10 party disasters (and how to avoid them)

Party planning isn't just coordinating and executing your creative vision and all the amazing details—it's also being prepared for the worst. We've got tips to help prevent these less-than-ideal party situations.

1. Nothing is ready—and the guests have arrived

Whether taking care of your to-do list took longer than expected or an unforeseen circumstance got in the way, there's no way to catch up once you're behind—especially once guests arrive. The best way to avoid this? Prep, prep, prep. Set up decorations the day before, make your dishes in the week leading up to your party, place your to-go order well in advance...you get the picture. Trust us, the more you have done before the day of, the better. Even choose your outfit beforehand!

If you do run out of time, make sure you know what's high priority and what can get left behind. Picking up the birthday cake is much more important than customizing a playlist when the clock's ticking. Recruit backup from a close friend or two who can help buy ice, pick up last-minute flowers or even help you tidy up the space.

2. The entertainment is late or MIA

Is the band late? Did your Cinderella call in sick? Always have a Plan B aka a fun activity up your sleeve, whether it's a fun playlist handy for a singalong or a competitive game (team games are a great way to get everyone involved and distracted!). Tip: For children’s parties, keep any entertainers a surprise in case they fall through. We want to avoid any unnecessary tears when kids find out Spider-Man won't actually be showing up!

3. The menu doesn't account for dietary restrictions (and picky eaters)

Always ask guests ahead of time to share any food allergies or other dietary concerns. Having a well-rounded menu goes beyond having vegan or peanut-free options. Plan your menu well in advance so it's full of diverse and complementary flavors, textures and ingredients. For instance, avoid only meat-forward appetizers like meatballs and chicken wings and include crudité and dips. Avoid trying any new recipes for your party in case it doesn't turn out the way you wanted as well.

4. There end up being a lot of no-shows

Picture this: You invite 30 people to a party and only 6 show up. Not only do you have way to much food...the party just feels flat. The best way to avoid no-shows is to send out invitations well in advance and give a clear RSVP date so you know who is and isn't coming! If you do have a smaller-than-expected party despite your best efforts...well, take it as a sign that the it was meant to be an intimate party! Dim the lights a bit so the empty space isn't as obvious, turn up the music and make sure your guests have a drink in hand. Feel free to rearrange your space to work for the smaller crowd. If moving the food from the dining table to the coffee table and clustering more chairs and pillows around the couch feels better than guests standing around...why not?

5. The party isn't getting started

The food is out, the drinks have been poured and the music is going...but something's missing. Tired guests, group chemistry—it could be a number of things. It's why we recommend curating your guest list so it's a balance of people who already know each other and some new people (but make sure that every guest knows at least one person besides you!). But if the party is just taking longer to get into full swing, that's when you really need to step up as the host. Make sure the music is upbeat, introduce guests to each other, get a board game going and make sure guests are really eating and drinking. The key is to get people up and moving!

6. You get party crashers

Note in your invitation that space is limited and that if guests want to bring a plus one, to ask you first so you're not surprised day of with someone's ex showing up. If people still show up uninvited, then it's a game time decision. You can simply tell that you are sorry but preparations were not made for their presence and ask them to leave (especially if this is a sit-down dinner and you don't have enough seats). If you're feeling generous, invite them in and then get a feel for the situation to make sure nothing feels awkward. (Hopefully you should have over-prepared on food and drinks so you'll have extra anyway. Or just order some pizzas.)

7. Heated conversations are ruining the mood

We're not opposed to a spirited discussion on politics or current events, but it's easy for those conversations to get tense. Once the mood is ruined, it's hard to restore. Step in when needed and don't choose sides: change the subject (doing this gracefully is a skill!), suggest an activity or whatever else will steer the conversation in another direction. If there are specific people at the center of a heated discussion that you break up, check in on them later to make sure they're ok. If someone is offended and you're close enough to the other party, you may want to pull them aside and see if they're open to apologizing. And if it comes down to it, it's okay to ask someone to leave if they're making it hard for others to have a good time.

8. The weather isn't cooperating

Plan ahead as well as you can for an indoor or outdoor event...but Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate! Keep an eye on the forecast in the days leading up to and  have an alternative if setting conditions are unpredictable. This can be as simple as having a canopy handy in case of rain, making sure your living room is clean if the party moves inside or even just checking your AC is ready for any heat wave.

9. The tipsy (or plain drunk) guest

The line between buzzed, tipsy and drunk can be very fine, depending on the person. As a host, you should already be scanning the room frequently to see if everyone is having a good time—just scope out any guests who might be having one too may drinks while you're at it. If a guest is still manageable, offer them some water or have a trusted friend keep an eye on them. If they're past the point of no return...well, make sure they have plenty of water and a place to lie down or throw up if needed. If they need to leave, make sure someone takes them home, or offer them a place to sleep so they don't have to drive home.

10. You're too busy to really enjoy the party

As a host almost all of the responsibilities of the party fall on you, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy your own party! The last thing your guests want to see is you busy and stressed. It's all about balance. If you need to restock towels in the bathroom, then of course take care of that. But if the tray of crab cakes is cleared out but there's plenty of other food, there's not need to rush off to pop some more in the oven. The number one goal of the host is to be present with your guests!

Ready to host your next party? We've got a whole lot of invitations for you to choose from to get started.

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