The time has come to accept the inevitable: you’re growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let’s face it, as cool) as the ones in our new Adultify series. Now, you won’t ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term “adulting” when you accomplish something, like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you’ll know these truths to be self-evident.
Parties are perhaps the one social event which we experience from cradle (and even earlier, thanks to baby showers) to the grave (what? a wake is totally a party). Of course, over the course of our lifetimes, the evolution of parties is pretty dramatic. When we're little kids, parties are something our parents throw for us; all we need to do is show up and enjoy the sugar rush. Then, when we're teenagers and on into our college years, parties become something of a wild free-for-all; their purpose is pretty much to get partygoers trashed; the word "party" itself stops being a noun and starts being a verb.
While crazy, hedonistic parties are indeed a glorious and basically essential part of our lives and development, there does tend to come a point when it's time to step back and learn to appreciate what it means to party like a grown up. The following tips are not only useful for throwing parties, but are also a good guide for attending them as well. Read on to find out how to party in your home like an adult. (Spoiler: It will not result in puking. This is a good thing, though.)
THE GUEST LIST
The first thing you need to do is determine what type of party you want to throw (dinner? cocktail? TV-viewing? backyard BBQ?), but the second thing you need to decide on is your guest list. There are a few really important things to consider. One is cost; the more people you invite, the more money you’ll end up spending. This is obvious, sure, but it’s something that is essential to remember. Even if you’re planning some sort of BYO situation, you’ll still wind up shelling out more cash somewhere along the line, so figure out a comfortable budget for yourself before sending out the invites. Another important thing to keep in mind is the mix of people. Be considerate of your guests and make sure that they know someone else there besides you. This is particularly important at large parties that can otherwise be overwhelming; as the host, you’ll be too busy to spend long amounts of time with any one person, so think ahead. Make clear to your guests whether they can or can’t bring a plus one. Usually this is fine with bigger parties but definitely needs to be clarified for smaller ones. And make sure to throw a few guest list curveballs in there; don’t simply invite only your coworkers or only your college friends. Come up with a lively mix of people from all parts of your life. This will be more fun for everyone and lead to much better conversations than people would otherwise have. Nothing is worse than for a dinner party to turn into a therapy-esque complaint session about your do nothing boss and why he should be fired. Save that talk for the water cooler, and have fun at your party.
Sure, you could invite people to come over via group text, but, you know what? Don’t do that. And while it’s totally acceptable to invite people via Facebook, the truly adult thing to do is take your invites to the next level and use an e-vite service like Paperless Post. This adds one extra level of adultness to your party and helps your guests feel extra special even though it didn’t involve much more from you than a Facebook invite or a mass email would have. And, in case you’re wondering: No, you absolutely never have to even consider actual paper invites. Save those for your wedding. Or not.
Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner or a huge free-for-all party, you’re going to want your home to be clean and orderly at the outset. Are you thinking, But it’s just going to get messy anyway? Stop thinking that! This is the wrong attitude. It will be so much easier to do post-party tidying if you have a clean palette to start off. If you really want to do this right, consider hiring a cleaning service like Handy or MyClean; both are relatively affordable and will take one more pre-party thing off your plate. Alternatively, if you want to tackle this yourself but don’t know where to begin, here’s a suggestion: the bathroom. It takes just a few minutes to wipe down the surfaces in your bathroom so that they shine, and it will make the biggest difference to your guests. So if you can only do one thing, let cleaning your toilet be it.
THE ONE THING YOU DEFINITELY WANT TO PROVIDE GUESTS
Although, actually, if you can only do ONE THING for your guests, do this: Put a toilet plunger in the bathroom. Look, hopefully, your toilet will not get clogged during the party. Hopefully, the water pressure in your home is perfection. But just in case it isn’t, there could be nothing more embarrassing for a guest than having to ask his or her host for some help with a messy situation. Prevent this awkward conversation from ever possibly taking place by making 100 percent sure that there’s a plunger placed discreetly—but easily findable—by the toilet.
Hey, this is the fun part! No matter the type of party you’re throwing, planning a drinks menu is really fun. You can definitely feel free to grab a variety of six-packs for your guests; there’s no shame in that. (Unsure of what type of beer to buy? Here’s a solid list of good craft beer on a “bad” budget.) Just make sure to supplement those with other options. A great way to find affordable wine is to check out the Under $10 list from Wine and Spirits magazine. It’s updated on a monthly basis and offers excellent and affordable choices on a great assortment of varietals, from vinho verde and lambrusco to muscadet and zinfandel. You kind of can’t go wrong.
But if you want to get really fancy, consider making a signature cocktail. Only one, though. There’s no need to go crazy. Just have some good gin (we prefer Hendrick’s) and tonic and limes on hand, and you’re set. (However, if you do want to get fancy, we’re partial to the West Cave Cellar Punch recipe courtesy of Rosie Schaap at the New York Times.) But also, Food52 has a great checklist for how to make big batches of cocktails pre-party, so you don’t have to worry yourself the night of.
