How to plan a great party

Parties are part of the universal human experience. From invite only A-list soirees to convivial family dinners, everybody has been to one type of party or another. Some have been epic, some have been terrible, but one way or another we go to them often not knowing what to expect, hoping for the best.

So lets define what we’re talking about here. That big music festival everyone is going to? Not a party. Going to the Club? That’s not it either. No, no. That sort of event is the type of thing that companies take months to make happen; and if they’re spending the absurd amounts of money necessary for large events, they’re past any help this post could bring them.

Here, we’re talking about the sort of party you could throw. A relatively small event, with a list of invitees that usually doesn’t go past a hundred people, and mostly hovers around 30-40 guests. People usually wing these sorts of things, but a great party is a science.

Why are you throwing this party?

This is number one, A+, the most important thing you need to know. The intention of the party will help you make every other decision down the line. If it’s someone’s birthday, making that person happy throughout the event is your goal. Is it a networking party? Make sure that it’s the sort of thing where people can talk in a relaxed atmosphere. Are you just inviting a bunch of friends over? Prepare something that your sort of friends will specifically enjoy, something that the whole group can chill over. 1500917_10152197441922140_1668807245_o

Thinking about the reason is a bit of a default for many life events, weddings, baby showers, graduations, birthdays; but it’s less obvious for smaller, less seminal events.

Being honest with yourself in this point is very important. Parties, are for the guests, and facilitating their fun is the host’s job. So even though you might have a picture of what you want your party to be in your head, you have to think if it’s something each person on your list would enjoy, and if it’s something you can realistically prepare in the space of time that you have available.

Guest list

Once you know what sort of party you’re throwing, a large part of your guest list will fall into place. These are your no-brainers, the  people that you thought of first when you were thinking about throwing this thing.  Your list though, is nowhere near done.


The first thing you’ll notice is that not all of the people you’d like to invite know each other. This is important because exiles (people who know the host and no one else) will not have fun, and they’ll bring everyone else down. So if you have an exile or two, make sure you have anchors. People that know both the exile and a couple of members of a larger group. They’ll serve as your surrogates, and help people talk to each other. Your other option is Super-Connectors. These are the people you know that know everyone else, that make friends everywhere, and talk to anyone who gets within earshot of them. These people are party gold. They hate seeing people not having fun and will bring them into the fold with ease.

As a general rule you want everyone who’s getting invited to know at least 4 other people on the list, or one solid anchor. Remember, as the host you’ll have to entertain everyone, as well as make sure that everything is flowing properly, you won’t have time to babysit one single person all night.

Once you’re sure that everyone has someone to talk to, make sure your Female to Male ratio is within an acceptable range. You don’t want your ratio to sway heavily towards one gender or another, both trends are bad. There are ways that guys are when there are no women around, and there are ways that women are when there are no guys around. Neither of them is pretty, and they tend to express themselves when the pendulum sways in one direction or the other.


A 1:1 Female to Male proportion is okay for the party, 1.2:1 to 1.5:1 is ideal, maybe it’s because of the fact that there are more women than men in the world, but it’s generally better for there to be slightly more women than men at your party.  For the invite list though, you’re going to have to shoot for a larger proportion.

Women in general have more options when it comes to their outings, which means that you might lose a couple of them to other events. So, keeping that in mind, your ideal Female to Male ratio on the guest list should be 2:1. That way on the night of the party, even after losing some of them to other events, you’ll end up with an acceptable gender ratio.

Before finalizing the guest list think of the general crowd as a whole. Single people parties and couples parties, have different dynamics. If it’s swaying towards single, make sure everyone has another potential single person of their preferred gender available. If it’s swaying towards couples, make sure you take into account everyone’s significant others.

Getting the word out

First set the date on a day that is good for you, but also a day that is good for everyone else. If your crowd enjoys local indie rock, don’t throw the party on the same night as an important indie rock event. There are versions of this for every sort of group, so do a little research and pick your date wisely.

Second. Screw Facebook events. They are full of potential party killers, that you want no part of. The reasons why posting your event on Facebook is generally a bad idea are more than I’d care to count, but here are five:

  1. A lot of people won’t hit attending (even though they will attend).
  2. People who mark Maybe might actually mean maybe, but everyone else will interpret it as polite no.
  3. Your guests will make assumptions about your party based on the Yes, No, and Maybes.
  4. Not everyone is on Facebook.
  5. Not everyone checks Facebook regularly.

