Who doesn’t love a good party? From birthdays to housewarmings to just wanting to celebrate another weekend of not getting sick, there are parties for just about every occasion. But here’s the problem: in order to celebrate not getting sick, you have to not get sick. That means keeping the guest list to a minimum and staying in safe, controlled environments. This might seem like a slight bummer, but low-key parties can be just as much fun, if not more fun, than their big and bombastic counterparts. Here are a few tips to turn your faux-party into a pro party.
Maybe not Monica Geller levels of preparedness (not every second of the night has to be planned out), but when the guests are kept to a minimum, it’s important to always have activities at the ready. This can be anything from board games to spin the bottle to beer pong to strip poker, depending on what kind of crowd you’ve got (and whether they’re prudes or not).
You should also have the proper pre-gaming routine done. Lots of food and drinks should be on hand, more than you think a small group would need, because ideally the party will last at least a couple of hours. It would be such a bummer if all that’s left after the first hour is mixer and some chips. If it’s a surprise party, make sure the guests in the know have a say in whatever you serve. Some chips, some appetizers, plenty of solo cups, and you’ll be ready for whatever happens.
Get Goofy With It
This really just gives me an excuse to plug the greatest store on earth: Five Below. You can get everything at Five Below, and they’re the perfect party store because they have so much stuff for so cheap. Because everything is at such a low price, that means the goods aren’t going to be super high quality. However, you’ll be much better off if you lean into that aspect of it.
We’re talking balloons. We’re talking streamers. We’re talking photo booths with hand signs like we’re back at prom. The cheesier it seems, the more effective it will end up being. Don’t be afraid to go with something that would otherwise come off incredibly silly. If it’s just you and a small number of friends, everybody will get the same kick out of it. No need to go all out and impress someone with your limitless budget or interior decorating skills. With a low-key party, the goofier the better.
Make a Public Playlist
This is a great way to get everyone involved and make sure they’re participating outside of the more formally planned activities. Start off by building up a playlist of around 20 or so songs to form the basic feel of the party and to make sure there’s always a song at the ready just in case nobody has anything cued up. From there, share the playlist and let your guests run wild.
There’s no better feeling than to see people jamming to a song that you cued up, and with a smaller crowd, it’ll be easier to read the musical tastes of the room. A party without music is a pretty sad party, so it’s better to go bigger than to not. Get a poll going among the guests. What are the best songs that you’ve been listening to lately? What music screams “party”? Even if something doesn’t completely land, it’s far better than sitting in awkward silence. Make sure to have a playlist at the ready, and open it up to get everyone involved.
Make the Star Shine
This is crucial for birthday parties or any other festivity where you’re not just celebrating to celebrate, but rather you are celebrating someone in particular. Is it really a birthday party if the birthday boy/girl doesn’t feel embarrassed at some point during the night? Surprise them, sing to them, make sure everyone is paying attention to them. If they don’t feel the light shining on them at all times, then chances are you aren’t doing it right.
This is where you can turn your restrictions into an advantage. With a more intimate setting and guest list comes a more personal touch to everything that goes on. That public playlist can be a greatest hits mixtape for that one person, the snacks can be a smorgasbord of their favorite foods, you can make the party themed to some of their interests and buy decorations to reflect that. Whatever you end up doing, make sure the party subject really feels like it’s a party for them and not just a generalized get together.
Maximize Your Minimized Space
With a limited number of guests comes a limited space with which to work. It doesn’t make sense to use an entire house or outdoor space for just six or so people. Instead, keep your scope small. Use just the main room of your apartment. If you’re feeling really cozy, put it all in one person’s room (this is where it becomes essential that everyone is healthy so the close quarters don’t turn the party into a petri dish).
With your restricted space, do everything that you can to make it seem huge. Spread things out as much as you can so that everyone isn’t just crowded around the table. Have there be activities in different spots so that all of the guests don’t feel like they are on top of each other all the time. Plaster the place with your goofy decorations: less is not more in this case; more is more. With a small area comes the possibility of claustrophobia, so any way that can open up the space and make it seem like a more festive atmosphere, without sacrificing the intimacy, should be embraced.
Really, the most important tip for a party is to make it a party. That obviously means different things for different people, so customize the experience for whoever is celebrating or being celebrated. Fun can be had with any number of people, so keeping a party low key just means keeping it safe. You don’t have to sacrifice any kind of festivities just to keep guests from getting sick. You can still bust out booze, lose your mind, and make questionable decisions that you may or may not remember in the morning. Just be sure to keep it at a safe distance.