Being a Responsible Host

It’s possible to be the life of the party and a responsible host at the same time but being a responsible host requires thinking on a larger scale than the party scene itself.

Your home is certainly center stage but your guests will be covering broader territory to get to and from it. The configuration of your neighborhood is an important factor but different for every host.

Parking is at a premium in many urban areas so make sure your guests know in advance that parking may be tricky. It’s usually not possible to reserve public parking spaces for your guests so make sure everyone knows not to block driveways to nearly residences or business and to allow plenty of time to walk a block or two if necessary.

If a nearby business closes before your party begins, it’s sometimes possible to get special permission for your guests to use the business’s empty parking lot but check with the business owner before directing guests to it. Offer to pay a small fee if that’s what it takes to seal the deal.

Some hosts wouldn’t consider throwing a party without notifying neighbors. This applies to city hosts as well as those in the suburbs and small towns. It’s not necessary to invite them but they’re likely to be more tolerant of noise, late hours, and unusual activities if they know it’s a one-time situation that won’t escalate into a daily ordeal.

Most communities large and small have noise ordinances. Respect them to keep the cops away or ask in advance for forgiveness from your neighbors. If you appear to be mindful of their existence, they’ll be more tolerant of your party.

Disorderly conduct and overindulgence can become legal matters, too. Have a game plan for dealing with guests who don’t appear safe for public conduct, on the sidewalks as well as the road. Some suggestions:

  • End the party at a relatively early hour.
  • Enlist a teenager or church/civic group to serve as designated drivers to get guests safely and legally home.
  • Invite out-of-towners to stay for the night at your home or a nearby hotel.
  • Make sure every vehicle that leaves the party has a sober designated driver at the wheel. Identify this person early; most of them will acknowledge their driving duties when you offer them drinks at the beginning of the party. Have interesting non-alcoholic beverages to treat them with.
  • Set aside a taxi fund to help pay for safe rides home.
  • Limit salty snacks to the first hour of the party; they encourage drinking so remove them once the party gets off to a decent start. Offer less salty hors d’oeuvres as the night goes on.

Most adults are well aware of drinking and driving laws. Most adults who’ve ever been through a DWI/DUI conviction will tell you no drink tastes good enough to justify the hassle but most people haven’t faced that experience and won’t understand its significance until they do. You’re the host, not a parent or referee and playing either of those roles takes a lot of fun out of the festivities. If someone seems hell-bent on getting sloshed, think twice about inviting them to future parties.

Remember, too, that we metabolize alcohol differently from day to day. There may be underlying reasons for excess intoxication, especially when it seems uncharacteristic of someone you know well. Be compassionate but responsible. Help this person get home safely and call them the next day to see how they’re doing. They’ll appreciate your concern and may welcome the opportunity to apologize for unseemly behavior.

As drinking and driving laws get tougher, the home host is being held accountable in more and more communities across the country. You cannot be 100% responsible for everything every guest does after leaving the party but do be aware there are things, like those listed above, that can minimize problems. Gone are the days when a host’s involvement leaves when his guests do.

Another matter gaining attention across the nation is serving drinks to minors. Many parents feel no qualms about serving alcoholic beverages to their children, especially in the confines of one’s home. In some states, it’s entirely legal to serve alcohol to one’s own children in public, too, but society in general frowns on the practice.

In no state, however, is it legal to serve alcohol to someone else’s child. Party hosts are going to prison on an increasingly frequent basis for this one. You may feel like an old fuddy-duddy checking IDs but you’ll feel much worse after a year or two in the slammer. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the legal drinking age is 21. No exceptions.

If you find adults funneling booze to minors behind your back, ask the adult to leave immediately and make arrangements (with someone else) to get the child home and in custody of his or her own parents right away. There is no room for error with this issue. It cannot be taken seriously enough.

The responsibilities may seem daunting but most guests understand a host’s position. Most guests enjoy going to parties, too, so they’ll maintain their own standards of fun but respectable responsibility to keep the party happy and light hearted, with the hope of being invited back another time.