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Types of Parties: The First Step To Planning Your Event

Posted by Rae Lynn on 2/25/2014 to Party Planning
Are you ready to host a party, but not sure where to start? There are many types of parties and Rae Lynn has found that it is easiest to choose your party format first.

Thinking through the style of an event you wish to plan will help make decisions about decorating, budgeting, timing, and food choices easier and better suited to the atmosphere you want to create.   

So, we have compiled a list of types of parties to get your creative juices flowing:

Type of Party: Afternoon Tea
Style: Semi-formal
Size: 12-30
Duration: 2 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social, Shower

Tea parties are a caffeinated social tradition involving sweet and savory finger foods and loose-leaf brewed teas in the late afternoon between lunch and dinner. They usually involve fancy table settings, elegant tea sets (also called a “tea service”), and fine dishware. 

This kind of party offers a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up and celebrate a special occasion like Mother’s Day or a shower event. 

Susannah Blake offers detailed advice on planning afternoon tea parties in her book.

Type of Party: Banquet
Style: Semi-formal, Formal
Size: 20+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Difficult
Purpose: Tribute, Reception, Corporate, Benefit

This event is characterized by serving an elegant meal incorporating multiple courses, drinks, and dessert for a large group of acquaintances with the intent of social or professional networking. 

Meals may be plated or buffet-style, seating can be assigned or open depending upon the formality of the event. Morning, daytime, and evening meals are all appropriate choices when considering the timing of your event.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emporiastateuniversity/Type of Party: Block
Style: Casual
Size: 100+
Duration: 4+ hours
Level of difficulty: Difficult
Purpose: Social, Commemoration
 
A block party is generally a public event for all the members of a particular neighborhood to come together for a good time or to commemorate an event or holiday. 

Generally, a city permit must be sought to throw one and a police vehicle may be sent out to close the street to cars. Music and dance are usually featured in block parties, with local musicians or DJs performing for the guests. 

Food and other activities for children and adults ensure a good time for every age group. They are most common in urban areas where blocks house relatively large numbers of people. 

Variation: A smaller scale, private version of the block party is a house party or cookout where all residents of the neighborhood, building, or "block" are personally invited.

Music, dancing, drinking games, and bon fires are also popular entertainment at these evening events held at a private residence or clubhouse belonging to the host or host organization.   

Type of Party: Cocktail
Style: Semi-formal, Formal
Size: 12-150
Duration: 2 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Corporate

A cocktail party is an easy way to host an event for relatively low cost and effort. Conducive to mingling and social interaction, this type of party is usually held in the early evening to precede the dinner hour (6-8 PM).

We detail every aspect of accomplishing great cocktail parties on PartySwizzle.com, and it starts with these guidelines:
  • 12 or more guests – the party will take on a life of its own at 12 people
  • 2 hours in length -- start & end on schedule…guests will learn to be prompt to your parties
  • No children.
  • Hors d'oeuvres passed on a tray – adds elegance and intrigue to any party
  • No sitting – sitting is counterproductive to mingling, which is the point 
  • Cocktails served in glasses – ice tinkling is delightful, and how chic is plastic?
  • Diverse music – variety adds interest & allows something special for every taste 
  • Subtle decorations – strategically placed accents will make lasting impressions
Add a little personality and follow these steps for success. More here.

Type of Party: Cookout
Style: Casual, Informal
Size: 12+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Purpose: Social, Commemoration, Corporate, Benefit

Cookouts or backyard barbecues are classic American gathering centered around outdoor eating, with the host typically providing some signature grilled meats and side dishes with optional contributions from guests. Cold drinks are a must while alcohol availability is dependent upon your personal tastes. 

If you aren't a griller extraordinaire, or prefer to spend more time interacting with your guests, a pig roast is a great alternative. A whole pig is roasted over an open flame or underground pit as guests arrive and socialize. 

The Hawaiian luau tradition also involves dancing and entertainment in addition to bestowing leis, which are tokens of friendship. 

Variation: Fish fries are cookouts where fresh fish, such as catfish or cod are battered and deep fried, while clam bakes typically feature shell fish and mollusks, such as lobster, crab, clams, and oysters. Accompanying dishes include corn on the cob, hush puppies, tartar sauce, lemon wedges, and coleslaw. 

For outdoor entertainment including meals, late afternoon is usually the preferred time of day to start as the waning light brings the party to a natural close.
   
Type of Party: Costume
Style: Casual
Size: 30+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Purpose: Social, Benefit

Costume parties make for an exciting evening as your guests attire provide the entertainment. Typically, this type of party requires more effort in decorating for the party theme, in addition to a well-planned costume.

Variation: Toga parties are a time-honored classic that incorporate Roman and Greek themes, and are somewhat easier to execute. A well-concocted event can incorporate the flavors of Italian cuisine and fun of embodying Roman gods Greek mythological figures. 

Variation: A masquerade party or ball is a larger and more formal costume party where guests arrive in masks and/or period costumes. Creating an atmosphere of fun and mystique is now the focus of this historical tradition rather than the formal dancing of yore. 

