Disclaimer: The Management will not be held responsible for any charges brought against you or your party guests in any court--local, state, federal, international or military--any damage that results to you, your guests, your possessions, your car, your souls, your french fries, or your adorable dog.
These are by no means definitive rules for preparing your abode for a shebang. These are not the things Mr. Rogers will tell you if you call him up and ask "how can I throw a party for all my friends?" These are not official in any way. These are some guidelines I gave czeano when he threw Nature Trail to Hell in 3-D: A Very Appalachian E2 Gathering (OF DOOM!), which I learned the hard way after four years of drunk-proofing a row house in Baltimore for a cappella parties.
First, you need to drunk-proof your place. If there won't be any alcohol, dancing, caffeine, or frolicking at the planned party, you may skip this step. However, once a party starts, it's difficult to stop; it will gain momentum. Always plan for the party to go one notch louder than you're expecting.
To drunk-proof a house, look at it through the eyes of a two-year-old with a hammer, and/or a Jack Russell Terrier.
Walk from room to room asking, "what in this room could make a big mess?" Fix it: lock it up, hide it under a weighted tarp, place it in cold storage, wrap it in pillows, pour it into a 55 gallon drum and send it to Utah--just don't leave it out. Repeat as needed. You'll find in the course of cleaning up that a certain amount of off-limits area is needed to store the dangerous/tempting/toxic stuff.
Signage for doors is essential. OFF LIMITS and THIS IS A BATHROOM and THIS IS NOT A BATHROOM and NO SMOKING INSIDE OR I'LL KICK YR ASSand NO PUDDING BEYOND THIS POINT and It would not be a funny funny joke to lock the sleeping people in the basement p.s. please and Aquarius are all good signs for a party. Write them in large non-blurry letters as unambiguously as possible on paper that contrasts with your doors. Affix them with Scotch tape, painter's masking tape, gaff tape, or something else that won't leave a mark.
Place liners in all of your trash cans. This facilitates a quick change--some cans will fill up in a few hours, others won't get any trash at all--and also ensures that nobody has to scrub out trash cans later. Keep spare liners in the trash can so if someone moves a full bag, they won't have to come ask you about trash bags and get sidetracked.
It's important to have this done before the guests arrive--the first few arrivals might be cool with helping you set up while the party spins up, but don't count on it. Be prepared.
Once you've drunk-proofed and put up a bunch of signs, you may notice that your house looks somewhat sterile. Don't despair. There are lots of things you can place in the path of partygoers that will hold their attention better than Aunt Edith's Faberge Egg. Feel free to adjust this list to fit your budget, crowd, and timespan--for example, if it's ten people and nobody's staying over, don't bother with extra toilet paper. Improvise, adapt and overcome:
- deck(s) of playing cards
- a giant box of crayolas and a stack of paper
- name tags
- smoking amenities--if you provide clearly marked ashtrays (even Coke cans with "ASHTRAY" written on them in marker) then smokers won't improvise with your household goods as much
- toilet paper in abundance
- frisbee(s) or aerobie(s)
- cheap Sam's Club towels
- Rubik's Cube, magazines, tennis balls,
juggling balls, etc. This may be in the bring-your-own category; the important thing is that, at 2am when the dancing stops, what to people have in their hands while they talk?
- Stuff to sit on to facilitate conversation. Cheap chairs, lawn chairs, pillows with throwaway covers, lawn blankets, air mattresses, couches, futons... ANYTHING, but make sure people can sit in clusters and do the talkie-talkie-talkie GTKY thing that makes a party. Unless you have a very big house, you don't have enough seating for everyone already. Go get some.
Food, drink, dessert, snacks, munchies... all of this may be required at your party. If people are coming from out of town, they will want a cold drink when
they get in from the road. You'll want coolers and ice in abundance. If you have a freezer, empty it out in the week before the party for ice storage. Figure one cup-ful of beverage ice per person per 2 hours (most people don't ice beer or liquor), and additional ice if you're going to fill a cooler or a wash tub for cans & bottles.
Food is tricky, and all depends on the party. A barbecue grill is great because you can marinade before the party, fire it up at will, and cook until everyone is happy or the meat's gone. If you're not blessed with a grill, consider a filling dip, with beans, meat, or soy, and lots of chips. Your goal in preparing a big meal is to have something that everyone can eat (take kosher and vegetarian lifestyles into account) that you don't have to make for everyone individually. Ponder a buffet-style meal, or a pot luck if it's going to be a long-term shindig.
Munchies are a little easier, and you can't really go wrong. Well, sardine-and-garlic potato chips may not be everyone's favorite flavor, but Opus likes 'em, right? Right. Well, for everyone else, anything with peanut butter in it is nutritionally dense--not necessarily healthy, but filling. A jar of peanut butter and a few bags of pretzel rods go a long way the day after a debauch. Alternatively, let me recommend a drum of pretzels; not sure why, but drunk people love 'em.
Food, munchies, ice: tough. Drinks: simple! People will almost certainly BYOB to a large party, to share their tastes in alcohol. People will trade beers, mix exotic home-brewed hooch in your kitchen, and generally take care of getting themselves drunk. It is, however, a good idea to provide a base. One large bottle each of vodka, rum, whiskey, and perhaps bourbon, as well as 2 liters of each of the major soda varieties, is a good starting place; improvise from there depending on time, budget, and guest list. As in Say Anything, it helps to have a weapon of choice. You don't have to make Purple Passion or The Blue Drink, but a punch bowl can save you alcohol--if that's what everyone is drinking, then people may be less inclined to drink straight personal doses out of your stock.
The Blast Radius
I hope you haven't started without considering what to do when the party winds up, and what to do when it winds down. Beforehand, you'll want to have a broom & dustpan, a mop & bucket, rags (figure one or two per room), Lysol or similar disinfectant, and a few extra trash bags. Rubber gloves may be useful for the squeamish or if there are a large number of strangers at the party. Notify your neighbors that you're having a party at least a week in advance, and if you think they'd enjoy it, invite them to come. It might be polite to offer to buy them movie tickets or a gift certificate to a nice local place for that night, so they don't have to be there during the peak. This may also soothe their nerves and keep them from bringing the polizia down on you. Signs clearly identifying your house and a map showing where it's okay to park are good things to put on your front door.
Be aware that when the party winds down, some guests will almost certainly be willing to help clean up--be ready to lead this activity. If they say, "what can we do?" and you don't have any ideas, they may not help unless they've got mad situational awareness and initiative (roll d10). With the cleaning supplies you prepared, you won't have to think twice--sweep, mop, take down signs, do a sweep for trash. Your guests, grateful for the party you threw, will be glad to help.
One last thing
: because you're hosting this thing, it may be more stressful than relaxing from your perspective. Find one or two friends who have their shit together
, whom you trust to make snap decisions in your absence, and ask them to keep their eyes open during the party, or even cover for you while you step onto the dance floor