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Great Party Essentials

All Great Parties Have These 9 Things In Common

What makes a party great? there are nine essential elements that great events have in common. Without these things, a party can be good, but it won’t necessarily leave your guests thinking 'That party was unbelievable'

To ensure your guests will continue thinking about your sensational event weeks after they leave the party, make sure these crucial components are present.

1. An Enticing Invitation

party invitation

Stocksy/Kelly Knox

One party planning ingredient that is often overlooked but shouldn’t be is the invitation. Why? Because it sets the tone for the event. Upon opening a thoughtful and enticing invitation, your guests will immediately feel excited for the party to come. An alluring invite comes in all shapes and sizes. Beautiful, thick calligraphy is lovely, but so is a heartfelt and hysterical email. Include all the pertinent information (time, location, occasion, dress code, etc.) and any other fun tidbits—the more personal, the better.

2. An Interesting Group of Guests

party guests

Stocksy/Jill Chen

There should be a bit of exclusivity to your event. You don’t want to invite everyone you know. Instead, come up with a number of guests and curate an interesting group of people from there. Pull people from all aspects of your life. Think your new office mate would hit it off with your high school buddy? Invite them both to a dinner and make sure to seat them next to each other. Consider your guests’ individual personalities. The best crowd will include introverts and extroverts, great conversationalists and excellent listeners, and people of all ages.

The best crowd will include introverts and extroverts, great conversationalists and excellent listeners, and people of all ages.

3. Festive Décor

fall tablescape

Stocksy/Brad and Jen Butcher

Your event doesn’t have to be this over-the-top, but you should transform your space—even if it’s a studio apartment!—with fresh flowers, twinkling candles, and a pretty tablecloth. Streamers and balloons are also welcome.

4. A Lively Playlist

people dancing at outdoor party

Stocksy/Lauren Lee

Without music, a party can feel like a meeting, so turn up the tunes and set the mood with a lively playlist. If you make a playlist, be sure to have several hours of music and choose songs that will move along the event. The music that plays during dinner should be different from the songs that play afterward. Keep things chill and mellow during the meal, and then bring out the dance tunes to get the crowd moving. Another idea? Set Spotify to a favorite channel.

5. Thoughtful Details

The best hostesses are thoughtful and will cater the little details of her event to delight her guests. She’ll serve a menu of the guest of honor’s favorite foods and decorate with their favorite color. A seating chart with place cards, a chalkboard with the evening’s menu, a favor that guests will actually enjoy later—all of these little things, when added up, make for a memorable event. Don’t overlook the little details!

6. Crowd-Pleasing Food

Charcuterie board with fresh cheese, jam, fruit, and hors d'oeuvres.

 Courtesy of Stocksy

It’s not a party without a delicious spread of food, so don’t overlook the menu. It doesn’t matter if the party takes place during odd hours, such as a bridal shower that begins after lunch at 1:30 p.m.; you still have to have some sort of snacks for your guests to nibble on. You don’t have to be a crazy cook to set up a gorgeous cheese platter; you simply have to befriend the cheesemonger at your local market and arrange everything on a platter.

It’s also perfectly acceptable to serve platters of crudité from Costco or fried chicken wings from your favorite Korean joint, as long as you take everything out of the package. Plate on elegant serving platters or chafing dishes to keep the food warm. If you want to make a menu of homemade dips and dainty finger foods, do as much as you can in advance. You don’t want to be slaving away in the kitchen while your guests are enjoying themselves in the living room!

The surprise element is one of the things your guests will be talking and texting about tomorrow, so get creative!

7. Delicious Drinks

Couple mixing cocktails together

Westend61 / Getty Images

For some people, alcohol is not a necessary element of a fun party—I am not one of those people. Of course, you don’t want to play bartender all night, so if you can make a cocktail in a big batch before the party, do so. Make a big pitcher of margaritas or a punch bowl of sangria, and then as your guests arrive, offer them a beverage. Other options are to set up a bar and let guests make their own drinks, or simply offer beer and wine. Proper glassware is preferred, but not obligatory—Solo cups are fine in a pinch.

8. Group Bonding Activities

Games are good; basically, you want to get everyone to do something together that will make them more relaxed and friendly. They don’t have to be cheesy, but adding an element of competition to your soirée will liven things up. Trivia and charades are classic, timeless party games—they never get old, because they are fun! Want something more modern? Cards Against Humanity is an awesome way to get people chatting, and Table Topics are good for a more subdued dinner party.

9. An Element of Surprise

Dessert table

Stocksy/Christian Gideon

Whether it’s a makeshift photo booth where guests can snap funny pictures or an entire table covered in delectable desserts, there should be an element of surprise to your event. It doesn’t have to be crazy, just something nobody was expecting. Serve bread from the hot new bakery in town that has a huge waiting list, have an after-dinner port tasting, or open an expensive magnum of red wine—it is a party, after all!