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Parts to a perfect party

Most successful college parties seem to share six elements: a theme, a well thought out guest list, entertainment, good food, good drink and attentive hosting. Below are outlined different ways to include these parts in your next party to keep guests wanting more.


Theme

A theme for the party should be decided first as it will influence the food, decorations and entertainment. A theme can be an occasion or event – like surviving the first week of classes – or just a vague premise to what the party is about, like “ABC,” where the guests wear “anything but clothes.”

If the party is for a special occasion, like a roommate’s birthday, the theme should involve related clothing and decorations, like party hats and “Happy Birthday” balloons. If the celebration is for getting a new job, the guests could be asked to come in business attire.

But some themes are just for fun. For example, costume parties aren’t only for Halloween. Have an ’80s themed party and see who can dress in the brightest colors – prizes optional.

And don’t underestimate the power of board games and playing cards. Monopoly or Poker parties bring out the competitive nature in everyone, which makes socializing easy.

Guests

After a theme has been chosen, it’s time to figure out the guest list. This can be tricky if you’re inviting people who have never met, or worse, people who don’t get along.

The best way to do this is to start with a list of everyone you, and whoever else may be hosting the party, know. For Facebook and MySpace users, this is as easy as browsing through your friends list and listing everyone you’ve talked to in the past month.

Then go back over the list and cross off people who 1) may not be in the same state or county, 2) usually cause unnecessary drama among other friends and 3) are only on the list to avoid feeling bad for not inviting them.

Telling guests they can bring one or two friends is also a good idea. They will usually be more comfortable around their good friends or significant others, but don’t let this go overboard. If guests wants to bring their best friend, three cousins and their entire sports team – it’s probably a good time to draw the line.

A good way to notify guests that they’re invited and to send out directions is the events tool on Facebook. If some of your guests don’t use Facebook, e-mail is the next best thing.

There’s also the option of snail-mailing invites, but be sure to do this in plenty of time. Also, be sure to have the guests RSVP so that adequate amounts of food and drinks can be purchased.


Entertainment

Entertainment covers anything from the music being played in the background to the activities offered to keep the guests busy and happy.

Having a carefully planned music playlist on the computer or iPod is a good way to avoid awkward songs or guilty pleasures from playing and killing the party mood. Most songs from the ’80s have upbeat music and are great party songs, but plenty of popular hits today and oldies have their place.

Browse the Internet for playlists that others have used or take requests from guests. Some cable companies also offer XM radio station channels, which are categorized by era and genre, and play nicely in the background.

Games and interactive entertainment usually fit into most party themes, but for some general ideas, try keeping a deck of cards on hand.

Video games are also a great way to get people to socialize and have fun – especially if that system is a Wii, which with games like the Mario Party series and Super Smash Brothers Brawl, is practically designed for party entertainment.

Movies are a good idea, too, especially ones that most guests are familiar with. One fun game is to mute your TV and assign each guest to a character. They are then responsible for thinking up original dialogue for this character and can even act along with the film.

For other fun party games, check out the show Whose Line is it Anyway. Any of their improv activities make for fun party games. Idrink.com also has a list of over 200 drinking games.

Food

Bad food is a sure way to sink a party. Most important is knowing what guests like, and don’t like while providing plenty of different options – especially if you have friends with specific dietary choices.

Food can also match a party theme. For instance, at a Halloween party try serving hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent dough and calling them mummy fingers. Of course, Jell-O brains work, too.

If you don’t own a cookbook, try calling mom and asking for any appetizer recipes she might have. Appetizers make better party food than cooking a full meal. They offer a wider variety and are easier to serve and eat.

Drinks

For the 21 and over crowd, this is one of the most important sections. If guests are drunk enough, they won’t notice a theme anyways.

Ask your guests beforehand what their favorite drinks are and get the most popular ones. Also, since alcohol is expensive, you always have the option of putting on the invitation, BYOB (bring your own booze).

Prep and Hosting

Before guests arrive, make sure there’s plenty of clean, open space and breakables are all put away. Hiding any embarrassing baby photos or love notes may be a good idea as well. Also, be sure to have a lot of seating and places for guests to set drinks and plates.

Make sure all the food is prepared and sitting out, along with paper plates and cups. Once the guests start arriving, you’ll want to be having fun, not cooking. Keep the warm dishes in the oven on low, and have some bowls of chips – or a veggie platter for the health conscious – sitting around.

While guests are there, the best thing to do is enjoy the party as much as possible with as many different people as you can. Make sure no one feels left out, keep the food dishes full and, most importantly, have fun.