Day 22 :: There's no I in team. Or in party.

Please forthelove do not try and throw an epic party by yourself. It's a TERRIBLE idea.

Instead, recruit people you know who have something to offer. My friend Megan can make beautiful decorations out of anything (that's her Instagram account up there). My friend Melissa can style a table (or an entire event!) like a rock star. Sara takes beautiful photos. My sister Hannah (who I do a podcast with) can make a playlist that would rival T Bone Burnett's. 

Creativity is always better with others. Let people make their art alongside you.

Day 21 :: What to remember when making your guest list.

This is one of the best and simultaneously worst things about throwing a party. You're excited to celebrate something with friends, but you can't possibly invite everybody to every party.

Did you guys also have a List A and List B when you made your wedding guest list? THE WORST. If anyone ever found that paper, I'd bury myself in a hole with my Benedict Cumberbatch poster and die.

(I'm not kidding by the way. Here's my poster.)

He keeps me smart, y'all. I go and get a new book from the bookshelf ALL THE TIME.

While being buried in a hole with Benedict Cumberbatch I mean a poster of him is actually not ideal (right? convince me, please), it is possible to navigate the guest list without a steady stream of awkward.

Things to Remember When Making Your Guest List

1. Everyone should have someone there that they know.
If you think your party is the place for that one friend to get to know the rest of your friends, think again. Forced socialization is the WORST. Instead, save the meet-and-greet for a lunch out one weekend with a smaller group so your one friend isn't socially bombarded. Or invite her to bring someone with her so that she has a person to talk to if things go south.

2. Everyone should be in the party spirit.
No hecklers, people. If you're throwing a Harry Potter gala, but your friend's boyfriend makes fun of anything that doesn't involve football, consider leaving her (and therefore him) off the list. Sounds harsh, but remember your most important job? Heckler boyfriend will not make your friends feel comfortable, especially when they get excited about making their own wands.

3. You don't have to invite everyone you know to everything you throw.
Some parties are better small. Sometimes group dynamics play a big part in whatever agenda you have planned. You're still a good friend to someone even if this particular party or guest list doesn't include them. It really is going to be okay.

Don't let the guest list keep you from throwing the party. Be thoughtful and considerate, and then move on. 

[goes back into hole with Benedict Cumberbatch I CAN'T STOP]

Day 20 :: Set your perspective.

It's been all hands on the party deck the last couple of weeks, and we need a zen moment. 

Our heads get swirly with the planning, the ideas, the expectations, and before long, we start to hype up the party more than the people there. 

Worse, we might start to think of ourselves as way better ("I'm sooooo awesome because this party is sooooo awesome!") or way worse ("I suck at planning parties, and everyone will hate it and me.") than we actually are. Here's a little Monday morning truth to go with your pastry and coffee.

This party isn't about you.

This party won't define you. 

This party won't make people like you more. 

Feel better? Yeah, that was the wompy side of the coin. Here's the other. 

This party is about having fun, not about proving that you are fun.

This party will make your friends feel loved, even if the thing flops.

This party will feed your soul in some really cool ways. 

My truth? I'm a fangirl. I throw fangirl parties. And if I get down on myself, parties like mine can feel silly. On a Monday morning, you might feel the same. But you guys? Parties are important. Celebrating is important. Giving your friends a place to come and feel lighthearted is important. 

Relax and remember, my sweet friends. It's just a party but it also matters, so show yourself some grace and have fun.


Day 19 :: You don't have to be the boss of dancing.

We make the mistake of thinking we need to entertain our people constantly. Always have something going on, always be on, run the party ship from the front of the room like we're Johnny Carson. 

Indirect vs. Direct Entertainment

If you cruise-direct your party and continually offer up the next thing and push people into something (even with the sweetest voice and intention), your party will bum you and your people out.

But if you have a big theme party, invite people in, and then do nothing but sit around, it'll be fine, but it probably won't be memorable.

You need both. You need indirect entertainment where you aren't involved - activities at seating areas, voting for something on your own time, a relevant game or movie or even home movie (!) on the TV - and direct entertainment where you have everyone's attention, i.e. games that don't suck.

