How to Host Memorable Parties

Rather than looking back after an event and wishing we had taken the time to enjoy memories in the making, why not plan parties that allow us to enjoy memories as they happen? Parties can incorporate fun techniques for capturing memories. Oftentimes, guests will enjoy these activities so much that they will quickly become traditions.

Size does matter

You might host an afternoon tea with light refreshments. Ask your older relatives to leave their gelatin molds at home and instead bring a favorite family photo to the event. When everyone is together, ask a particularly talkative relative to share his or her photo and story. This first story will likely jog the memory of others; soon everyone present will be sharing tales. If folks are willing, borrow the photos at party's end, make copies at a local pharmacy and compile a small photo album as a gift for all who attended. Most craft stores carry appropriate albums for only $1. These albums make great holiday, birthday or all-occasion gifts. Just be sure to handle precious photos with care and return them to their owners promptly.

Create a small, intimate atmosphere where the focus is on family, rather than frou-frou or food, and guests and hosts alike will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations. A picture is worth a thousand words. Let your guests get into the action.

The gift of sharing

Rather than presenting Grandma with more stuff at her 80th birthday party, ask each guest to submit a letter or photo sharing a favorite memory, prior to the event. Compile the items into a scrapbook and present that to Grandma. Ask select guests to read from the book, so that everyone will get to enjoy the memories.

This gift of sharing isn't reserved for our oldest relatives and friends. A successful 40th birthday can be conducted like a baby. Instead of gifts (or along with gifts), the guest of honor can be showered with a funny story spun by each guest in attendance. Or one guest can tell a story from each decade of the person's life (a parent might begin with a baby story, a sibling with a childhood story, a good friend with a college yarn and a spouse with a current tale).

As long as guests know what they'll be expected to bring to a sharing party beforehand, this type of event can be very memorable. It's easier on guests' wallets too.

Don't force the fun

If your family is reluctant, begin with more subtle approaches (like table cameras) and work your way up to the full-on. photo-sharing tea party.

Although folks may at first be uncertain, usually once the ice is broken, people enjoy themselves immensely at a memory-focused event. Consider speaking with a particularly boisterous family member before the party to see if he or she will agree to help you kick things off with a story. Usually, having someone take the first step is the key to successful sharing.

Sometimes the best memories happen when we aren't looking for them. Plan a great memory-making party, but don't sacrifice spontaneity for structure at the expense of your guests' enjoyment.

Memories are free, yet they are among the most priceless gifts one can give or receive. Be creative. Think outside the traditional party structure, and you'll come up with countless ways to craft an unforgettable event.

Many people may not be used to the less-traditional aspects of a memory-making event. Some people don't like to speak in public or have their pictures taken. We've all been invited to parties for people who "have everything." Particularly with older folks, who may have their homes decorated to the gills and don't need yet another serving platter or knick-knack, an "in lieu of gifts" party can be ideal.

Disposable-camera photography is not just for wedding receptions anymore. If your gathering is a bit larger, buy some disposable cameras and intersperse them throughout the venue, with notes attached asking guests to snap at will. Collect the cameras at event's end and you'll have an automatic record of your party, without ever having had to lift a finger. Candid photos taken by guests are an inexpensive way to capture the fun of your event for posterity.Don't be shy when it comes to taking a group photo of guests. Although many people may at first be reluctant to pose, a little cajoling usually proves well worth the memorable results. Particularly for annual family gatherings, a group photo can become a priceless record, sometimes the only record, of those we love and lose from year to year.

Although hosting large bashes can be great fun, consider hosting a greater number of small, intimate events. Rather than having a gigantic party with all of your cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., host one event with your peer group (or join them for a dinner out at a trendy restaurant) and hold a separate event for your parents' and grandparents' generations.

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