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Whether you’re a professional, free spirit, or college student, social events can be tricky. We seem to have countless dynamics to consider from invites to goodbyes, but fortunately, it can be done the right way! It all depends on your specific circumstance, as no two parties are ever the same. The point is, party planning is a learned skill.

It’s probably clear by now that I am not referring to a child’s birthday party, however, these tips could translate to anyone at any stage in life. Below are the seven need-to-know methods to keep the party spirit alive and buzzing in the moment and for weeks to come.

1. Lean into the theme

St. Patrick’s Day parties are often so unforgettable because of the sea of green burned into our memory. No matter how much we may imbibe, the occasion is only enhanced with themed decorations, party favors, and/or dress. I believe that as we get older, the more we appreciate the opportunity to go all-out.

Each holiday has its [lucky] charms and 1,000,000 different parties to match, so no matter the reason to throw down, pick a theme and go with it! It gives everyone a chance to get creative, which opens so many doors for conversation starters. In short, people love it.

Photo by Kristina Evstifeeva

2. The more, the merrier

Have you ever wished fewer people showed up to your celebration? Most likely not! Reach out to all kinds of friends and acquaintances, and don’t be afraid to let them bring others. We sometimes can shy away from merging different friend groups for one reason or another, but it’s usually best to let them get to know each other. Even combining friends and family members can lead to interesting relationships, or at the very least, a memorable party.

How cool would it be for two people to meet at your party and look back on that memory later on? You are inadvertently a part of their story, and that’s what forms lifelong connections. It’s not exactly a matchmaking service, but the mixing and mingling are what make the party come together.

Photo by Ben Konfrst

3. Provide food and drinks

Don’t worry, there is no pressure to set up an extravagant spread, but everyone appreciates a moderate variety of snacks and beverages. If you do feel compelled to go wild with the refreshments, though, no one will be mad about it. The closer to the theme, the better.

If this is not your strongest suit, just think simple. For instance, how many ways can you make chips interesting? You can provide potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips, or even throw popcorn in there somewhere. Then you’ve got dips: guacamole, salsa, queso, etc. The list goes on! It’s easy!

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co.

4. Offer several activities

Envision your ideal space and allow room for all kinds of fun. House parties are always great because you’ve got the living room, kitchen, front porch, back porch, and sometimes a basement if you’re lucky. Think about where you can fit games like pong if that’s your style. At the very least, you’ll need some tables, room for dancing, and plenty of seating.

If your home is limited, there is no harm in changing it up and going straight for a restaurant, bar, brewery, or club. Partiers love the freedom of hopping around to different locations and letting the night lead them in new directions, even if it’s a bit more spendy. (In this case, you’re passing off the responsibility of rule #3 and #5 to the establishment!)

Photo by Eric Nopanen

5. Get your playlist ready

Music is the backbone of every good party. You don’t see many movies without a soundtrack, so the records should always be spinning. Pick a mood you’re trying to set, and think of all the songs that make you feel that way. Nostalgic, reckless, chill, excited… you name it, there is a playlist for it! Making your own 3+ hour tracklist can be time-consuming, but when it’s customized to your taste, it’s another way to take ownership of your party.

There are infinite pre-made playlists ready to go on several different streaming sites if the thought of creating a mood is stressful; that is one thing it should not be! You’ve got other plans to put together, so find one you like and roll with it. Your friends also might be happy to do this for you!

Photo by Regina Velatova

6. Invite everyone individually

Everybody wants to be noticed and acknowledged. People will be much more likely to show up if they are invited in a one-on-one context. Try to avoid sending out a group chat where everyone is spammed with texts from mystery numbers. Simply put, it’s impersonal.

You’ll want to send some messages or make calls one or two weeks in advance. This gives you an opportunity to reach out to your guests without the added pressure of bystanders, and it also helps you figure out which day works best overall if you ask your closest friends first (and establish whether or not it’s BYOB).

Photo by Wells Baum

7. Say thanks

Even if it’s just a brief, “Thanks for coming,” and a hug when someone leaves for the night, thankfulness will bring them back for the next special occasion. Taking time out of your day and showing up to something just to be ignored is one of the worst, sinking feelings in a social setting. You want to leave a lasting positive impression.

As I said before, we all just want to be recognized. Let your guests know you appreciate their company, and you’ll see them next time. And of course, make sure everyone has a safe ride home.

Photo by Brooke Lark
Madeline Goldman

Madeline Goldman

Portland, Oregon / Music / Arts / Humanities

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