Family party tips, hints and tricks to inevitable success!
If you’re planning a family or friends party, it can be very stressful and hugely demanding of your time. In my experience of entertaining at such events, I have learnt a lot about what seems to be successful and what doesn’t – and I’ve used this experience to form a helpful list of tips for you to enjoy! It is divided into two main parts: ‘Planning’ and ‘At the party’ Let’s begin…
1. Whom to invite?
Well, ideally it would be everyone. However, there has to be a limit (see tip below about space). It’s very important to realise that this is a key part in the planning of a successful party. The company matters the most and you don’t have to have every other part planned to perfection. It may even be someone you don’t know well who becomes the life and soul of the party!
2. How many people should I invite?
How many people can your house or venue comfortably fit?
I have performed magic at private parties where I feel like a sardine in a tin! It was completely packed and quite uncomfortable for many of the guests. Conversely, I have been to huge properties with only a handful of guests – I would prefer the space to the crowded scenario, but often it’s hard to create an atmosphere if it is too sparse. So I always recommend that you consider around 1.5 to 2 square metres per guest as being a comfortable allocation.
3. Extended family coming?
Perhaps you are not well acquainted with some of the extended family you wish to invite? Maybe there are newly-weds and you can’t remember the name of the newcomer who married your distant relative last year? If this is the case, consider putting together a committee of reliable relatives who could contact these family members. It will lighten your load and make others feel more involved and committed to the event.
4. Assign tasks to others
On that note, you could form a planning committee for the same reasons – to lighten your load and to make others engaged and excited about the party. The members could be in charge of finding a suitable venue, planning activities, decorating, buying food and drinks (if the venue is not providing these). This also serves to ease the pain of last minute panic when you realise things have been overlooked (e.g. no ice for drinks). Assigning roles to others means that they are likely to have taken these problems into consideration.
5. The 80/20 rule
If you have never heard of this rule, in summary, it means that you should focus on 20% of something and the remaining 80% often inevitably gets done as a result. This applies to your hosting. If you focus on the 20% important things such as serving food and drink and ensuring your guests are chatting, the rest will look after itself! Trust me, apply this rule to greatly reduce your stress levels on the day and to relax and enjoy the party!
6. Quick, essential tip
If at home, remember to make or buy enough ice for drinks! Failure to do so results in disaster!
At the party
7. Loosen up – the party is about to begin!
15 minutes before guests arrive – STOP! Relax! Perhaps light some candles, turn on some party lights, make your home or venue fantastic and show it off! Then pour some wine or a cold beer and await your guests. It’s important to wind down from the frantic setting up before the first guest arrives, otherwise your anxiety is felt and the mood can be awkward at first.
8. Get guests mingling and chatting
The party needs ‘energy’ so people must start mingling to build up the atmosphere. You can hire party entertainers who specialise their service in relaxing your guests and getting them chatting (such as myself nick-twst.co.uk). Other great ideas that I have observed are simple yet highly effective:
- Strategic food placement – people gather where the food is! I see this time and time again, so spread the food to different locations to greatly increase the chance of movement and intermingling.
- Ensure there is NOT enough seating – This means that some of the guests have to be on their feet and are forced to move around!
- Allow guests to pour their own drinks at a drinks table or bar area so that they are forced to move to get another drink (this also takes some of the stress away from yourself). Again, you will often find that this area becomes a serious hub as some gatherers find themselves rooted to this area and, funnily enough, tend to be in a chatty mood!
9. Talking of moods – getting the party mood
You need lights and music!
The best thing you could do in a large venue is to hire a professional DJ. However, in my experience of family parties, this is not quite right and a simple music player and good set of speakers can suffice. You should seriously consider music apps that allow your guests to contribute to the playlist so you don’t have to keep playing the part of DJ all night! Here are my pick of the apps (click the blue hyperlink for details):
Android/iOS, FREE – DJ 51
Small fee – DJTxt allows guests to text through a song request, which is subsequently played!
With regard to party lighting, take a look at my other blog post on lighting here. It is written for weddings, but most of it is highly relevant to our cause here.
10. Playing games to build up the party atmosphere
Click this link for these games which are really only relevant if you are having a smaller party with most or all involved:
If you have a larger party at an external venue, try these simple games placed on each table – it is fun to watch the groups bonding, chatting and laughing at these games:
- Interview Game. People on the table pair up with the person they know the least. They have a crib sheet for interviewing the other guest for between 3 and 5 minutes. Questions could include favourite holiday spots, the worst job they have ever had or their most embarrassing moment.
- Family Trivia. Before the party, ask guests to tell you a rarely known fact about themselves. Place this at the table they will be sitting at, along with the rest of the people to be sat at the table. Someone picks a statement, reads it aloud and has to guess who the mystery person is.
- Name Game. Ask each guest to describe how they got their name. This works especially well at a family reunion where guests can add more to the story.
11. Keep the children busy
It is likely there will be children present. If this is the case, think of activities to keep them busy so the adults can have time with each other. Making friendship bracelets or an art project at a small craft table is a great idea for the little ones. Or, perhaps hire professional entertainment to keep them amused (if you choose me, nick twist, I also provide outstanding close-up magic for the adults – get your guests telling you that they have never seen Dynamo-style magic so close and that they are so amazed that you have organised such an experience for them!)
If you have older children present, assign them a role or job – they will love the responsibility. One could be the canapé server, one a wine waiter etc. One important tip is to have a separate area for them to go and watch a movie or play on their tablets for a while. They will enjoy their own space and they adults will be able to relax a little more too!
12. Balloons – success vs problems!
Balloon decor is perfect for this type of event. Hire a professional for some small (or large) pieces if you wish. I recommend Balloons by Danny Marino, they are the best balloon décor company in the area.
I would recommend keeping the balloon décor to the professionals – the temptation is to do it yourself but you will likely not achieve a great look! It is fine to attach some balloons to a wall but anything else would be best kept for the professionals!
If you blow up some balloons yourself, it is best to attach them to the wall as suggested above. However – and I cannot urge this strongly enough – resist the temptation to have balloons blown up and placed on the floor for the start of the party.
People often think, ‘It will be nice for the little ones to play with the balloons when they arrive.’ WRONG! It serves to ‘fire-up’ the boisterous children and the inevitable popping really upsets the more timid children attending. In short – it can really make the start of the party problematic.
13. Take photos
Obviously, you will want to take photos – these types of parties and events create memories. Take lots of photos to look back on the great time you had. If you have entertainers, get the camera out. Capture the laughter and amazement of your guests – the pictures will be fondly remembered. Consider these great tips when taking family shots:
- Strong lighting from behind your guests will almost certainly ruin the shot. Don’t have a window in the background to avoid this problem. Having a window behind you as you take the shot can help illuminate your shot well.
- Take plenty of photos in candid. You will see professional photographers doing this more than they take posed pictures since it can capture ‘the moment’. Granted, many of the photos will be no good, but it is worth the effort for the few which are like gold. Just shoot the natural fun and you may be surprised with the great outcome.
- This is fun! People really do seem to love placing images printed on paper/card in front of them as they pose for a shot! And it really looks great. Find some free pintables here. In my experience, props can also include anything from a hat (Nick Twist can make these, visit the shop here and scroll down to the balloon hat section), funky glasses or just a fake mustache.
The final and most important tip is to just remember to have fun. Relax and enjoy the party. After all that work, you deserve it.
Well, there we are! Lots of tips for family party success. I really hope that you have discovered a few things you had not yet thought of.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Email me at email@example.com