Finally, don’t forget that not everyone drinks alcohol. Always have a variety of sparkling water on hand. And if you want to get really fancy? Consider making this non-alcoholic rosemary citrus spritzer. It’s delicious and even your alcohol-loving guests will enjoy it.
So you want to serve some food. That's great. It will be much appreciated. There are a few different ways to go about this, depending on the type of party you're throwing. Like, if it's going to be casual backyard BBQ-type thing, feel free to ask guests to bring things like chips and dips, or even salads. Your job will be to provide everything that touches fire; this means meats, meat substitutes, and the appropriate accompanying starches.
But that's pretty obvious, so let's talk about when parties get more complicated. If you're hosting a cocktail or dinner party and are going to be providing all the available food, make sure to ask guests if they have any allergies or food intolerances beforehand. It's not ideal when one of your friends is unable to eat basically anything you've placed on the table.
The other thing to remember is that there's no point in stressing yourself out too much with preparations; it's a party, after all, so even though you're the host, you should be able to relax and enjoy. This means getting things like meats and cheeses and nuts and dried fruits to set out rather than cooking all that much for a cocktail party. If you're just dying to turn on your oven, get some frozen hors d'oeuvres from, like, Trader Joe's. They're delicious and easy. But if you really do insist on making one appetizer yourself, these parmesan straws are an excellent and almost effortless choice. Here, also, from TheKitchn.com is a good guide as to just how much food to serve.
For a dinner party, plan on doing as much as possible ahead of time. It's no fun at all if you have to be running around working while your guests are by themselves. Here, from Smitten Kitchen (pretty much the best place online for recipes, in my humble opinion) are several different complete dinner party menus which are guaranteed to minimize your time in the kitchen while also guaranteeing true deliciousness. Oh, and for dessert? This is the time to put out some fancy ice cream. We recommend Jeni's.
Who doesn't love gifts? They're great. Unless of course, they're something you don't want or need. Then, they're not so great. All of which is to say, though, that if you, as the host, have a guest who is sweet enough to bring you a gift, even if it's something you don't need or want (an uncut eight pound watermelon! for my elegant dinner party! how thoughtful), be gracious and don't feel obligated to use it.
Which leads me to all you people who want to learn how to be a party guest like an adult. It's so thoughtful to bring a host gift, but please don't waste your time or money on something that might not be useful. Like, don't bring a dessert or other food that might contradict what the menu for the night is. A really safe bet is to get something like a little dish, for olives or nuts or something. Or even better? Rather than get your host a bottle of wine (which they might feel obligated to serve, even if it doesn't really match what they've planned on doing for the evening), get them a gift certificate for the amount of a bottle of wine at their local liquor store. They'll love you so much for that, you can't even imagine.
Small talk can be awkward; as a host, it's part of your job to relieve any and all awkwardness. And nobody wants to talk about their work. (Well, some people do. They tend to be not as much fun at parties.) One safe conversation starter is to talk about travel and/or vacation and weekend plans—even if those plans involve doing absolutely nothing other than rewatching Game of Thrones.
Need more help? Here's a great book called Conversation Sparks full of weird and funny trivia, which is all about relieving us from the oppression of an awkward pause. The author, Ryan Chapman, also has a Tumblr called Help Fill the Silence, which serves the same purpose.
THE TWO DRINK RULE
I know it's hard to even contemplate, but seriously consider only having two drinks as you party. Need a reason why? Here's Lifehacker's Tom Scocca on the benefits of sticking to just two drinks: Having two drinks—specifically, one drink, and then later on another drink—is moderate social drinking. It will probably make you a little more relaxed and easygoing. It is unlikely, however, to leave you sloppy or belligerent. You will not be the life of the party. Being the life of the party is usually a mistake, especially around people you don’t like and/or have to work with.
Obviously, there's flexibility surrounding this (unless you're at a work party; then really never have more than two drinks ever), but it's a good, handy piece of advice to keep in mind, and could prevent you from embarrassing yourself in, you know, your own home.
PERFECTING YOUR GOODBYE
Ah, so: The night's over! Farewells are always awkward, and it's just a fact that few people know how to leave a party gracefully. One way to do this, weirdly enough, is to actually not say goodbye. If it's a huge party, guests should not feel obligated to say an official farewell, and can slip out and follow up with a thank you text or email. (Hosts: Don't be offended by this. Those guests have just spared you another few minutes of small talk.)
For smaller parties, goodbyes definitely count. So make sure to let each other—both host and guest—know how much the whole evening was appreciated. And guests? Still follow up with a thank you text or email. It's the right thing to do.
And for those guests who just don't seem to know the party's over? It's fully acceptable to start cleaning up around them, persistently remind them how fast an Uber will get them home, and, finally, just tell them you're going to sleep.
The party's over. Your night's done. Congratulations, you partied like an adult. And, if you followed the two drink rule, you won't even have a hangover the next day. Well done.