Help me host my first ever proper, grown-up party!
August 15, 2010 10:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to host a tasteful grown-up party. I have never done this before...

I have been working at a summer contract job which will be ending this week, and there are some people I want to keep in touch with once the job is over. I have been floating around the idea of having a celebratory 'yay, we're done!' type of party and people seem interested. So...what now? I can comfortably host about 10 of them and provide snacks and drinks. But beyond that, I am not really sure what we will do. Some points to keep in mind:

- All of these people know each other through the job; a handful have has this same job with me in previous years and know me better. A few others I only met this year.

- There will be at least two under-age people at the party. Does this mean I cannot have alcohol there at all? The two people in question (one of them was my assistant) are trustworthy and one does not drink at all for religious reasons. Does their mere presence mean alcohol is not allowed?

- I live in a very trendy area with many bars and restaurants. I feel like at some point it may be best to move the group to an outside location for entertainment purposes, but at the same time I feel like part of 'having a party' involves entertaining them. I may be wrong about this. So, is it 'drinks and snacks and then we go out' or is it 'drinks and snacks and then there is some sort of entertainment I must provide'?

- If it is 'some sort of entertainment I must provide' then what exactly will that entertainment be? Except for the two under-age people, these are all working professionals (most of them in education, this is a summer camp job) or college students. We are (in nearly every case) past the 'drinking for entertainment' phase. I am looking for more information about what grown-up people do at these sorts of things.

- People will require directions/address to my house, and I do not have email addresses for everyone (I will be collecting such info at the party, if I want it---I do want to keep in touch!) so would it be terribly geeky of me to print up an actual, paper invitation?

Any other comments or suggestions welcome. The short version is, I want to have a nice little grown-up party but I have no idea what to actually do at one :) Thanks in advance.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would rather get a paper invitation to a party- not geeky at all!!
posted by thewestinggame at 11:10 PM on August 15, 2010

Not only are paper invitations un-geeky, they are a great way to set the tone of a party. Your choice of font/information/decoration/paper can all mean different things. That way people will know that it's not a drink till you puke or a break out the DDR pads sort of event. Tip: Don't use Curlz MT. You might also want to state a dress code; something like "cocktail attire" or "party chic" (which translates normally to sparkly and fun but not slobby, and put-together but no ties required for casual guys.)

In my experience, having a couple underage people at a party is no big deal. Just be sure to have something actually tasty to drink that isn't alcoholic for the people who want it, and offer everything equally. If the underage people do drink alcohol, generally that's not a problem, as long as they don't drink in excess. I suppose part of being a good host in this case might be keeping an eye on them, and definitely making sure everyone can get home okay.

As for entertainment options, that's sort of up to you I suppose? If the underage people won't be able to get into the bars or clubs, it'd be rude to plan something they can't attend, but if they can get in (and just have an X on their hand or something) then it depends on the type of group. The people I spend time with would frown at moving the party to a different location halfway through, but I've attended things like that and they've been all right, and everyone else seemed pleased.
posted by Mizu at 11:22 PM on August 15, 2010

Yeah, a paper invitation is awesome- it shows a lot of forethought and effort is going into the event.

Moving on to a bar or restaurant is perfectly acceptable- people do it all the time.

As for the alcohol issue, you're not running a bar. Underage people can be in the same room as alcohol, in the same way that people drink at home while their young kids are present. If you do go out somewhere in the course of the party, just make sure that place isn't 21-and-over.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:22 PM on August 15, 2010

I just asked a very similar question.
posted by halogen at 12:54 AM on August 16, 2010

In the course of becoming an adult, here are a few things I've learned about throwing a party...

1. Have enough basics (wines, various liquor, mixers). In my experience, if you start serving one thing - say, wine - then most people will fall into line and drink wine. Also beware... If you make too many options available (wine, mixed drinks, blender drinks, etc.) you'll have to a) spend a lot of money, and 2) get stuck "behind the bar". Therefore...
2. Chose a "theme" - wine, cocktails, margaritas, whatever. You're the hostess, you're in charge. Also have non-alcoholic choices available.
3. Don't worry about the underage folks too much. Treat them like adults - it's their responsibility to behave appropriately. If I were you, I wouldn't serve them booze, but you're not in charge of shadowing them, to make sure they don't swig from the vodka bottle. As for the tea-totalers... This is an adult party. Some adults will choose to drink, those that don't, don't have to.

Not a requirement, I think (except for music). I'm a little nerdy & old-fashioned, so if I were doing a similar party, I'd do a little ice-breaker. One I remember from a party my brother had... Everyone got a name tag, but it was worn on their backs, so they couldn't see it. On the tag was a famous person's name (Lindsay Lohan, Dwight Eisenhower, Gandalf the Gray, etc.), and they had to guess who they were by asking "yes" or "no" questions.

What the party is, is up to you. If you want it, "cocktails then dinner out", fine. Dinner party? Fine. Do you want there to be entertainment? You've got to do it. And chose music accordingly - beer pong night would have different music than a sit-down dinner.

I love hand-written invitations. And I think other people will like them as well. They do send the message of "adult" party. And they help you define the theme & details of the party ("Dinner & drinks at Joanna's").

Have less seats than guests. This prevents people from parking and never moving.

The Unpleasantness
Last, and least enjoyabble... You are the hostess. It is your job to make sure your guests enjoy themselves, not have fun yourself. So, you'll be working a lot before the party, getting ready, but also during - making sure drinks are full, people are socializing, making introductions, etc.

