10 Ways to Ruin Your Party

From the guest list to the menu planning, we tell you what not to do in order to host the perfect party.
Jennifer Beeler

Hosting a party can be a stressful process. The fear of a failed party is enough to scare people away from ever hosting one. But, if you know what not to do, you'll find that hosting a party isn't that difficult.

1) Forget the Little Details
Things like food placement, music, and lighting are key to a good party. Make sure that your food is spread evenly around your entertaining space. Don’t place all of your food in a corner of the room or you will create a bottleneck. Also, place your bar in a location where people can flow by to make it easier for your guests to quench their thirst.

Music and lighting are often over-looked, but they set the mood for your party. Match these aspects to fit the desired tone of your party. Jazz music and dimmed lighting work well for classy cocktail parties, where bluegrass and more lively lighting are great for a cookout.

Here are our suggestions for Party Music Playlists for cocktail parties, shrimp boils, and more.

2) Wait Until the Last Minute
The 30 minutes before your guests arrive should not be spent running to the grocery for more napkins or mixing together a dip. Instead, you should be spending that time putting garnishes on your food and getting yourself ready.

A week before your party make your grocery list. Once you buy all the food and drinks, pull out all of your serving pieces, plates, and utensils so you can see if you’re missing anything. Then, choose the location for each of these items so you can plan the party layout. Go ahead and label the serving pieces for yourself so you can get an idea of where your food is going to be. Set up your bar, too. Don’t forget the lemon and lime wedges and a bowl of mixed nuts.

Make any food you can in advance so you can easily pop it in the oven before your guests arrive. You also need to clean in advance. You don’t want to look down at your sofa during the party and see it covered in dog hair or a layer of dust on your dining room tabble.

3) Use a Recipe for the First Time
Use something that you’re familiar with and can be made with ease. If you haven’t tried a recipe before, there is the possibility that it could taste awful, look unappealing, or be far too complicated for you to complete.

When choosing your menu, whether for hors d’oevres or a dinner party, make sure that it is well balanced. Five different cheese dips won’t go over very well. Variety is always important because everyone has different tastes.

4) Over-Do It
It’s easy to get carried away with the decorations, food, drinks, entertainment, lighting, and even the guest list. But try to keep things to a minimum to make it easier on you. You don’t need to get fresh flowers for every table, or every kind of cocktail under the sun. Too much of a good thing can create clutter and simply look overdone. But, as our next tip suggests, don’t be too sparse with what you provide. There is a fine line.

5) Serve Only One Kind of Food and Drink
There needs to be some kind of variety in the food and beverages you provide. Although you may love to munch on cheese straws and sip on a cold beer, your friend may want a gin and tonic and a vegetable tray. This goes for cocktail parties and dinner parties. A bit of variety is important, but remember, don’t over-do it!

6) Mismatch Food and Drinks
Matching your music and lighting for the desired tone is just as important as matching your food and drinks. A cocktail party needs a variety of wine, beer, and liquor drinks, and bite-size hors d’oevres. An outdoor cookout needs less of a variety of drinks-cold beer always goes great with hot dogs, hamburgers, and baked beans. Sipping on Chardonnay and taking a bite of a chili-covered hot dog don’t go hand-in-hand.

Also, if you’re trying to stick to a theme, do just that-stick to it! No one wants to show up at a Cinco de Mayo party and not be able to have a margarita and some chips and salsa.

7) Be Heavy-Handed
Whatever you do, don’t force people to help you cook, serve, or clean. These are your guests after all. If you need extra help, ask one of your closest friends if she’d like to pitch in, and if you’re lucky, you may get some volunteers. Don’t take advantage of them, though. Give them just one task if they offer to help.

A good rule to follow is to not require your guests to do anything at the party. This includes introductions, dancing, games, and so on. If they want to take part in any of the activities, they will join when they are comfortable.

8) Leave People off the Guest List
You probably have a core group of friends you invite to small gatherings, but for larger parties the guest list is a bit trickier. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time you don’t want to include everyone you’ve ever met.

Write out a list of your guests and your relationship to each of them. It could be “neighbor,” “co-worker,” “college friend,” etc. Once you see the labels you have given people, try to think “If I invited John, my neighbor, should I invite my other neighbor?” If anyone has invited you to a similar party, you should certainly include them on the guest list, as well.

9) Isolate Yourself
You might feel as though you need to stick to the kitchen to fix food and clean up, but that’s where thorough preparation and a helpful friend come into play. If you do the work in advance, you won’t have to isolate yourself in the kitchen the whole time. And if you get some extra help to clean up, the dirty dishes and glasses won’t seem so overwhelming as they pile up during the party.

Also, keep in mind that as a host you should try to talk to everyone at the party and make them feel welcome. Don’t just sit in a corner and gossip with your best friends.

10) Forget the Ice
As obvious as it may sound, some hosts forget that their freezer’s icemaker won’t sustain an entire party for the night. Have extra bags of ice on hand to refill the ice bucket. Warm drinks can easily kill a party and send your guests home early.