draws the world’s eyes, with the 400-strong guest list the subject of rabid speculation until the last minute — a collection of luminaries that arguably makes for the highest celebrity wattage-per-square-foot of any party in the world.

Who’s hosting this year? “Anna Wintour Me Preguntó,” could sing. Multi-hyphenate Jennifer Lopez adds yet another role to her busy year. And then there are two Marvel stars who have been spending a lot of time in the desert lately: Zendaya, who has continued to stun on red carpets with her “Dune” and “Challengers” looks, and Chris Hemsworth, who is trading in Mjolnir for the upcoming “Furiosa.” (Hemsworth is, in fact, a first-time gala attendee. ) And, of course, Wintour herself.

What does the Met Gala theme mean? The theme actually has little to do with fairytales. “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” the title of the accompanying exhibit, refers to garments from the Costume Institute’s collection that have been “in slumber” and now will be on display, some too fragile to hang upright lest they disintegrate. Curator Andrew Bolton picked 250 pieces spanning four centuries. The theme is accompanied by a dress code — this year, it’s “The Garden of Time.” The theme and dress code are often interpreted … loosely. So there’s a chance you may see an Aurora on the carpet, after all.

How much do I have to pay for a ticket? Wrong question. You cannot just buy a ticket. The right question is: If I were famous or powerful and got invited, how much would it cost? OK, IF I WERE FAMOUS OR POWERFUL AND GOT INVITED, HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST? Well, you might not pay yourself. Generally companies buy tables. A fashion label, for example, would then host its desired celebrities. A table of 10 starts at $350,000 this year.

How can I watch? You can watch the whole carpet unfold on a Vogue livestream. If you’re in New York, you can also join fans across the street, behind barricades on Fifth Avenue or even further east on Madison. (Get there early, if you want a spot.) And the AP will have a livestream of departures from the Mark Hotel, where many gala guests get ready.

What happens inside? Entering the museum, guests walk past what is usually an impossibly enormous flower arrangement in the lobby, with perhaps an orchestra playing nearby, and over to cocktails. Or, they head to view the exhibit. Cocktails begin a half-hour earlier this year, so they start at 5:30 p.m., and last for about two hours, followed by dinner. The most famous — or those who plan the biggest entrance — sometimes come (fashionably) later.

So who’s coming? Rihanna is the queen of dramatic entrances AND late arrivals (don’t they always go together?) and she’s said she’ll be attending, describing her outfit variously as “chill” and “simple” (we’ll see about that). If tradition holds, dinner will be well underway (perhaps even over) and it’ll still be worth the wait. Likely, the superstar and mogul will again bring partner A$AP Rocky. Other high-profile partners likely to attend, because their significant others are hosting: Ben Affleck and Tom Holland. Hot off the Oscars, nominee Lily Gladstone has said she’ll attend and has teased a tantalizing fashion collab involving a major designer and an “unbelievable Indigenous artist.” Another fashion-forward awards circuit luminary everyone wants and expects to see on the Met steps: Ayo Edebiri. As for a certain stratospheric pop superstar dating an NFL tight end: She’s resuming her Eras Tour in Paris three days later, so we can assume no Met Gala this year for Taylor Swift.

Tennis, anyone? What does Wintour love, perhaps even more than fashion? Maybe even more than Broadway? Why, tennis. Add to that Zendaya’s current tennis-themed movie, “Challengers,” and one can only imagine there will be tennis stars — perhaps famous retired ones like former hosts Serena Williams and Roger Federer. (It may be tough logistically for current players, given the clay-court season under way in Europe.) But hey, the Met Gala loves fashionable athletes. Caitlin Clark, are you listening?