How to Throw a Party

Three Parts:Figuring Out the LogisticsPlanning the Food, Entertainment, and MoreHosting Your Party

Throwing a great party goes beyond the scope of any "how to" page, because a great party can only be defined post-hoc -- after it is over -- it's the result of a combination of superb planning and astonishing good luck regarding uncontrollable issues like weather, guests' moods and interactions. You will have "astonishing good luck" with this wikiHow!

Part 1
Figuring Out the Logistics

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    Set the time, date and place. Plan at least 3 months out so that you have ample time for publicity and to create a large e-mail invite guest list. Give your guests a six week "Save the Date" e-mail. Make sure formal invites (via mail or email) are dated no less that 2 weeks out. This gives your guests ample notice and gives you time to prepare the party of the year. Here are things to consider:
    • Pick a date when nothing else is happening. If there's a big community event going on or your friends always have "wines day Wednesdays" for example, avoid partying on that day. You want people to come to your party, right?! Make sure to check sports, community, church and other organization calendars before finalizing your date. You would not want to plan a 6pm event downtown if a major sports event is scheduled with in an hour of your event. Think about things like traffic, commute time, event parking and other factors that could lower your attendance. Does the time or date conflict? Will parking be plentiful and free? Will the commute for the majority of the guests be short?
    • You don't have to have your party at night. How about a brunch party? Everyone's looking for an excuse to eat pancakes and drink mimosas over the weekend, aren't they?
    • It's easiest if the party is at your home church, though it can be somewhere public like a community center, restaurants or a bar, but you could also look into venues for rent (community centers, parks, historical areas, recreational or sports centers.)
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    Plan the guest list. Usually only 20% to 25% of the invited guests attend. A good rule of thumb is "the more the merrier." However, you don't want your guests packed in like sardines, so consider the place you're working with and how many mouths you need to feed! If you want 200 people in attendance make sure you have ample time to create a minimum of an 800 e-mail guest list.
    • Remember, people always come late or sometimes never show. Also, if guests are bringing friends it could get out of hand rather easily. On the invitation, indicate whether or not it's okay to bring uninvited guests.
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    Pick a theme. Avoid "80s" or "White trash trailer bash" if you can -- those are parties your guests probably went to last week. How about a cartoon theme? Or a theme around your favorite TV show or movie? A location, a specific food (like one of those 24-layer cartoon sandwiches!), a concept, or a season work too.
    • Your theme can be as simple as a color. It would be easy to decorate and choose your food and drinks. Invite guests to wear this color, and have a contest for who wears the selected color the best!
    • As for this "concept" idea, your party could have its own occasion. A beer or wine tasting? Heck, a mac n' cheese tasting?! A holiday, a random day in history (Moon landing day, say), a murder mystery party, or even a superhero party taken to the next level -- where everyone walks in, in costume, to their own theme song playing!
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    Spread the word. No more snail mail -- Use a Facebook page and approved apps, then text the people your friends (more about them helping you out later) and send a reminder a few days before the party, especially if you're asking your guests to bring dishes or goodies. And be sure to talk about your party with those around you! Gotta get the excitement pumping!
    • Do you want people to RSVP, bring a dish or a drink? Include this on your page/text/in your conversation! Otherwise you'll have 50 empty-handed people show up to your door. Oi.
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    If necessary, budget. Throwing a party can get expensive. Ridiculously. Buying food and drinks and decorations, we're talkin' serious money. If you're contemplating going to the nines, consider budgeting. X amount of money for food, X amount of money for drinks, etc. Whatever doesn't fit gets scrapped. Parties aren't fun if the bank is broken.
    • This is the reason a pot luck-type fest, decoration and money donations are a good idea. When your guests have duties, it takes pressure off of you, guarantees attendees -- an on time, presentation, and money. So if "on a shoestring" is more your style, don't let it deter you from partying -- just expect help from the people enjoying it! Make sure you start 6 month out to get item or money donations and 2 months out for pot- people and organizations need to budget their donations, so be sensitive to those on tight budgets.

