I have been the hostess of many house parties over the years. The first when I was a teenager and my mum and dad went away. I invited the entire boarding house from my school over to share my parents' drinks cabinet on the patio. The party ended with my big brother taking a phone call from a furious housemaster and a hole in the living room carpet from a wayward cigarette. My party bug was born.
I attended University in Belfast and shared a house with five girls. We had wild student parties that spread over all three floors of the house, one was 70s themed and we put muslin up on the walls and cushions on the floor to enhance a bacchanalian atmosphere... This was also the house where we had the words 'flange power' written in gaffer tape across a huge pane of glass in our hallway. We were young feminists, in our own way. I distinctly remember opening the door to the police at one of the above soirées (who were fully armed, this was Belfast) and inviting them in for a drink. Suffice to say they didn't join in the retro fun.
Then there was London where we enjoyed a hat party, a mad-men party and a 'goth' party, where I dyed and straightened my hair for the first and last time, and wore velvet from head to toe. We had a face-painting party where everyone who walked in the door got their face painted by the previous person to walk in the door. As the evening progressed people got more creative (read: reckless) with the face paints and the photos taken at the end of the night looked like that infamous paint-strewn Stone Roses NME cover gone very wrong. The house parties have continued over the years, and as each one passes with another raging hangover and another commemorative stain on the sofa, I have learnt some essential rules:
To have a proper house party you must NOT be too house proud. Sofa stains will occur, glasses will be smashed, a poor unfortunate person might not make it to the bathroom before they have to vomit (especially if there is only one bathroom). If you are the type of person who freaks out at messiness then get drunk and deal with the horror the next day.
The horror. The best way to deal with that sinking feeling of waking up in a smoke filled post party shit-hole aka your house, is to deal with the mess before the party is over. Take advantage of the over-enthusiastic stragglers - especially the very drunk ones. Get them to start cleaning up, when cleaning up still feels like a novelty. That means you can wake up in the morning with dishes done and bottles disposed of.
A theme is always good. Not over the top but something universal that everyone can do or wear, without spending loads of money. You don't want it to be stressful for people. It's supposed to be something that they can look forward to and get excited about.
Be careful who you invite. There's nothing worse than a complete stranger in your house who happens to be wrecking everyone's head. Especially at 5am. Do invite all your closest friends and their partners or their closest friends. It's nice to get a real variety of people too..
Don't try and be clever with the hosting aspect. I have never provided food at a house party in my life. Order pizzas get some nibbles etc. but the main thing is make sure everyone brings their own booze. And make sure you know the opening hours of the local off-license as there will be inevitable trips there throughout the night.
Sounds must be clearly looked after by one or two people. There is nothing worse than arguments over the stereo/iPod/Spotify playlist. Make long playlists beforehand and let them play. There'll always be someone who wants to put on the newest song by the newest person. Do not let them win. Keep the music fun. Never go too cool.
Last but not least do not put photos on Facebook. Let the fun times remain private and thus, inclusive to the people who went. It keeps the night sacred and keeps the mortification at bay.
House Party: NYE, live from 11.50pm, New Year's Eve, Channel 4