Common Party Planning Mistakes

partyStressed about your first time hosting a Halloween party? Don’t worry. Here’s a list of the 10 most common party planning mistakes beginner hosts make — and how to avoid them!

There are lots of mistakes people can make, but here I’ll focus on the ones most likely to be made by new or inexperienced Halloween party planners.

10. Not Informing Your Neighbours

Let your neighbours know you’re having a party well in advance. This isn’t just common courtesy, it helps mitigate any concern or complaints around loud music and shouting, including possible calls to the police. It also gives them the option to go out or leave town for the night if they prefer. I like to simply invite my neighbours to the party themselves. Even if they can’t always make it, they appreciate the invitation. Some have even offered up their driveways for additional party parking in the past!

9. Not Introducing Your Guests

Odds are that not everyone at your party will know every single guest, so make it a point to introduce people to others they are meeting for the first time. In addition to reflecting well on you as a host for using proper etiquette, doing so will also break the ice and encourage people to mingle at your party, thus increasing the fun and success of your night!

8. Overindulging At Your Own Party

You’re the host, not a guest. Don’t overdrink or overindulge to the point where you’re left embarassed, or worse yet, unable to take care of your guests. Things need to go smoothly, and you’re in charge of that. If your guests end up having to carry you to your own bed, you’ve gone too far. No one is saying you shouldn’t have fun at your party — after all, people will loosen up as much as you will — but remember that as the host, the responsibility for everyone’s enjoyment and safety ultimately rests with you.

empty plate7. Not Serving Enough Food

Serving too much food is a common mistake — as is force-feeding your guests — but not serving enough food is even more so.  You may not need to serve a full-course dinner if your party starts later in the evening, but too many people forget that you need to feed your guests some kind of finger foods at least twice (once near the beginning of the party and once at midnight). Food helps keep stomachs satisfied and absorbs alcohol, as any bartender will attest. Depending on how late your party goes, you may need to have food available either throughout the night or every 2-3 hours. Just make sure you don’t leave anything out that get spoiled and make people sick.

6. Cleaning Up In Front of Guests

Did a guest spill a drink? Don’t freak out. Clean it up just enough so no one slips on it — safety first after all — but don’t turn the lights on and break out the mop and bucket. Nothing kills a party like giving your guests the impression that it’s post-party cleanup time. Also, keep in mind that constantly picking up after your guests and tidying up takes you away from your key role: hosting. Either get some helpers or leave the bulk of the cleanup for the following morning, or you’ll risk missing out on your guests and making them feel like they’ve imposed simply by being there.

5. Not Thinking Through the Music

Get a DJ or set up a playlist, but make sure the music you select suits the crowd and the mood. Random songs won’t do it, so you need to think through how you want the night to go and what kind of music you’ll need. As mentionned in Halloween Party Planning 101, this is the area where I typically spend the most time, and for good reason. If your party’s around the corner and you haven’t given any thought to this yet, don’t panic. You can always use my ready-made Halloween dance party playlist. You’re welcome. 😉

4. Getting Stuck on Your Theme

Okay, so you’re throwing a themed Halloween party and someone didn’t follow all the rules, or — gasp! — didn’t even wear a costume. Don’t stress. Parties are intended to be fun and bring people together, so don’t make those who either missed the memo or couldn’t afford to include every detail feel alienated or left out. Welcome them with open arms and a smile. Your attitude and openness will determine the success of your party — and any future ones you may want to host.

3. Not Providing Enough Parking

Make sure your guests know where to park if you don’t have any parking spaces at your place. It’s important that they know where to find free (or at least cheap) parking nearby, and that they’re aware of what to do to avoid getting a parking ticket. You don’t want anyone associating your party with a hefty fine or overall parking hassles.

2. Not Considering Overnight Guests 

Invariably, some people may very well need a place to sleep even if they didn’t think they would (signs of a good party by the way). Perhaps they simply forgot to ask if they could sleep over, assuming that you would have plenty of room and you’d say yes. Be sure to prepare for unexpected overnight guests by having spare sets of clean sheets and pillows around, along with some inflatable mattresses if need be.

banana1. Taking Yourself Too Seriously

“I had all these activities and games pre-planned, but some people don’t seem to be interested in them.”

Seriously, let it go. Whether it’s your activities, the party theme, or the cleanliness of your space during the party, let it go. Absolutely nothing is worse for a party — or your reputation as a host — than getting caught up in rules, regulations, and “the way it was supposed to go.”