They are a common component of Carnival celebrated in certain regions, such as New Orleans coinciding with the season up to Mardi Gras. They are also good options for Halloween and special occasions.   

Type of Party: Dance
Style: Casual to Semi-formal
Size: 100+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Difficult
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Reception, Corporate

Just like it sounds and tons of fun, the main activity of this social gathering is moving to the beat of your favorite tunes. Dance parties are a great way to bring a large number of guests together and encourage post-event social interaction for wedding receptions and corporate events. 

Live music is not a requirement, although encouraged, if feasible; alternatively, hire a deejay that can adjust the musical selections based upon your guests' reactions.

Type of Party: Garden
Style: Semi-formal
Size: 25+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Difficult
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Commemoration, Benefit

A formal version of a cookout, the garden party is the perfect excuse to enjoy the outdoor spring and summer beauty in full bloom. Golden sunshine and fresh air will complement garden-inspired cocktail and cuisine that will set the special occasion or “just because” event apart. 

The garden party requires considerable more planning for decorations and serving in the outdoors. It is better suited to large groups to fill the space.

More about this "Blue & Orange Garden Party" at IndulgePartyBlog.com.

Type of Party: House
Style: Casual, Semi-formal
Size: 30+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Purpose: Social, Tribute

A house party is essentially an extended cocktail party after the dinner hour 8-9 PM until 12-1 AM. Planning usually involves a theme with cocktails and light hors d'oeuvres. A pre-planned playlist is standard for music.

Variation: A “kegger” is a type of house party, where beer is available from a self-serve keg. This type of party is most common with young adults on a budget.
 
Type of Party: Meals
Style: Casual, Semi-formal, Formal
Size: 8-50
Duration: 2+ hours
Level of difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Commemoration, Corporate, Benefit

Breakfast - Although we tend to associate this meal with comfort, a breakfast party can be as ceremonious as you want it to be. One possibility includes a “pajama party” for close friends and overnight guests who socialize as breakfast is prepared before them. 

Another informal option for the workplace is a social hour featuring finger foods and coffee. At the other end of the spectrum is a catered multi-course affair complete with fine silver and china. The degrees in between can be adapted for just about any occasion and/or setting. 

Brunch - This combination meal of breakfast and lunch provides the perfect excuse to eat all your favorites in one sitting. Traditional brunch commonly takes place around 10am, but in some places it runs as late as 3pm, so make it your own time. This meal style is typically a good option for weekend shower events or friendly social events. Find more brunch ideas at fitskitz.com.

Luncheon - Luncheon is the formal version of the “lunchtime” meal, usually occurring between 11:30am to 2pm. It often incorporates three plated courses (soup/salad, main, dessert) or a buffet-style meal. Easily adapted for conference settings, and may include speakers, entertainment, or business announcements. 

Dinner - American tradition usually treats the evening meal as a fine dining experience, featuring more elaborate dishes and multiple courses, served plated or a buffet style for larger gatherings. Many times it includes a cocktail hour before the meal and may precede cultural events. More details about planning a dinner party here.

Hosting a potluck-style dinner party is also a fun and inexpensive way to sample many delicious dishes contributed by different home cooks in more comfortable array.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stringent/Type of Party: Outing
Style: Casual
Size: 10-30
Duration: 2+ hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Corporate

Arranging an outing for you and your guests can take the onus of home entertainment off of the host and makes a fun, low-stress alternative for groups of friends or acquaintances. 

Physical activities such as team sporting, boating, golf, skating, bowling, hiking, amusement parks and going to the beach are great group activities to take the occasion outdoors. 

Cultural events such as going to art museums, concerts, sightseeing, and touring may involve traveling or gathering at a particular destination as a shared interest activity. 

Dining out at your favorite restaurant has all of the joy of sharing a meal together without the hassles of putting it together, and is usually a failsafe alternative (provided you are familiar with the restaurant before-hand). 

“Going out” to bars or clubs is also a fun way to dedicate the evening to a guest of honor or special occasion. Costs associated with attending these events can be controlled since attendees will likely pay individually, and everyone is sure to be entertained by shared interest in the activity which drew the party together.   

Type of Party: Participatory
Style: Casual
Size: 6-30
Duration: 2+ hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social

Planning an activity to guide a gathering can be an effective and fun strategy for structured socializing. Getting together to share knowledge or interests will ensure that guests are interested, and can minimize the awkwardness of gathering acquaintances who may not know each other. 

Cooking parties centered on a style or technique are informative and delicious ways of spending time together. 

Craft parties such as scrapbooking, painting, or making ceramics can expose individuals to new ideas and group dynamics while creating memorabilia. This may take place a hosts house, or various studios that are open for such parties. 

Book club gatherings give book lovers the opportunity to discuss their favorite activity with other individuals knowledgeable about the material, but may start a great dialog as interpretations and experiences differ between participants. 

Game night is also a fun activity-centered party theme, whether it involves cards, board games, or other party games, the activity will keep a focus to the party while allowing ample opportunity for socializing. More party ideas from TipJunkie.com.

Murder-Mystery parties are fun events that tie together an interactive storyline with brain games and typical party activities like eating and drinking. Many varieties exist as downloadable or boxed games that usually involve dinner and cocktails along many different themes. 

