Hosting a party is a scary prospect. We desperately want our guests and friends to have a fun night, but we spend too much time worrying about the mistakes we could make that will surely make our party die a horrible death.
What if I put on the wrong kind of music?
What if my charades knockout tournament isn’t the hit I hope it to be?
What if I undercook the chicken and kill all of my guests…AGAIN?
While telling you that every party host goes through this kind of negative self-talk may be reassuring to a certain extent, it’s not much practical help.
Here’s what is though – me telling you about some of the biggest mistakes party hosts make so that you can sidestep them and make some totally new ones of your own!
Mistake 1: Expecting guests to help themselves
Often in an effort to appear more “fun” and “laid back”, hosts will just ask guests to help themselves…
…to food and drink.
This sounds like a good approach, but it often fails for one of two reasons:
- Your guests are too damn polite to go and help themselves, leaving them desperately hungry and thirsty, or
- Your guests have no idea where anything is and don’t want to be the one that accidentally opens your secret drawer (you know, the one with all THAT in it!)
Your job as party host is to make things as easy as possible for your guests. Leave everything you want them to help themselves to openly on show, so they don’t have to go rummaging for tin openers, napkins or non-alcoholic lagers or anything like that.
Mistake 2: Not thinking about how will people move through the house.
When you’re hosting a party, balancing all of the elements (food, drink and entertainment) can be a bit of a plate-spinning act. You can make it easier on yourself by planning ahead and thinking about how you’d like your guests to move through the house once they’ve arrived.
Are they coming in through the front door, being greeted with a drink in the kitchen, before being brought into the garden and introduced to everyone else, or are they parachuting in, landing on the bouncy castle and then negotiating the barbed wire obstacle course before they earn that first hors-d’oeuvre?
It doesn’t really matter what you do with your guests, only that you have a plan for how they are going to flow through your party.
Get this right and it’ll take lots of pressure off you.
Mistake 3: There are not enough chairs!!!!
“We’ve got 124 guests coming and only 3 chairs…and one of those is made from papier-mâché! What are we going to do if everyone wants to sit down at once?”
This is a big worry for party hosts – having enough chairs for everyone, so let’s deal with this now.
You don’t need chairs for everyone.
Have you ever been to an informal party where every single guest was sat down at the same time?
What usually happens, especially at house parties, is that guests stand up for most of the evening – chatting, moving to and from the buffet table, rummaging through your underwear drawer – you know, that standard stuff we all do at parties.
Guests stand, they sit on the floor, they lean against walls. They go wherever other guests are and they adapt to their surroundings.
By all means, try to create natural spaces for guests to relax and kick back, but don’t force this too much.
It’s OK not to have chairs for everyone.
Mistake 4: Don’t spend all your time on food and drink prep
Food is a big worry for most party hosts, so make your life easier by taking the simple option.
Don’t choose food that requires all of the heavy work to be done on the day, or even during the party – food which requires such precise and delicate timing is going to cause you all manner of stresses and worries, so make your life easy(er) by going with some simple food choices that even I could serve (just in case you don’t know my level of culinary ability – it’s pathetic).
Mistake 5: Get some music sorted
You don’t need a live DJ or world-class musician playing at your event, but you do need something to provide a little ambience.
Background music takes the pressure off your guests to fill in the blanks and helps avoid uncomfortable long pauses that never make for a fun party.
If you don’t have a great music set up at home, grab Spotify and a decent set of speakers and make a playlist of some of your favourite tracks.
Mistake 6: You’re not a machine, dammit!
You’re not a machine, so don’t try to do absolutely everything – you’ll burn yourself out and, worse of all, have no fun at all.
This is a party and everyone should be having fun – including you, so if you need help serving the canapes or the drinks, grab some willing – or willing to be bribed – family members or friends to help you out on the night.
Mistake 7: Forgetting to enjoy the party
It’s easy to get carried away, wondering whether the prawn vol-au-vents are a hit (they’re not) or whether people are enjoying your invented game of bouncy castle Karaoke (amazingly, they are!), that you forget that you’re actually hosting a party and you should be having some fun and enjoying yourself!
Don’t get bogged down with the details of every little thing.
Give yourself chance to relax.
Get help (not psychological help – just help – someone to help you keep an eye on everything), so that you don’t feel like all the pressure is on you because, if it is, and you’re not having a fun night, your guests will pick up on that.
