Help Me Throw the Best Birthday Party Ever
December 3, 2012 10:50 AM   Subscribe

One of the downsides of being born in mid-January is that it's always snowing, which leads to a certain inertia when it comes to birthday parties. People don't like to expend the effort to come to a birthday until they think it's going to be exceptionally fun.

Normally, I rent a karaoke room for my birthday, but this time, I'm feeling like I want to stay home and throw the birthday party at my house. I'm lucky enough to have a large house and very accommodating roommates, so now I just need to think of some fun activities for the party. Some things I have thought of so far:

1) Have my friend teach an improv class and do some short performances with some of the audience members (a lot of my friends are good at improv).

2) Have a flavor-tripping event at the party using miracle fruit.

3) Have unarguably good movies on in the background. (Leaving aside for a moment the fact that I don't know what an "unarguably good movie" that is fun for a party might be. Ideas?)

What are some other good suggestions for fun things to do at the party?
posted by wolfdreams01 to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Pillow fight. Laser tag or airsoft. Grilled cheese party.
posted by knile at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2012

I think a good way to approach this is to ask, "What do you normally do when you are having a good time with your friends?" If your friends hang out at people's homes and just do unstructured schmoozing and / or drinking, then I would think about framing your party that way. For me, I structured my last birthday party around board games.

Of course, you may want your party to be comfortable but also to stand out in some way. Combining a "normal" social activity with something unusual seems like a good formula for that. E.g. "unstructured schmoozing and drinking" plus "miracle fruit" -- helps if you are interested in food or maybe cocktails.

Throwing "the best birthday party ever" is probably tricky; superlative excellence is usually tricky. But throwing a party that a bunch of people will come to and enjoy is probably not hard, assuming there are a bunch of people in your social circles who see you in a generally positive light. (It is not necessary to have a huge number of close friends.)
posted by grobstein at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless all your friends are improv friends, I can almost guarantee you that you will get people who bail strictly on the "improv" angle. So have it at the very start and make it really clear (e.g. "Improv: 6 P.M. - 8 P.M., Actual Party: 8 P.M. - Daylight.") Otherwise, people are not going to show up because improv may be more polarizing than you realize. People who are not fond of it are more likely to be not fond of it to the extent that they will just not show up to avoid it. See also: stage magic.

I've found that having concert footage or music videos on in the background (whether or not they match the music) is better for parties, just because no one ends up getting absorbed into it and just sitting there watching a movie instead of being at a party. Which is probably something you don't want. Plus you get all the crowd shots of people having a fun time, which is good for the mood of the event.
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Crank up the heat and the lights, blast some reggae, buy some inflatable palm trees, get the blender ready: Jamaica party.

We did that last January for my boyfriend and people seemed to like it. We also had a local restaurant provide Jamaican food.
posted by cabingirl at 11:10 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you just looking for fun party activities, or are you also looking for ways to make sure people show up?
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:13 AM on December 3, 2012

I like the flavor-tripping-event, possibly at a corner table while the party is going on. Once I left out recipes for particularly interesting cocktails that guests could mix. Music in the background helps. One of my friends always has the "movie going on in the background" thing (no sound, though). It helps because it provides atmosphere and if someone needs to "check out" for a few minutes, they can sit and watch the movie.

For the most part, though, my successful party formula has been this:

(a) Invite a LOT of people (have your roommates invite their friends)
(b) Buy enough hard liquor for a fully stocked bar
  (b).1 People generally bring more than enough wine and beer as gifts
(c) Cook or buy enough food that people aren't hungry and can keep their stomachs full while drinking

Even with a "low yield" of invitees who arrive, you will get a good turnout. Cold weather doesn't harm a party as much as a snowstorm will.

This is "taking it to the next level" of party-throwing, but if you are artists, set up some interactive art pieces, particularly using lights or video. Using your own studio space if you can.

People don't like to expend the effort to come to a birthday until they think it's going to be exceptionally fun.

What they mean by this is that they will make an effort to come to a birthday party if they know it will have a decent number of people, including their friends, who will be there. When I say a party is "exceptionally fun" I mean, "I had a great time seeing all my friends and meeting interesting people! And the food was great and they didn't run out of drinks!"
posted by deanc at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2012

I agree with cabingirl. I've been to beach parties in winter they are always good. I'm not a person who would cross the street to attend a karaoke party or board game party because I prefer conversation to activities that interrupt conversation. So a summer themed party in January lets people have a great theme to riff off, while allowing people to just mingle.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2012

Are you just looking for fun party activities, or are you also looking for ways to make sure people show up?

People will show up - I have a pretty decent rep for organizing fun activities. What I'm trying to do is simply make sure that I live up to it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2012

We had a "pirates vs. the British navy" party once where everyone had to dress as either a pirate or an officer of the British navy. Once we were good and drunk, we built ships out of couches and had a battle.

I think deanc has it right, though. The problem isn't that your parties are uninteresting, it's that people will only go if they know other people are going. Get a core group of people to commit and you're good.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the Jamaica party idea. I read some article last year that said that the middle Monday (or something like that) in January was the most depressing day of the year. Then I thought, "Someone should make up a holiday for that day." I called it "Blue Monday" and thought it should have cheesy Hawaiian decorations straight from the dollar store, and be dedicated to drinking fancy cocktails.

Then I remembered, "oh wait, I have a class that night," and it never happened. But you could totally do that!

I love the idea of an improv party, but I have to second the response above that some folks won't be into that and segregating that time would be good.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:35 PM on December 3, 2012

The party went awesome. I ended up sending a couple of rounds of invites - first to the core group (who were asked to RSVP as soon as possible), then to the main group (who mostly responded in the affirmative once they saw that a lot of fun people were already going), and lastly to the friendly acquaintances (who were there primarily to fill out the numbers and make sure we had a relatively equal gender balance). This seemed to end up working really well. I also took the advice about having "background" stuff going on to set ambiance without being too much of a distraction. Thanks for all your help!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

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