How to plan your next party and make it a super hit

its party timeEveryone loves a party. So have one. Themes and elaborate decorations aren’t necessary. Sometimes a basic kegger is all you need. But if you’re going to have guests over to your place, you don’t want to screw it up. Take a little time to think about the basics and make sure you have everything covered. Here are some of the important issues you should consider to save yourself headaches and embarrassment.

Drinks, Part One
Parties are social, so alcohol, which lessens your inhibitions, is worth having around. College parties across the country are fueled by one common source of energy: Beer. You can have mixed drinks, too, but that gets pricey. Of course, you’ll want to discourage excessive drinking and drinking and driving. But for a basic bash, you should have some beer.

Domestic-beer kegs are most popular among college students, says Steve Hopkins of Eastgate Liquors, a popular liquor store in Columbia, MO. Prices range from $44 for a half-barrel (that’s a typical keg) of Keystone Light up to $66 for Michelob. One half-barrel holds nearly 200 12-ounce servings of beer. Kegs of imported beer can be specially ordered and can cost in excess of $100 apiece.

“Natural Light’s our most popular,” Hopkins says, “Or, as the kids like to call it, Nattie Light.” Expect to leave deposits on kegs, and if you need them, taps and ice tubs. All three deposits can run you almost $100. Hopkins says his store frequently retains deposits on taps that have been abused, but keg deposits are almost always returned. “The keg is pretty hard to damage,” he says. “We’d probably take back anything as long as it’s not chopped in half.”

Ranzi Mefrakes, the manager of Southside Liquors in Columbia, agrees. “I’ve never had a damaged keg,” he says. “It’s not my judgment to decide. Most of the time, the distributor takes it.”

Drinks, Part Two
You should offer alternative party drinks for your guests who don’t want beer. Courteous hosts put out different types of sodas and water for the non-boozing crowd and designated drivers. Even some drinkers may choose to take a break from alcohol and just hang out. The option to have other drinks keeps them around longer.

Plan Ahead
Bill Veige, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Missouri in Columbia and a salty veteran of the college house party scene, says party planning should begin two to three weeks prior to the event so you have plenty of time to spread the word. The optimal keg-to-beer ratio, Vehige says, is one keg per every 25-30 people. It’s better to have too much beer than to run out. He recommends reserving an extra keg in case more guests than expected show up.

When party night comes, “Give yourself two to three hours to party-proof,” Vehige says. “Get all of the valuables out of the main party area.” If nobody shows up, Vehige says you should improvise and make good use of the beer. “You just get really drunk and cut your losses,” he says.

Music can be the lifeline of your party. Constant tunes blended with the roaring chatter of a crowd keep everything going. When the music stops, it seems as though something is missing. So, even if your stereo is small and sounds like a dented-up 1985 $20 thrift store model, get it out (but use a better sound system if you have access to one).

Veige recommends hip-hop and reggae for party music. He also notes the emergence of techno house music, which is common at raves and clubs. But listen to what you like, as long as it’s upbeat: Try burning a mix CD of your favorite party songs that you’ve “borrowed” from the Internet.

The Fuzz
You’ve got to worry about the police if you’re having underage drinkers at your party or if anybody will be driving after leaving your party. Beyond the fact that driving drunk is stupid and dangerous, if anyone drives after drinking at your party, they are a major liability to you if they drive home drunk and hurt themselves or another person. Encourage designated drivers, or no driving at all.

If you serve alcohol to minors, you need to know that you could get hit with a civil suit by their parents. And if you get busted for noise violations, you could face more police trouble. It will only get worse if you have alcohol at your place and you’re under 21.

The Columbia police department advises all party givers to keep the music down. “Our officers have a zero-tolerance policy towards peace disturbances, especially at night,” says Capt. Mike Martin. He says that if noise can be heard beyond 100 feet, the officers will issue an instant arrest. Martin notes that these rules vary from city to city, so check what the rules are where you live and try to abide by them.

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