Mistake 8: Running out of food…or drink
Running out of food and drink is inexcusable (unless you’ve invited me to the party, in which case it’s pretty much the norm!).
Not only that but having hungry and thirsty guests is one of the best ways to guarantee that your party guests have an awful night.
Plan ahead. After all, you know how many people are coming to the party (if you don’t, you REALLY need to up your party planning game!) and you actually know them…and their eating/drinking habits.
One thing to bear in mind is the weather. If it’s going to be especially hot on the day of the party, you may need to order more drinks and less of the spicy food. Think about what your guests are likely to want and order a truckload of that!
Mistake 9: Trying to be super fancy
When you’ve hosted a few successful parties (or even if you haven’t), you can get caught in the trap of thinking you’re a party hosting god/goddess and trying to be a bit too clever and fancy with the next one.
You ditch the idea of simple food and go for something that Gordon Ramsay would never dare to attempt on his best day and serve it in a way that would make the Moscow State Circus proud.
We tend to do this because we can’t help but compare ourselves to other parties and other hosts.
There is no point-scoring going on, and being fancy will only make you fall flat on your face (party hosting wise, not literally flat on your face).
When guests come to a party, they want a fun, relaxed atmosphere, not a tension-filled three hours, as they watch you complete your “Mission Impossible” style party plan.
You don’t need to get fancy to give your guests a great time.
Mistake 10: Ending the party too early…or late
“What’s the secret to a….”
Timing is everything. If you’re going to plan a party, one of the first things you need to do is think about when you would like the party to end.
Is it going to be an old night rave until the sun comes up, or are you having a refined bridge evening with the Major and his wife (if watching Poirot has taught me anything, it’s that all bridge evenings have to involve a Major)?
You can either let your party guests know in advance what time the party is going to end, or you can plan some subtle (and not so subtle) hinting techniques to use when you want your guests to scarper!
Mistake 11: Not telling the neighbours
You have to let the neighbours know that you’re having a party. It’s just common sense and the decent thing to do, especially if you’re hosting a death heavy metal convention of thrashheads (I’m not even sure that any of those words are real – I’m just guessing).
If you’re going to be creating a noise of some sort, do the decent thing and let the neighbours know, even if you can’t invite them because it’s for “very close family only”, and by “very close family only”, I do, of course mean, “we’d rather use John Prescott’s belly button as a butter dish than have you over”.
If the noise gets too loud, curry favour by throwing any food scraps over the fence so that they can appreciate your culinary expertise!
They’ll love you forever!
Mistake 12: I’m not pished!
When you’re the host, don’t get too drunk. There’s a fine balance between “loosened up” and “the local rugby team is concerned regarding your level of alcohol consumption”. Make sure you don’t cross it.
Be relaxed, but not planked across your sunbed.
Of course, you’re entitled to have a good time, like any of your other guests, but this is your house, and your stuff, you want to look after it and be in control at all times.
Being drunk will not help you.
Mistake 13: Cleaning during the party
It may be tempting to clean up as you go, or “I’ll just wash THESE plates…”, but don’t.
No one wants to go to a party to see someone do the washing up and, if they do, they should be immediately placed on your “DO NOT INVITE TO ANOTHER PARTY…EVER!” list (everyone has one of these, right?).
Just leave it. By all means, collect pots and dirty dishes and put them to one side to deal with later, but absolutely no cleaning!
Mistake 14: Micromanaging the fun
It’s your party, so, by all means, plan some activities and entertainment for your guests to get involved in and enjoy, but don’t micromanage.
Not sure of the difference? Here’s an example:
If you put a large set of Jenga on the lawn for your guests to enjoy, that’s called being a good party host.
If you put a large set of Jenga on the lawn for your guests to enjoy…after using the sign up sheet placed near the door…and as long as two (and ONLY TWO!) people play at a time…in the designated “SAFE JENGA” area…and only AFTER they’ve eaten….and washed their hands…
…now you’re into micromanaging territory.
Here’s a simple rule: if you find yourself holding a clipboard, quoting Health and Safety Legislation, you’re micromanaging.
If you’re hosting a party, you don’t want to make the biggest mistake of all – not hiring some quality entertainment. Believe it or not, I can help you with this…
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