We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
You want to have people over for a big event. Maybe you have a child graduating from high school, just bought your first home or just want to have family and friends over for a gathering. Figuring out how much food you need for a large group and how to entertain them can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. What do you do at a house party? What makes a good gathering even better? Follow these six easy steps and learn how to plan a house party to throw an event people will talk about for years to come.
Step 1. Make a Guest List
The first step in how to plan a house party is to think about the size of your house and how many people it can comfortably hold. While you may have plans to celebrate in the back yard, the weather may not cooperate. What happens if everyone has to rush inside?
Set a firm number of people and then consider the average number of people who come and don’t. Most experts agree that around 60% of those invited come to a hosted event. If you invite close family and friends, you can count on about 75% attending.
Step 2. Choose a Theme
The best house parties center around a theme. It can be anything from a relaxed backyard barbeque to the roaring 20s, complete with guests arriving in costume. Your theme impacts the food you serve, the decor you choose and even your music, so find something that fits the tone you want to set.
Some themes even allow you to create activities around the idea. For example, a murder mystery party might turn into the 1980s, and all the activities center around that era. A cookout focus might have simple corn hole and outdoor games set up on the lawn.
Step 3. Send Invitations and Get RSVPs
Once you have a theme and a guest list, it’s time to send the invitations. The invites should match the party’s focus and explain any special considerations such as bringing a side dish or wearing a particular style of clothing. If the event is casual, state it on the description.
Your invitation can arrive via snail mail or email. Keep in mind older generations may prefer a hard copy invitation. You can also send evites to Gen-X and younger, and paper invites to anyone over 55.
Step 4. Plan the Food
Your food needs to match the theme of the party. Some things are apparent, such as hot dogs and hamburgers for a backyard gathering. For other ideas, you may have to think outside the box a bit. What kind of food did they serve at parties in the 1980s? How do you recreate the 20s through the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the party?
Decide if you want to cook yourself or cater the event. As a rule of thumb, you need about one pound of food per guest plus dessert and drinks. The easiest way to figure out how much food you’ll need is using an online calculator such as the one at Save the Food.
It’s better to have too much food than not enough. You can always eat leftovers or send them home with guests.
Step 5. Entertain Your Guests
How do you keep your family and friends engaged throughout the party? Some party occurrences are obvious, such as offering food, cutting the cake and making some toasts. What about the other time? How do you fill it?
Take into consideration the personality of your crew. Do they love to dance? Hire a DJ. Maybe they enjoy listening to good music, so you could splurge for a live band. You can play games related to your party theme, ask everyone to share a funny story or simply mingle and chit-chat, making sure all your guests have someone to talk with.
Step 6. Enlist Backup
At least one thing will go wrong during your party. The caterer cancels at the last minute. Storms roll into town. Half the people who said they were coming don’t show up.
Have a close friend or family member to help keep things running. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for their help. Seek out a person who is great at organization but not overly pushy.
Relax and Enjoy
More than likely, you were pretty stressed getting everything together and learning how to plan a house party. You want everything to go perfectly for your house party. Once the guests arrive and everyone has a drink in hand, and knows where the food is, take a deep breath.
Things may not go perfectly, but everyone there came because they care about you and want to spend time with you. The secret to being a great host is creating an opportunity for people to get together and then relaxing enough to enjoy their company.