If you want to invite people, call them, on the phone, and speak with them. They will confirm or not, right there, while they’re on the phone with you, and that yes or no will be a thousand times more solid than a Facebook confirmation. You can text too if it’s too weird to call, but don’t make a giant text thread and invite everyone in one single text. Text everyone individually. Really, these people are your friends, communicating clearly and directly with them shouldn’t be too hard.387784_10150426005472140_1873148626_n

Third, you want to start doing this a week or two out. At the bare minimum, do it before the Wednesday prior to the party. If it’s Thursday and your party’s on Friday, just postpone it, it’ll probably be a mess.

People make plans, sometimes a week or two ahead of schedule, if you get there before other stuff, you lock them in before anything else comes along. It’ll also help create a bit of buzz amongst your friends when they start asking each other if they’re going to your thing. Also, make a point of reminding everyone the day before, people genuinely forget, and then hate themselves for having missed your amazing party.

Location, Booze, Music and Food

If you’ve noticed pretty much everything I’ve mentioned up until now happens days or weeks before the party, which means you have plenty of time to plan these four. The order these four are placed in the title is the order of importance you should generally give each.


Most of the time this’ll be completely obvious, your home will be the location, duh. When it’s not, take some thing into consideration:

  • Do you need power?
  • Do you need a kitchen?
  • How will you play music?
  • Does it fit all the people you’re inviting?

Stuff like that. Just make sure nothing takes you by surprise.


You’d think this would be further down the list in importance, but the second the alcohol is finished, the party will be over. Same goes with the ice. So make sure you have plenty. The definition of plenty though, varies with your social circle.  247358_10150200293722140_5671808_n

When I was younger and everyone I knew was still in college I had to make sure that there was enough booze to last the night without any reinforcements. Now that I’m older people always offer to bring something even before I ask. My favorite answer is: “Bring a bottle of whatever you’d like.” This helps make sure that the alcohol self regulates according to your guest’s preferences.

Either way, You’ll need as a bare minimum:

  • One 1.75L Bottle of Rum
  • One 1.75L Bottle of Vodka
  • One 1.75L Bottle of Whiskey
  • 2 bottles of wine
  • 48 beers
  • 3 bags of ice
  • Mixers
  • Coke and Diet Coke, in 2L bottles
    • Buying cans is a waste of money since most people won’t use the entire contents of the can and end up wasting the rest of it.

Anything else is a welcome extra, and the basics might vary by region, but it has been my experience that this is the minimum you will definitely need.


Spotify, iTunes, Xbox Music, Pandora, any of these services will help you run this thing perfectly. My personal favorite is Xbox Music. I can make a playlist, or use someone else’s from the cloud of playlists that other users have shared. This is particularly useful for theme parties.
While the music plays you have pretty cool visuals coming from the TV, and even better your guests can grab the Xbox remote and add to the playlist according to their preferences.229832_10150178820642140_5610234_n

A note on Pandora. If you’re going to go this route, make sure that you have well-curated stations, with plenty of thumbs ups and thumbs down. You don’t want crappy music that is vaguely related to your station suddenly blaring through your speakers and ruining your party’s vibe. Also, pay for your subscription. Commercials interrupting the music are a major faux pas.


Food is either a essential or not important at all, depending on the sort of party you’re throwing. Some parties can be food centric, and clearly those will require more thought and preparation, but for pretty much anything else. Cheese and crackers, chips and dip, and other such festive stalwarts, should be fine; just make sure you have enough to last the night.

Clean Up

Get your last most drunken guests to help you with the big stuff, bottles, cups, cans, that sort of thing. Be sure to clean anything that could permanently stain, or bring forth the hordes of insects. Everything else, just leave for tomorrow. Now kick out the stragglers, and go to bed.


2 thoughts on “How to plan a great party”

  1. “Una fiesta es un exceso permitido, más bien obligatorio, la violación solemne de una prohibición. Los hombres no cometen esos excesos porque algún precepto los ponga de talante alegre, sino que el exceso mismo está en la esencia de la fiesta; el talante festivo es producido por la permisión de todo cuanto de ordinario está prohibido.” Freud, Totem y Tabú, pg. 142 (Amorrortu)

  2. Knowledge served. Pretty through guide. If I may, and will add an accent to it; throught the party the host should make sure that the flow, the vibe of the party remains as he/she expects. As you said,the party is for the guests and the best parties are the ones everybody has fun.

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