Wow. I was originally going to give a couple pointers, but this got quite wordy. If you want to know more (yes, I have more), feel free to MeMail me.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:27 AM on August 16, 2010

Re invitations - a lot of people I know (including yours truly) use evite, to great success. I like the idea of paper invitations, too, but if you also use evite it can be really convenient if someone loses their invitation. Also it makes it much easier to RSVP. And you get email reminders, which is nice if you have a busy social schedule.
posted by Sara C. at 8:50 AM on August 16, 2010

Also, if it's a party for a group of people who most likely all know each other (i.e. you're inviting over a bunch of coworkers), you probably won't need an "icebreaker", since the "ice" won't need to be "broken". And if it does, maybe a party is not in order...

But with the right crowd, games like the one ObscureReferenceMan mentions can be fun. It's up to you to gauge whether your guests are game types or not.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 AM on August 16, 2010

RE directions to your house (ugh, so sorry for the fragmented posts rather than one big answer - busy day in the office). I wouldn't worry about this unless your house is really difficult to find or google and GPS usually misdirect people. Nowadays most people are able to figure out directions on their own*. If there are directions that need to be given above and beyond how to get to your address, you should include them with the paper invitation and on the evite page (another reason evite is awesome).

And even after all that, you will STILL get people texting you for your address and/or directions 20 minutes before the party, while you are trying to go out for ice/take a shower/heat up finger foods.

*Unless maybe it's a very formal occasion like a wedding, and even then I haven't seen the map/directions insert in a wedding invitation in almost a decade.
posted by Sara C. at 9:06 AM on August 16, 2010

I disagree about the handwritten invitations--they're cute, but Evites are easier to add to my calenders, etc.

Have good music playing--a little louder at the start, and then lower it when the room gets busier.

Introduce people to each other, Mary, I'd like you to meet Don--he's a rock climber", etc.

Have better than average wine and beer, but if you're making cocktails, ordinary booze is fine. I think a "house special" like ginger margaritas or something is a good idea--you don't need a full on bar.

No games, no themes, no banners. If you've got decent glasses, now's the time to drag them out. You can rent them too. Grownups usually like real glasses.

Lighting is important--overheads are usually ugly--if this is in the evening, think about how the room looks when you first walk in. Some small flowers in vases are nice. If your friends smoke, do you have ashtrays or someplace they can smoke without feeling like outcasts?

You can have chips and nuts, but a hot finger food is nice. Do you have Costco or a Trader Joe's or equivalent around?

I think that if people all want to go out for dinner, it'll happen spontaneously. Not everyone is going to want to go, and you're not going to pay for the dinners, right?

People want to talk to each other, flirt a little, meet someone new, etc. Have some seating in groups so people can sit and chat. Some will linger around the food.

You can also get the shier types to help you--"Joe, can you crush this ice" and so on.

I know this sounds obvious, but make sure the bathroom is clean, has TP, and some towels. Kitchen should be cleaned up too, and take the trash out.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on August 16, 2010

Assuming you and your coworkers are on facebook (and friends with eachother), I've found facebook events to work really well (at least with my friends who're highschool students). If there are one or two people who you want to invite who aren't on facebook, facebook let's you invite people via email as well.
posted by kylej at 10:10 AM on August 16, 2010

If you want the portion of the evening at your home to end at a particular time, the invitation can say 7 - 10, optional continued fun at The Rock, Paper & Scissors. Including directions is a good idea; include your phone #, too. Entertainment can be as simple as food, conversation and maybe some music, or as elaborate as charades, treasure hunt, etc. You can help the conversation part by bringing up topics, like "Did anyone else see %some_news_item in the paper/online?" and "I'm going to miss the %local_character so much" and so on, if conversation seems to drag. I was at a party where the host had cards with interesting questions, and occasionally gave them to people; it generated good discussion.
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on August 16, 2010

SaraC - I thought about the "games" issue, and figured it wouldn't be necessary, since these are all people who know each other.

Just one minor thing as it relates to the OP's question... What really defines an "adult" party for me is, you (the hostess) take care of everything. As opposed to parties where, "I'll bring the beer, Jack will bring the chips, Mary will bring ice and her blender", etc.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2010

One fun party game we did several years ago required a bit of legwork ahead of time, but was pretty rewarding in the end:

1. Contact each of the invitees individually several days beforehand, and ask them for one really interesting [thing about themselves] / [thing they've done] that most people don't know or wouldn't guess about them, but that they'd be comfortable with other people at the party knowing.

2. Type these up on a sheet of paper with a line next to them:

______________ has gone skydiving

______________ worked in a porn shop for three days

______________ was mauled by a koala bear

______________ can recite the Greek alphabet backwards in under four seconds

... you get the idea. Print out as many copies as you have attendees.

3. Before your guests arrive, put these on a table near the entrance along with a bunch of pens.

4. If you want to make it a game, have your guests fill these out without consulting the other partygoers, taking their best guess on who belongs to each of the interesting things. Set a deadline. The person who gets the most unassisted correct answers wins a little prize.

Alternately, If you wanted to keep it to a straight-up icebreaker, then people can use it just as a conversation starter, no prize involved.

Either way you play it, it's a lot of fun -- it gives people a chance to brag about themselves (which folks love to do) and it's amazing when you find out that the quiet guy from accounting was a roadie for Stryper back in the day.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:17 PM on August 16, 2010

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