One of the factors that can make or break a party is the guest list. Certain guests thrive in certain situations while shying away from others. When I put on a murder mystery, I invite different people than I would for my grandfather’s 89th birthday party. This is a simple comparison, but sometimes the lines blur between pleasing everyone and throwing a crowd-pleasing party.

The first thing to determine is the theme of your party. This will give you the ability to decide which guests you’ll invite. Even if you feel like you don’t want or won’t have a theme, you have a theme. A kegger is a theme. A cocktail party is a theme, as is a holiday party, art show, dinner party, mystery party, ugly sweater party, birthday party, cookie exchange… sometimes a theme is obvious, and you may determine your theme automatically. Other times, you may need to put some thought into it, but identifying your theme will make crafting your guest list much, much easier. When throwing a Dungeons and Dragons night, you probably won’t invite Aunt Mildred. Conversely, if you’re throwing a dignified cocktail party, you may want to leave your friend who crushes beer cans on his forehead off your list.

Here is my disclaimer: Crafting a perfect guest list does not have to mean turning your back on your friends, it just means that you are recognizing the unique characteristics of those you hold dear (or maybe simply tolerate them at gatherings) and are adjusting accordingly.

Okay so you’ve got your theme, and you know who you WANT to have there; this part of your guest list is easy to create. But then there are those other people – the ones you don’t really want to invite, but might need to out of obligation, or simply to avoid a rift in a group of friends or family. Let’s face it, sometimes as gracious hosts, we have to invite people to our parties that we might not want to. Like your wonderful friend’s weirdo new boyfriend. Or your aunt who complains about her varicose veins to anyone who will listen. Or the in-law who insists on arguing politics, even when no one else wants to weigh in. Or the co-worker who makes off-colour or sexist comments. You may need to invite them out of obligation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t “buffer them out”.

The idea behind this is simple: happy, enthusiastic, fun-loving friends CAN “buffer out” Mr. Grumpy Pants sitting cross-armed on the couch all night. You just need to “water them down”, so to speak! The ratio I recommend is 5 to 1. So, for every no-fun guest, try to invite 5 “good” guests to buffer out their crankiness. (To watch the 60 Second Party Planning Tip video on this topic, CLICK HERE)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – fantastic people = fantastic party. Determine your theme, snag the good guests and “water down” the bad ones and your party will be a hit!

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