To be truly successful a party requires several elements.
Don’t get too hung up on this lot, its just a bunch of ideas. Good people can make a good party in a shoe box with a bottle of white lightning.
- The people
- The venue
- A team
- The Cleanup
The people who come to the party are the reason for it to happen. They want a good time, you want a good time with them, and hosting a party is a good way to make everyone enjoy themselves.
Mostly the people of a party want a relaxed time with friends. This means they don’t want to be hassled, stressed, threatened or be witness to painful drama (non-painful drama is good gossip fuel and hence may in certain circumstances be encouraged).
The people of a party should be considered as individual actors, however they naturally form into various short lived groups, based on conversation or activity within a space. People join or leave these groups based on natural events that cause them to shift, refreshing a drink, fetching food, overhearing something interesting in another space or wanting to go tell someone something are the usual reasons for shifting about.
Groups often calcify as the evening moves on, while initially people will circulate rapidly this will slow down over time, they’ll settle into a social group and often sit down and get comfy with a drink, only rarely moving to go to the loo, refresh their drink etc.
People coming and going tends to cause shakeups in groups as well, as people want to greet those who arrive or wish well those who depart, which often gets them in conversation with others doing the same, forming another group around a doorway.
Of primary importance is the venue itself. There’s a number of characteristics you need for a awesome place to hold parties, however these mostly boil down when you look at them to just two things: Capacity and Flow.
The venue needs to have enough capacity that there’s room for everyone, but not so much that people feel their knocking around or that whole rooms are left empty at any point.
However a giant tent is not the best form of capacity management. Instead what you need is a collection of spaces (which may be rooms, corridors, etc) to break up the party into managable groups, each of which needs the right capacity. The venue needs adequate lighting and heating for the event. People need to be warm, but not hot, hot water and flushing loos are essentials to keeping everything going. While my experience is mostly with 2 storey terraced houses I’ve noticed the following holds in larger buildings as well. Also be aware that spaces are co-opted into their purpose but the groups that use them.
- Main Space
- You need at least one main space, this is where food and drink are stored. Ideally you need a lot of space in this room for people to stand, and optionally walls to lean against. A few chairs may work here, but only along the sides. This happens to normally be the largest room in proximity to the kitchen although this doesn’t have to be the case. This room is usually the highest traffic in terms of movement, and should have music but not so loud people can’t talk. Expect several groups to operate in this space at any one time.
- Relaxed Space
- Most of the rest of the rooms in a building will be relaxed spaces. These are rooms with the maximum amount of seating space possible. Sofas, beds, chairs, cushions, pillows etc. Its possible to theme these rooms, this can include music of a different sort, lava lamps and other visual spectacles for people to zone out too, televisions, computers, card games that kind of thing. Ideally you need space to move between the seating without falling over people and their drinks but thats about it. You often can’t plan for where these zones spring up, corners of other spaces, stair wells and corridors are often appropriated into relaxed spaces for some group.
- Chillout Space
- An optional bonus in a large building is chillout space. The best place for this is a series of small, mostly unused bedrooms. This is where very drunk people will be moved too, given water and a place to lie down with a bucket. You’ll need pillows and blankets you don’t mind getting covered in alcohol or vomit as drunk people get cold.
- Smokers Area
- These days (thankfully) this is normally the garden/yard out the back of the property, common alternatives include basements. Be aware that any ingress/egress points of this space may well be steep and or stepped and hence may suffer spillage to make them slippy. Make sure that drunk people with lighters and cigarettes aren’t near anything overly flamable, expect for at least one pyro to scorch any paper, plants or decorations left laying around out of boredom.
- Food Prep
- Most commonly a kitchen, however outside cooking is possible with BBQs or open fires (potatoes etc). These areas usually contain various supplies such as tea towels, clean water and food being cooked. Be sure to at least give a nod to food safety, but as long as your not juggling raw meat or letting people spill drinks into things you should be okay. Kitchens represent a strange space where you’ll usually get at least one group of people occupying the space. Be aware that drunk people love hot and sharp things and lack manual dexterity.