Part 2
Planning the Food, Entertainment, and More

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    Figure out the food. No party is complete without food -- if you want your guests to stick around, provide food. But you also don't want to spend the next three days glued to the kitchen, so what do you do? The party has to be fun for the host, too!
    • Consider a DIY-style food service. Have all the ingredients for tacos, sundaes, breakfast, or anything your heart could imagine. And it's another element of fun for your guests when they feel like they're doing something, it gives them something to talk about and enjoy.
    • Have finger foods available for guests as soon as they enter. Something they can pop in their mouth in the blink of eye. They'll be content from moment one! Anything from veggies to chips to fruit to cheese to dessert is good! Also, finger food is easy and quick to prepare, too.
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    Plan the drinks. Think DOA -- drinks on arrival. Just like the food, you want your guests sated as soon as possible. Having something to drink from the get-go allows you freedom from worrying about serving, in addition to all your other responsibilities as people trickle in.
    • You could have a signature drink for the entire night (matching the color theme?) Just for the record, having a bowl of punch is efficient and tasty, and you could also have DIY cocktails too (set up everything for martinis with a little instruction sheet in the corner, for example). Or just a big ol' tub of alcohol and soda!
    • Take care of your DDS, if you have them. Don't relegate them to drinking water or Diet Coke. Have flavored syrups available for homemade soda, or splash up that tonic water with fruit juices and garnishes.
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    Plan the music. Arrange it so that you won't be distracted from being a good host/hostess by the need to tend to the music. Putting your iPod on shuffle just means something embarrassing like the Oklahoma! soundtrack will start playing or worse, someone will steal your iPod. So set up music that keeps it pumping and that no one will be walking away with.
    • Wireless speakers are a good investment if you don't already have them. Design a playlist now of all songs that meet your party needs. This is a great activity for a committee and the committee members can include their teenage children to help! Make sure the playlist is long enough so repeating will go unnoticed. When the party rolls around, you hit "play" and your DJ-ing job is done!
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    Buy or make decorations. This is another good activity for a decorations committee. Your theme should make this a lot easier -- once you know it, you can narrow down what you need and let the committee handle it. If you don't want traditional decorations, use tablecloths and/or place-mats and the like, for easy clean up. Here's a bare minimum checklist of things to have:
    • Tablecloth and/or placemats
    • Matching plates/cutlery/napkins
    • Centerpiece for table(s)
    • Lights
    • Party favors, seating tags, drink tags, etc.
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    Plan your set-up. Your home probably isn't ideally set up for a party yet. You want easy access to the bathroom, the food and drinks from just about anywhere, and loads of lounging space. So where will everything be? Do you have enough chairs? How about the music?
    • Make sure everything you DON'T want messed with doesn't get messed with if you're in a location that has important or necessary items for it organization. So, designate a catch-all space for all things that your guests are not welcome to get near; breakable goods, antiques, valuables.
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    Consider personalized items. If you have a small guest list and know exactly who is coming, consider having a few personalized items to make them feel special and to remember the party. It can simply be a specially-decorated cupcake,, a table centerpiece, a favorite dish, or a glass that's all their own.
    • If you're using the same glassware, have a drink marker to identify their drink with as a simple, personalized touch. These can take the place of name tags. Never have over 20 people in a room without some type of name tags and a mingler game!With all the labels and things you can print off the Internet, you have no excuse!
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    Drunk proof your location. We're not going to beat around the bush here: if you're having a party with alcohol, children or teens drunk proof and kid proof everything. You'll regret not doing so way before morning when it rears its ugly head. Lock doors that you do not want children behind unchaperoned or provide a chaperoned area. Get the pillows and Advil ready and have the carpet cleaner on standby
    • It's your party, so you are responsible for your guests. If drunk driving is an issue, take their keys when they arrive. Hide them and only give them back when they're sober enough to drive. You're not being a square -- you're saving your butt if something were to go wrong.
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    Don't forget to plan clean up! ALWAYS have a clean-up committee. What's worse than a great party and a huge mess to clean up afterward? A good party and a huge mess to clean up afterward with no cleaning supplies. So when you're buying your cream cheese and vodka, take a gander through the cleaning section. You'll need some paper towels, some garbage bags, some sponges, and some cleaning spray, if you don't already have these.
    • Ideally, you've roped a few friends into helping you clean up afterward. Either that or you've prepared a really effective guilt trip for them before they walk out the door. Even seen clean up games for adults where groups are assigned areas and the winning group gets a nice prize. You're a good guest to them, right?