Typically a booklet with a role assigned to specific guests is sent to the guest with the invitation so that they can familiarize themselves with the backstory and their role, and arrive dressed in character. 

Large and small format games are available and typically take place over a 2-3 hour program. They can be adapted for settings ranging from a small group of friends in host’s home to a workplace-sponsored event in a hired entertainment hall.   

Type of Party: Picnic
Style: Casual
Size: 4-100
Duration: 4+ hours
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Purpose: Social

A picnic is basically a mobile cookout, so some additional planning is required for transportation and set-up. Often invited guests or designated groups bring food and accessories depending upon the size.

Variation: Tailgating is a popular type of "picnic" before and after sporting events and festivals with the added bonus of a "tailgate" for serving.    

C:\Users\Ray\Downloads\AlanLightPoolParty.jpgType of Party: Pool
Style: Casual
Size: 12-50
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social, Tribute

A pool party is always a huge hit for adults and kids alike. Coupled with the opportunity to eat and drink together, showing off this year’s beach-ready body is always a fun time. 

Guests have a multitude of options for social engagement and activity level which tends to make everyone more comfortable. Schedule a pool party after the lunch hour at 1-3 PM and serve a late afternoon light meal or cookout.   

By horslips5 [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsType of Party: Reception
Style: Semi-formal, Formal
Size: 25+
Duration: 2-6 hours
Level of difficulty: Difficult
Purpose: Social, Tribute, Commemoration

The hospitable receiving of guests follows a main event at which their presence has been requested. It is a way of showing appreciation for the support you have received, typically by providing hors d’oeuvres or a full meal, drinks, and entertainment and/or dancing. 

Receptions are usually formal to semi-formal events that follow weddings, openings, conferences etc. and host dozens to hundreds of people. 

Variation: Openings of new facilities, businesses, galleries, and even homes (housewarming) are a type of reception. Typically, light hors d'oeuvres and some level of bar or wine service follows a commemoration or brief talk by the host. 

The event is intended to celebrate beginnings or anniversaries and allow guests to experience the sensation of viewing or being a part of a community. They may be exclusive events by invitation only or publicly accessed and advertised. 

Type of Party: Shower
Style: Casual, Semi-formal
Size: 10-30
Duration: 2-3 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Tribute

The two most common types of showers are wedding and baby showers and are traditionally women’s events. But traditions are constantly being worked over for modern times, so make the invitation list suit your own needs—couples showers or Honey-Do parties are now en vogue. 

Activities associated with the event include gift-giving, socializing, offering advice, cake and finger foods, and optionally themed party games. They are usually semi-formal daytime events that follow a party agenda guided by the host.

For large groups, consider hosting a cocktail, house or garden party for the bride, couple or expectant mother. Opening gifts in front of a crowd is awkward for the guest of honor and boring for the guests.

More shower ideas at karaspartyideas.com.

http://lsloansfavoritethings.blogspot.com/2010/10/junior-high-bachelorette-slumber-party.htmlType of Party: Slumber/Pajama
Style: Casual
Size: 8-20
Duration: Overnight
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social, Tribute

Slumber parties are most common for children and teens, but adult pajama parties are a fun overnight option for close friends. Preparation for overnight guests is primarily planning activities, food preparation and sleeping arrangements.

Bachelorette parties are often extended slumber parties where the bride-to-be is escorted through town and brought safely home by visiting friends. They may stay overnight to help with preparations for the next day’s ceremony.   

Type of Party: Surprise
Style: Casual, Semi-formal, Formal
Size: 12+
Duration: 3+ hours
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Purpose: Tribute

A surprise party can be any type of party with a little extra planning to conceal the event and surprise the guest of honor. It is a touching way to show extra appreciation for the guest of honor. Although birthdays are the most common reason for such an occasion, a last-minute party can be tossed together for any good news. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tripletri/Type of Party: Viewing
Style: Casual
Size: 12-50
Duration: 2+ hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Purpose: Social, Commemoration

Viewing parties are arranged around a television broadcast of interest to attendees, such as football and other sporting events, TV shows, election results, award ceremonies, or movies. 

Popular party activities beyond viewing the events include themed appetizers, grilled food, and games or contests related to the event, for example, betting on the Kentucky Derby, picking Oscar winners, or drinking for points scored by the opposing team.

Commercial 

Inviting a party plan consultant who specializes in a particular brand or line of items to be the main event of your party can be a fun activity for any social group. Although conventionally a women’s party, the event can be appropriate for anyone who is interested in cooking products or home decor. 

Remember, the atmosphere is created by the host, and mixed company is more exposure for the brand. These are usually daytime parties that last a couple of hours with drinks and hors d’oeuvres and include items like kitchen utensils, jewelry, adult novelty items, and lingerie. 

The salesperson will demonstrate the product and take orders, and the host usually receives a gift and portion of the proceeds from the event; these can make unique party options for brides or moms-to-be. A newer trend is hosting a Botox party, where interested guests can receive professional treatment in the comfort of the host’s home. 

Are there types of parties we left out? Let us know other party formats you have used or created.  

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