Everyone loves a good party – until it gets out of hand. When red cups litter the lawn, cars block driveways or the street, and shrubbery becomes a toilet, it’s gone way too far.
There are steps you can take as a party host to help things go well. Follow these five steps to avoid problems at informal get-togethers.
1) Make a plan, follow the plan, and let others know the plan.
Making a plan is the most important step, and it doesn’t have to take long or happen far in advance. Answering the following questions will help you create the event you want.
- How many guests do you want to attend?
- What types of food and non-alcoholic beverages will you provide?
- What do you want to do together?
- What problems do you want to avoid?
- What will make the event a success in your mind?
Once you’ve created the plan, it’s important to stick to it. Be sure to let everyone know what type of event it will be so they know what to expect. Tell your neighbors and your landlord about your plan. They may be able to help you create the most successful plan.
If the home you plan to use for a party is not your own, know that you're still liable for any issues, property damage, and could be cited for a disorderly house if things go awry.
2) If alcohol will be present, control it.
There’s a reason why bars have bartenders and not open spigots or bottles, and it’s not just so they can make money. Having someone behind the bar, whether it’s a third-party vendor/bartender or someone who is at least 21, helps you control the amount of booze people drink, keep drinking to individuals above the age of 21, and sets the tone for the role of alcohol in the party.
More importantly, it keeps the very small percentage of students who don’t know their limits from getting wasted on your alcohol. An alternative, especially for informal parties, is to have guests who are 21 bring—and drink—their own alcohol where permitted.
After all, if a guest under the age of 21 drinks too much and causes harm to someone, as the social host you could be liable, too.
Remember that your student organization, sport club, fraternity or sorority cannot purchase alcohol with organization funds. This includes any funds serviced through Student Organization Financial Services (SOFS).
3) Make the party about more than getting drunk.
There’s got to be something more than just getting high or drunk at your party or event. Making the party about something other than getting drunk is easier when you provide alternative beverages and some food. And what do you want to do together — Get to know new people? Have good conversations? Tell each other stories? Dance? Play a game or other activity? Watch a band, film, performance, or sporting event together? There are endless possibilities; you just need a little planning and some creativity.
When selecting your activity, remember to keep noise in mind – you might like having a band in your backyard, but what about the neighbors? Noise complaints are one of the most common issues that lead to police showing up.
4) Have one or two sober party/event monitors, and empower them to take care of problems.
You may not need a stereotypical bouncer, but you can probably see why most clubs have them. Some people don’t know what is appropriate in social situations, they don’t know their limits, and they won’t respect you, your guests, or your property.
You need one or more individuals who will step in to stop a disaster from happening, ask someone to leave, intervene in a tense situation, or deal calmly with the police or other authorities if they show up. The party/event monitors need to be empowered to keep the peace and to prevent problems before they begin.
5) Be proactive with the police and other authorities.
Despite your best efforts, unwanted problems can pop up at events and parties where alcohol is present. The best approach is to be proactive with the police (e.g., talk with campus and community police officers about safe party strategies, call the police when unwanted guests arrive or get too rowdy, work with the police to resolve issues peacefully).
Get to know the police officers in your area, and if they show up uninvited, work with them. Being defensive or obstinate gives them more cause to investigate or cite you. They are most likely responding to a complaint from a neighbor, and need to be reassured that you have matters under control.
If problems at the party lead to citations, know that you will be contacted by the Dean of Students Office. However, demonstrating that you’ve taken steps to make a plan, control your guest list, provide non-alcoholic beverages and food, and mitigate problems could be beneficial. Student Legal Services may be able to help and provide you with free legal advice.
If a party gets busted and your Recognized Student Organization (RSO), sport club, fraternity or sorority may be implicated, the organization's president should contact staff in Student Involvement, Campus Recreation - Sport Clubs, or the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to proactively provide information.
How to Avoid Nightmares for Party Hosts
Nightmare #1: Your party gets BUSTED
- Keep the party to a smaller size with less than 30 people.
- Make sure your guests don't do things that make the neighbors complain to the police, like parking cars on lawns, vandalizing property and being too loud.
- DO NOT charge any kind of fees to party guests.
- DO NOT serve alcohol to minors.
- Let neighbors know when you're planning the next blowout (or when the small get-together turns into a blowout).
- Cooperate with the police if they show up. Have a calm, sober person speak with them. If they ask you to break up the party, do it.
- People leaving who start to drive may be tested for DUI; use a designated driver or encourage guests to use ride-share services like a cab or Uber.
- Neighbors left with lots of trash are MORE likely to call the cops on your NEXT party — clean up after the party!
Nightmare #2: YOUR PLACE gets ROBBED
- Monitor who enters the party. Don't let in people that no one knows. A guest list makes this easier. Having an "everyone is welcome" party is the quickest way to get robbed (or face a host of other problems).
- Hide or protect valuables and lock areas that people shouldn't wander into.
- Keep the party in a central location of the house.
- Avoid letting people get over-intoxicated.
- Keep an inventory of your stuff and check it all after the party.
- Call the police and report any missing items.
- Pay attention to people who leave early, or people who come with backpacks.
- Have at least one person remain sober to keep an eye on the place and the people at the party.
Nightmare #3: Someone at your party gets SERIOUSLY HURT or ILL
- Watch for emerging fights and drunken stunts, especially as people consume alcohol. You can intervene before someone gets hurt.
- It's okay to call the police on your own party if things get out of hand.
- Know the signs of acute intoxication — if someone is unconscious or semiconscious, has 8 or fewer breaths per minute and 8 or more seconds between breaths, or has cold, clammy or bluish skin, call 911 immediately.
- Choose cans over bottles or kegs; this will reduce overconsumption and avoid broken glass.
- If someone gets angry, the best thing to do is to avoid violence, especially if they've been drinking. Don't try to win the fight. Keep your voice calm and conversational and keep yourself at eye-level.
Nightmare #4: Someone at your party gets SEXUALLY ASSAULTED or RAPED
- Limit access to areas out of view where guests could have sexual encounters.
- Most sexual assaults occur during intoxication. Look out for individuals who are over-consuming and who's hitting on them.
- Let your friends know that it is not okay for them to take advantage of someone sexually at your party.
- Keep an eye out for individuals who may be more vulnerable to sexual assault. This includes people attending the party alone or people who appear to be intoxicated.
- When you see someone being forced or manipulated sexually, speak up and get others involved to "rescue" that guest tactfully and without conflict. For more information contact PREVENT, a student organization that works to end relationship violence and acquaintance rape through peer education.
- If you or a friend are assaulted, please contact the Voices of Hope 24-Hour Crisis Line at (402) 475-7273. They are available 24-hours per day/7 days per week for confidential support and assistance for victims of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.
- Remember: An unconscious or intoxicated person can't give consent. Without consent, it's sexual assault.
Nightmare #5: YOU or someone at your party winds up at DETOX
- If police come and break up the party, cooperate with them. If you appear to be out of control, you've just provided the reason for placing you in protective custody.
- Space your drinks so that you don't get over-intoxicated.
- Ask a sober friend to drive people home.
- Cut people off who appear to be headed toward acute intoxication.
- Know that The Bridge can keep you for up to 24 hours and can refuse to accept your "responsible party" who arrives to pick you up.