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5 Ways to Kill an Otherwise Great Party

(Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes!)

Party planning can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The most important thing on any host’s to-do list should be simply to make sure your guests have a good time.

To do this, sometimes knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do.

Whether you’re throwing your high school reunion or a family BBQ, these are some of the most common mistakes that can bring a party down. Avoid these major no-nos if you want your big event to be a success.

1. Not Having Enough Food or Drinks for Your Guests

There’s a reason you requested RSVPs (you did, right?), and it’s not just so you can feel good about how many people are coming to your bash.

Make sure you have enough of everything, from appetizers to drink options to desserts, for all of your guests over the span of however many hours your party will last. Err on the side of caution and overestimate if you’re not sure, as there’s always the chance a few unannounced guests may show up. If you wind up with a little extra, you can always send guests home with doggie bags.

2. Making Your Food Too Complicated

You want to avoid spending the entire party in the kitchen. You also want to make it as easy as possible for your guests to enjoy themselves. Foods that are overly complicated, or overly messy, can seriously hamper the fun.

If you’re throwing a cocktail party, you want your menu to be full of finger foods that are easy to snack on while chatting, whether your guests are seated or making the rounds. If you’re throwing a family BBQ, skip the fancy East-meets-West fusion ideas and stick to simple, down-home staples guests of all ages will enjoy.

3. Not Catering Your Music to Your Audience

You’ll need a wildly different playlist for your grandparent’s silver wedding anniversary than you would for your son’s high school graduation. Make sure the music you’ve selected is the kind the majority of your guests will recognize (and enjoy).

If you really want to play to your audience, a great DJ can respond dynamically to the mood of the crowd. If they’re not dancing, he can get them dancing. If they loved one song, he can play another just like it. It takes the onus off of you and allows you to get in there and have fun too.

4. Being Too Uptight

Planning a party is stressful, but if you’re agonizing over every little detail, you’ve taken things too far. Bear in mind that your guests are there to have a good time, and they won’t be obsessing over the tiny things that are driving you crazy. Even if something bigger should go wrong, your best bet is to laugh it off and roll with it. An uptight party host can be a serious buzz kill on everyone’s mood.

One surefire way to avoid getting too serious? Ask for help. Recruit other people to bring side dishes, help with the cleanup and setup, take coats and purses when guests arrive—whatever you need so the event can run smoothly without your having to hover over everything. Once the party’s in full swing, set aside your checklists and to-dos and just focus on having fun with your guests.

5. Not Knowing When to Call It Quits

There’s nothing sadder than the end of a party, when a handful of stragglers keep lingering lost past their welcome.

Start things off right by putting a clear end time on your invites so people aren’t surprised when you start winding things down. When that time comes, start to clean up to give guests the idea that it’s time to head home. If anyone seems really clueless, ask them if you can help them find their coat/call a cab/etc. as you gently usher them towards the door.