- At least one, preferably two especially if their on different floors. Make sure to drunk proof this area, lots of stuff is normally precariously balanced to be knocked over such as towels and bottles of various bath products. Keep a bucket of spare loo roll handy, as well as squirty bleach for emergency cleanup.
- Cloak Rooms
- You need somewhere to put coats and bags, it needs to be nominally secure and clean. So a dusty shed or cupboard is out, as is outside where rain or passers by could happen upon the pile. Ideally this should not mess up the flow. An emptyish spare room is a good choice as you can have people just chuck coats through the door, beware that anything in the room may get hit by flying coats or stumbling drunk people. The end of a corridor is another good choice as long as you aren’t using the rooms at the end, as otherwise you’ll have to climb over the coat pile to get to them.
- Storage Space
- You’ll need a room to store the stuff that normally clutters a living area. Pictures in glass frames, paperwork piles, ornaments, valuables and other random stuff will go here, usually just on a temporary basis to get it out of the way.
The ability for people to move between spaces is important to a party, as discussed above people form into short lived groups at parties, in various spaces, circulating between them for various reasons. The flow between these spaces is critical.
The main space(s) have the most flow, basically anytime you set out a table with food and drink on it people will want access to it, but they’ll also gather around it to chat. This creates flow issues if those groups are blocking doorways. Doorways are also liminal spots between spaces so you can expect a gathering actually in these, as people seek to be in two spaces at once and watch the interactions in both.
The main front/back door to the house will also represent a choke spot, as people enter and leave this will create a bunching of greetings/well-wishers.
Go through your spaces, every entrance and exit before the party. Make sure to remove piles of crap that accumulate near doorways, shift bookcases, tables and other knockable/trip hazards just a few more inches sideways to get them out the way of a doorway. Tape down trailing cables, make sure that specified places for coat piles and bottle piles aren’t near doorways.
Kitchens often represent a tight point that lots of streams flow through, whilst also being useful spaces in and of themselves. Make sure to put doormats by backdoors for people to wipe their feet on, keep glasses, bottles and knives away from the edges of surfaces. Rebalance the shelving to ensure that you don’t have overloaded shelves where people can knock them by waving their arms. Do as much washing up as possible before hand, you’ll want as much space as possible for people to pile glasses and plates in and around the sink.
There are a number of supplies you’ll need, here’s a rough suggestion list:
- Kitchen Roll – You’ll want at least a roll or two per space.
- Mop – For larger amounts of liquid on solid floors you’ll need this to prevent everyone slipping
- First aid kit – You probably just need some plasters of varying sizes really. Be very aware that combining painkillers with alcohol can produce strange behaviour in people. For anything more serious send people to A&E with a friend/back of house team member.
- Cotton Dish Cloths – Invaluable for spills and moving hot plates
- Jay Cloths – Best for wiping up ick as they can be binned easily
- Paper plates – Just make cleaning easier and reduce breakages
- Plastic glasses – Thicker ones are reusable, thinner ones aren’t, thinner ones also tip/split/are crushed easier.
- Paper table clothes – Make the cleanup easier, just bundle everything on top and then bin it
- Black bin bags – You’ll want a spare roll
- Plastic Containers – The kind you get mushrooms and other veg in are excellent for storing leftovers and also for giving to people as puke buckets
- Straws – Plastic drinking straws are required
- Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda – All you really need in cleaning supplies
- Squirty bleach stuff – To use on things you think may be stubbon. Do not mix with vinegar, you will regret it as you’ll get chlorine gas (well okay it can work in small amounts in a well ventilated space but you’ve been warned).
- Loo roll – In epic quantities
Apart from this tell people to bring spirits and/or beer to share, also to bring food. Buy in mixers and nibbles. Big bags of crisps and salads go well, as does finger food such as sausage rolls and pizza.
What alcohol is about is functionally not important to a party, only that there is a quantity of it that is at least partially unobjectionable. If you are buying then don’t bother buying in massively expensive stuff or people will just drink it and mix it in horrific ways. Get vodka, port, and baileys (if you can take the fact it may make people burst). Cheaper whiskeys are okay if people are mixing them, so stuff you normally wouldn’t touch with a barge pole (JD, Bells, etc). Get good bear (anything solid) and cider (bulmers, old rosie) in bulk as these are fairly obtainable, avoid larger because its rubbish. Evict people who bring it.