Being intentional about both kinds will keep your party alive and moving and keep your people smiling... without having to be the boss of dancing. 

Day 18 :: Party games... they don't have to suck.

If you invite me to a shower and make me smell a candy bar in a diaper or wrap someone in toilet paper, I'll do it but I'll hate it. If you like that kind of thing, rock it out. I have zero problems with you... just party games.

Why Party Games Are Lame

  1. They're embarrassing.
  2. They have no purpose other than to be embarrassing and fill time.
  3. Some people are more competitive than others, so someone is always bored.
  4. They take too long.
  5. Again, totally embarrassing.

Can I get an amen?

But you, my friend, can change the game on party games. You need something to do, and games are a pretty obvious choice. But how do we make them not suck? Glad you asked.

How Party Games Can Be Awesome

  1. Never make someone do anything.
  2. Never put anyone in an embarrassing position for longer than a few seconds.
  3. Team games win the day since potential humiliation is spread out among the group.
  4. Choose/create games that have entertainment value for people who aren't participating.
  5. Don't play games for longer than an hour unless the party theme is games. Then go nuts.

Pretty simple, right? A little creativity can go a long way in the game department as long as you follow these rules. Let me share with you some personal party game creations to get you started.

The Hunger Games Games

I've done this twice because I'm insane and awesome and have insane and awesome friends. In my living room arena, we played games until only one tribute remained.

(If you haven't read or seen any of the Hunger Games books or movies, excuse the vernacular. The context clues should keep you above water.)

At the first party, it was everyone for himself. We had four rounds of games, and the top scorers in each round moved on to the next.

  • The first round tested knowledge - a non-humiliating write-things-on-paper quiz to keep everyone engaged without being in the spotlight.
  • The second round tested physical stamina and accuracy - we played Pin the Rose on Snow. I spun people in front of a blowup of President Snow's face, and they had to pin the rose, tail-on-the-donkey style. A tiny bit embarrassing, but it wasn't the first game so people were already in the groove AND it lasted seconds. No ongoing humiliation, please.
  • The third round (a much smaller group now) tested problem-solving skills under pressure - they had to unscramble character names. Because only a few were participating, I chose a game that would engage everyone not playing. It needed to be a game people could actually watch.
word-game.jpg
  • The fourth and final showdown was between my sister and my friend who helped deliver my babies. My heart was torn, you guys. This was it! The game for cash prizes and pride! The game that thirty other people had to enjoy and root for! How do we make this game not suck? I wrote the main characters' names on every side of a small box wrapped in gold paper, and then I read a series of quotes. The two final tributes had to choose a name from their box and face it forward to answer. The person who got the most right won. Do you see how that's different than just writing the names on paper? No one else can see that. It's even better than having them say it out loud (which can get tricky since it's easy to appear like you're cheating) because there's anticipation for the viewer. We can actually see their wheels turning, not just guess what they're thinking. 

The second time around, I did the same structure but started with team games instead. It worked with the Catching Fire theme (hello, alliances), but it helped people feel engaged earlier if they weren't too brushed up on their Katniss trivia. 

That's great, Kendra, but your theme is what made the games not suck. What if my theme doesn't naturally lend itself to games?

Oh, sweet little doubting grasshopper, fret not. I once threw a party dedicated entirely to the carrot cake. Our game? I gave all the cakes names and personalities because of course I did.

photo.JPG

Then I made this huge poster with their names and ingredient breakdowns so people could see how they compared. After much conversation and consideration, we had a hardcore vote on the favorite cake. Sure, it wasn't a typical game with points, but it was an activity that people did together with a result. It doesn't always have to be Pictionary.

If you follow my game rules, put a twist on existing games using your idea list, and skip the fear of looking dumb, you can find a great game for any theme. 

Did you catch that last part? Skip the fear of looking dumb. You can look dumb. You should look dumb. If you're willing to be silly, your friends won't cringe so much, and everyone will have a blast. That's how you change the game on party games.