Food is great, but the most important part of any party is usually the entertainment. It makes the guests mingle and interact in a memorable way. But the hard part is how to choose the party entertainment that will entice everyone to participate.
The first thing you need to do is look at your guest list. What would this particular group of people like to do?
- are they active and exuberant?
- do they prefer pen & paper, thinking games?
- are they into competition?
- do they love to dance? to sing?
- are they more a sit-and-watch group?
- are costumes something they’re going to enjoy?
There’s nothing worse than coming up with the best idea ever but it’s something that your guests aren’t into. It just won’t work. Save that idea for a different group. (Hooray! Two parties.)
Your party schedule.
Instead of just one main event, schedule different things at different times to give everyone a chance to go home with something they enjoyed doing. What you schedule can also help you transition from greeting to eating to mingling to the last hurrah.
Entertainment a great way to:
- give everyone something to do while waiting for all the guest to arrive that’s fun
- entertain and amaze your guests with a big event
- get guests to meet each other if they’re strangers with an icebreaker that makes them mingle
- work off all the energy from excitement of anticipation & the party with something active
- have a slow down period to transition from activity to eating, watching a movie or opening gifts
Entertainment on arrival
There are always those who arrival early, and those who are late. If you wait for the stragglers before the party begins those who are already there are going to start nibbling on the food. Kids are going to start running around and get out of control before the party even starts.
Give guests something to do when they arrive that they can enjoy but isn’t something that has to continue to a certain ending to be over, like a board game. When everyone is there, immediately transition to the next event on your schedule.
Don’t use a “time filler” like coloring a picture for a child. If they are drawing something, make it about the party theme. Then have a frame (even just a paper one) and tell them you’re going to hang it up as a party decoration & then they can take it home.
The arrival entertainment should be something people can do without your assistance or supervision so you can greet the guests who are arriving. With a kid’s party, it would be ideal to have another adult assistant to watch the children and remind them to keep on track with the event.
A photo booth is a great idea for adults and children. (If you’re greeting guests, have someone there to take the photos of the children. Ask the first person who arrives early at an adult party.)
Something thought-provoking works well for adults. At a Thanksgiving Party have a gratitude tree with paper leaves that they can write what they’re grateful for to hang on the tree. This can be an icebreaker to open conversation easily.
Nibbles keep everyone happy. This can be the appetizers for the dinner party – but make them stand and mingle. It can be a bag of themed snack food. Our eldest son was very active and we discovered that munching on a bag of fishy crackers was enough activity to keep him sitting still.
Simple craft to go with the theme that’s nice but not time consuming. Or, they can decorate a frame to put their photo booth picture inside. A craft can double as a take-home gift, too. Not everyone enjoys crafts. But if there are enough people who will participate the others will watch.
Decorate cookies that match the party theme. Those who hate arts & crafts don’t have a problem with decorating cookies!
My Word! is a fun game to initiate for adults. Give everyone a necklace or something that goes with the party theme when they arrive. Have index cards ready with some common conversational words. Have the guest randomly choose a card. Whenever someone says their word they secretly show the card to the person and collect their necklace or item. Guests usually try to trick people into saying their word which makes everyone talk and mingle!
No, I’ve Never! is another game for adults to learn about each other. When they arrive, give each guest a bag of wrapped candies (like Hershey Kisses). Ask them to write something down on an index card that they’ve done that they’re proud of. (They keep the pen with them.) They go and ask every guest if they’ve done this thing too. (Don’t explain this to them until they’ve written their response.) They ask the guest and get them to initial their card. If the person’s response is “no, I’ve never”, they get one of the candies in their bag. (Make sure they understand they can’t eat the candies until they’re told they can!) After a guest has everyone’s initials on the card they can go back and get a card with a new question. This time there will be strategy involved! This rewards those who arrive early and helps everyone get to know each other better. After all the guests have arrived and you’re ready to begin something else, they may eat whatever candies they have.
When you were researching your party theme, maybe you found a great idea you could use.
If your group is into music, there are several options for entertainment.
- lip sync competition
- someone playing guitar, ukulele or keyboard
- dancing to Spotify list of songs that go with the party theme
- sing-a-long, like Christmas carols
Play music that matches the them of the party (80s Rock costume party, Cowboys & Cowgirls country music) so guest know what to expect. Someone who absolutely hates country music may not want to go to your cowboy costume party.
Or, play music that you know they will all enjoy. Try a nice mix of songs from slow to fast, especially if they’re dancing.
There are so many ways to play games to choose from that you need to consider what works for your group.
When our kids were teenagers both my family and my brother’s family had the video game with instruments, Rock Band. At Christmas we would have “band wars”, both families playing the same song at the same time to see who could get the better score. We had a blast, but my mother and grandmother were not as impressed! Needless to say, they did not participate and just lived through it to be with everyone. (Lesson on how not to be!)
There are very active games such as Capture the Flag that requires a lot of space to backyard games like cornhole.
There are also “active” games which just get people up out of their chairs to move around, even for a few minutes, like Pictionary on a big board in front of the group.
You need to plan a short spurt of movement and activity at some point in your party. Don’t sit around the dinner table for the whole time. Conversely, don’t play Capture the Flag or dance for the whole party either. You need a rest period where everyone can have refreshments and mingle in a different way.
There are pen & paper games that are lots of fun.
- Mad Libs is a loved game by all ages, and they have ideas for all sorts of topics and holidays. (Can get raunchy quickly with some groups.)
- Board games and card games fall into this group too. There are so many available, there’s sure to be one for your party theme.
- See our list of Adult Games That Don’t Require Equipment.
Movie or TV show
If you have a very active group, especially rowdy kids, sitting to watch a movie isn’t a good idea. If you do, make sure they have themed munchies to keep them busy. Or, make watching the show a game. “Every time you see ________” you can eat one of your treats. (Or someone says…)
If you want to watch a movie, make sure it goes with your theme. (You’ve probably centered the theme around the movie, right?!) If you need some ideas for a movie to go with your party theme, see our Movie Bucket List. It is a list of movies by topic with suggestions from different genres like horror, kids, rom-com, drama, thriller, etc.
Speakers & Teachers
It’s nice to have an activity or entertainment where your guests learn something new as they interact. The teacher doesn’t have to actually be there. It can be a video or pre-taped event. Or, you could teach them something you know that they’ve always asked about.
- cooking or baking class and eat the goodies afterwards
- yoga class
- painting class can have an instructor or use Bob Ross video
- craft like spoon ring or Christmas decoration
I learned how to change a tire at a ladies get-together! The hostess’ husband was a mechanic. It came in handy, years later.
A fun, memorable party is one where everyone goes home feeling like they connected with the other guests, were able to do well at some of the games, and enjoy most of the entertainment. Guests don’t mind sitting through a few minutes of something if they know there will another event that they will enjoy.
What’s next? Step 5 in party planning is choosing the venue.
See our article Free and Low Cost Party Venue Ideas if you can’t have the party in your home or don’t already know where you’d like to hold your party.
Or, start from the beginning if you arrived here first.
Party Planning Guide: what to do when & how. Here’s how to plan a party that runs smoothly, thrills your guests and amazes even you! This step-by-step party guide goes beyond the what-to-do-when reminder & helps you add wow to create a party they’ll never forget. (And one you can afford without regret when the credit card statement comes.)