Be aware of allergies and clearly mark things, this includes booze. Be aware that greasy/oily food may well make people barf.
The team of people running a party is partially composed of people found ahead of time (usually the host(s)) and people who manifest on the night and fulfil the obligation out of habit or just because they fall into the role naturally.
Broadly speaking the team of people running a party are broken into two groups of people, front of house and back of house, although these jobs don’t really match up, most people on the team tend to shift between these two roles at some points of the evening.
The main job of the team is to ensure that everyone has a good time, hence you need to be subtle in how you interact with people. Your friends who are at the party don’t want you being an officious eedjit and ruining their time, also you want to be able to interact with them and have a good time yourself, so relax, these are guidelines more than anything else.
Front of House
The people who get the most notice at a party are front of house, these are hosts or other people with social clout at the venue usually. Their role is to make drinks, cook (if the kitchen is open), answer questions about facilities and generally be free-floating socialites.
Front of house also need to circulate among the crowd to make sure everyone’s having a good time, subtly redirecting people to other groups or spaces if they feel uncomfortable, redirecting conversations before uncomfortable revelations or accusations are made, restarting stalled conversations, making introductions, keeping recent ex’s in different spaces without letting them realise it, keeping squares away from anything dodgy, diffusing situations and socially manipulating groups to break them up or move them around if their presenting a blockage to flow.
Front of house people usually get drunk and social, hence their “work” tends to reduce as the evening wears on, which is okay as once the party has legs it’ll keep going under its own steam and they can usually just take a seat and let things get going.
Back of House
The people you don’t notice at a party are the back of house team. They’re often cleaning fresh glasses, nipping to the shops for supplies, tidying and cleaning up spills, breakages and puke. The back of house team also tend to circulate in the crowd watching for people getting drunk, unhappy or violent, as well as removing things from drunk people which are breakable or have just been picked up idly such as knives, match boxes or ornaments. Shifting breakables that weren’t seen in pre-party prep to closed storage space, finding coats for people from the cloak room and bringing cleaning supplies and buckets to people. Operating music and entertainment devices often falls to back of house, as people may want specific tunes or films on and may be confused by how things are wired up.
Back of house also tend to call taxis for drunk people and/or walk them home. If people are very drunk Back of house will shift them to available chillout space and periodically circulate among the people in there to check on them, recovery position is worth learning.
Back of house tend not to get so drunk as they’re busy keeping idiots at bay, usually they’ll drink early and sober up in time as their workload increases from the middle of the party onwards as alcohol consumption increases.
The faster a cleanup can happen the less effort it will take.
Get some sleep, then once you wake up in the morning get some liquids down yourself, as well as something like toast to give you energy. Now get the black bags out.
The first thing to do is sort glasses, these will be hidden everywhere (bookshelves, under tables and chairs, behind sofas). If a glass has liquid in it assume its poisonous, chuck the damn stuff. After step one you should at least be able to move about the place without risking too much spillage. Chuck thin plastic glasses (or pile them on a paper table cloth) at this stage. Pile the others in the kitchen for washing and reuse.
Second do other crap. There will be plates of food and rubbish laying about. If you’ve used paper plates just bag them whole. Otherwise scrape plates into the bin and stack for cleaning. If there are bowls of crisps or sweets check them for liquid, if they’re damp then just chunk the whole lot, you have no idea whats covering them.
Next do bottles, gather these up, find lids for those that are missing them. Form them into four piles: Empties, to be concentrated, to be used, to be stored.
Wash the empties, put them in the recycling right now, not later. If you’ve several half bottles of vodka (probably stolly) or similar then get a funnel and concentrate them into the minimal number of full bottles, wash the rest and recycle them.
Those without lids or that don’t keep (wine especially) put to one side, these need to be drunk by the cleanup crew or after-party volunteers or otherwise find homes to go too.
Finally store the rest of the drinks in a travelling pile for the next party and bring them along like a good neighbour.
That should be it, pile the remainder onto paper table clothes and black bag them, or just bin-bag everything. Run the hoover over the floor then have a bacon sarnie for lunch, job done.