I’ve seen hosts get so caught up with trying to make a positive impression by having everything go perfectly according to plan and without a hitch that they actually ended up making a negative impression. You don’t want to be the party-pooper at your own party.

Breathe. Are people having fun? Yes? Is anyone getting hurt? No? Then relax, have a glass of wine, and go join your friends. It’s a party after all!

Need more party planning advice? Check out the Hosting section, or select a fun theme for your next party in the Ideas>Party Themes section.

12 thoughts on “Common Party Planning Mistakes

  1. I really wish I came across your site sooner! My Halloween party was a struggle! I mean, first the Just Dance didn’t work on the XBox so there went the main entertainment of the evening, no one was interested in any of the back up games, I couldn’t connect my halloween playlist up to the speakers, and the list goes on! I would definitely have fallen under your last category of being a hostess that over stressed! I didn’t even think about telling the neighbors, but I definitely will do that next year! Thanks! Though I was wondering, do you have an article about a Harry Potter themed Halloween party? Because that’s my plan for next year and I need serious help (fingers crossed it will go better!).

    • Thanks DamronDuo. I’m sorry to hear that you had such a negative experience in the past. Hopefully now that you’ve found the site you’ll have better luck in the future. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.

  2. Food is definitely a tricky subject. How much do you serve and what kind of food?

    Would you say the kind of food served at your party will depend of the time your party starts? Is the a point at which I can safely assume that my guests would have eaten a meal at home, and just serve finger food & snacks? Or do you indicate that in your invites?

    • Hi Wally. The time of your party typically determines whether you’re serving a full-course meal or just finger foods. If you’re serving around dinner time, people will usually expect a full meal. That said, your invitation should clearly indicate “dinner party” if that’s the case. If you’re not serving a full-course meal, finger foods are still a must, not only in terms of good hosting etiquette, but from a legal perspective if you’re serving alcohol. If you need more information on this subject, check out my Halloween Party Planning 101 post, as well as the Food & Drink section on this site. Hope this helps!

  3. Wow, what a great list of tips. I didn’t know that planning party can be so complex, but you are absolutely right. Everything should be planned so there are no surprises and guests will be more than happy. I think that music is one of the most important things of the party. I was at parties where everything was perfect, but the music was bad. Do you have any tips how to make a good playlist for the party?

  4. Hi Patrick,
    What a fun topic to write about – throwing a good part! I went to a friend’s Halloween party this year (which is an annual event) and she really follows all your guidelines and her parties are always great.

    As I love costuming, I’m thinking of throwing a theme party – maybe something like coming as your favorite movie character or star. I’ll have to check back on your site when the time is close. Do you recommend having a few odds and ends folks can select from if they arrive “sans” costume?

    • Hi Judith. I’m glad your friend finds the guidelines helpful! Does she tend to host theme parties or does she prefer to stay more generic?

      I definitely recommend having a few odds and ends on hand for people who arrive without a costume. I typically have pieces and accessories that are easy to put on — things like a doctor’s gown, eyeglasses, grass skirts, bandannas, ties, boas and scarves, as well as broomsticks, wands, and plastic weapons. I also have a few masks, hats, and wigs, but for hygienic reasons they’re never reused, so if someone takes them, I tell them it’s theirs to keep.

      Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything else!

  5. Hi Patrick;
    Love, love, love your site!
    Several years ago my neighbors and I got together to do something unique in our neighborhood. My next door neighbor had a “forest” of Azalea bushes in their yard. Some of them towered over 8 feet tall!
    We all got into costumes and had 1 person on the street directing visitors to our entrance. We positioned ourselves at different stages of the bushes and waited for people to come through. The path was about 100 feet long. The shriek, screams and laughter were priceless!
    We did this for 5 years. The final year we literally had hundreds of people come through. Word of mouth had spread the word. I spoke with one family who came from over 20 miles to partake. Afterwards the neighbors got together and partied the night away.
    Unfortunately, we moved. It was fun while it lasted. I’d love to see others do this kind of Trick or Treating.
    Keep spreading the word. Halloween can be a truly special holiday.

    • Hi Terry,

      It sounds like you had a tremendous amount of fun! I’m sorry to hear that you had to move, but I would definitely encourage you to try hosting a Halloween party or other similar event at your new home. Feel free to reach out if you need assistance with anything – I’m here to help!

  6. Hello! My first reaction was “ha ha” (in a good way) when I checked your site. I find your niche quite unique and smart. No one wants to have a disaster party, I agree with that. 😀 I have visit many parties where the host has been so drunk that could not do anything etc. Anyway you should keep working with this niche cause people do not think so much when they start an event planning. 😀

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