Part 3
Hosting Your Party

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    Delegate. Delegate. DELEGATE! The time has come: your party is going to start soon. Grab a few close buddies and delegate duties. Or plan in advance and ask specific people or groups to be responsible for specific tasks. It only helps your attendance and trains volunteers to be future leaders. This might sound tyrannical, but it can actually make them feel more involved -- so long as you're not giving them bathroom duty! Have someone set up the table, someone or a committee doing the decorations, and time will fly by.
    • Consider delegating your guests, too, as a party idea. When guests are given a job not only do they feel like they're part of the party magic but then they have to come! One person can bring a dessert, one person the ice, etc. Only together do you have a party -- with way less responsibility on your part.
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    Make sure the place is tidy and functional. People need to be able to circulate, sit down, and use the washroom. Make sure there is handicap access and that bathrooms are geographically close. Rearrange the furniture as needed and planned out in your setup. Stash supplies somewhere accessible, but safe -- when you run out of something, you'll be prepared. The place has to be functional for you, too!
    • To a certain extent, it's just going to get messy. So while you should have a clean floor, a clean toilet, and a clean table, don't bust out your toothbrush and start etching away years of grime. You can do that after the party, when you're already on your hands and knees mopping up patches of mysterious sticky goo.
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    Decorate! This can be as simple as throwing on a tablecloth and waiting for the potluck dishes to show up or as extravagant as lining the entire room in glitter snowflakes, making fake snow, and turning the AC on high. Luckily, there's no wrong way to go about it.
    • The one thing you shouldn't forget, it's lights. People love shiny things, especially if your party is outside. So, tiki torches, candles, Christmas lights (or variations thereof), and light-up decorations put the icing on the cake. Think what a lighting committee could come up with to add that extra something!
    • If your party is hard to find, put up signs! Going to a new place can be nerve-wracking, especially with the fiasco that parking can be. A few signs can alleviate your guests' frustrations. This applies to not only parking, but bathrooms, chaperone rooms or large venues with large geographic area like churches. Don't make guest come into your party frustrated because you have sent them on a hunt to find your party on a large church or public center. Again.... think committees. A logistics committee is a sure fire winner where guests are concerned.
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    Keep the guests entertained and mingling. This should only partly be your job -- you should be having fun, too! You might think of assigning this to particularly bubbly or extroverted attendees in advance. Give them a simple list of communication ideas. Maybe a different colored wrist band, glass or name tag. But do keep an eye on the feel of the room -- does the music need to be changed? Has anything run out? Are people mingling appropriately? Mix 'em up and get them talking if you have to! New people may need a nudge in the right direction.
    • You can suggest games or activities for your guests, too. Turn your sundae bar into a sundae eating contest or your cartoon sandwich into a photo shoot. It's normal for guests to want to follow the host's lead, so show them what kind of party you want to be having!
    • If you have different groups of friends present, you're the glue that brings them together. So break out your inner social butterfly and find ways to get them talking to each other. Remember to have a few mingler games on hand in case one flops or the party starts to become dull. Parties are so much more fun for everyone when new experiences are had and new relationships are made.
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    Know when to call it quits. A party can be raring for hours, but you have to know when to start suggesting people head for the exit. If it's 2 AM and you have to clean up a pile of red Solo cups the Egyptians would be proud of, don't feel embarrassed to start rounding them up like cattle. It's been fun, it's been real, but party time is over, folks. It's time to call it a day.
    • An easy way to do this is to start cleaning up. People will generally get the hint -- and hopefully they'll help out! Tell them you're very glad they came and you'll see them soon -- the next party should be on their turf! You'll bring your famous enchiladas.


  • Try your hardest not to reschedule the party! It will interfere with everyone's schedule and could cause them not to come which could possibly ruin your party.
  • Have lots of things to do so guests don't get bored.
  • If your party is a surprise party, do everything you can to make sure you are not discovered.
  • If your guests aren't all in the same group of friends, try playing games to break the ice.
  • Throwing parties are strongly discouraged for minors (including teenagers). It will take a lot of hard work to clean up after. Your parents could find about the party, and chances are they will not be pleased if you threw a party without them knowing.
  • Music. Get good music you can dance to. But also good music you can ignore with 90 percent of your brain while interacting with your guests and others present, expressing ardent points of view, etc. Instrumental music, such as chill lounge, acid jazz, dub, rasta, tribal, and jazz, are good choices.
    • African music is good, since it has a bouncy rhythm yet its lyrics are completely opaque to most people in the West and thus might as well be instrumental. Songs with lyrics should be limited to highly popular rock or pop tunes with a strong beat that will encourage dancing and/or off-key karaoke-like behavior.
  • Games. "Find games appropriate for all ages."
    • Video games are an easy standby for a party, especially games that are easy to understand such as Guitar Hero or Wii Party. Try to keep a lax non-competitive atmosphere, where people who aren't playing can easily joke about the skill of whoever is playing at the time.
  • As for drinks, make sure you provide something for those who do not consume alcohol or carbonated sugared water. Natural fruit drinks are an option. Then there's always tomato or vegetable juice, which does not always have to be the basis for a Bloody Mary. And never underestimate the appeal of water, especially natural spring water, perhaps with a twist of lemon.
    • At the very least provide scotch, whiskey, vodka, dark and clear rum, and possibly gin alongside mixers such as cola, ginger ale, soda water and tonic water. If you want to show off, concoct martinis (you will need dry vermouth, gin, olives and a shaker). Anything else is a waste of time: no one will respect you more if you can pull off a Margarita or a Tequila Sunrise.
  • You always need good food and drinks. Even if you are throwing a potluck party, plan on providing several dishes and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
    • Always popular: vegetable crisps (chips), including vegetables as potato, cassava, taro and plantain. Crudités (raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, cauliflower.) and dip; quiches; cold cuts and cheeses, such as blue cheese, manchego, and mozzarella, accompanied by toast or buns and butter; pickled vegetables; and so on (use your imagination).


  • Invite people that you know have similar interests and will blend well together.
  • Be sure to have a lot of food, or you won't have a good party. That's a rule.
  • Don't invite people who dislike each other, as they will spoil the party. If you do,make sure they stay away from each other or make them agree that they will be civil while the party is on.

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Categories: Event and Party Planning