Before the Party

Good planning is essential whether you're hosting a large party or just having a few friends over. The host who plans thoughtfully will likely have a more enjoyable and memorable celebration.

Plan to offer alternatives to alcoholic beverages
Plan to make available an attractive selection of alternative beverages. These include both low-alcohol and alcohol-free choices. Since so many people are choosing not to drink beverages containing alcohol (more than 40 percent according to Gallup polls), the choice of alternatives will be greatly appreciated. Guests, who wish to later switch to an alternative, after beginning with an alcoholic beverage, will also be grateful.

There are a wide array of alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers and wines on the market. In addition, fruit juices and flavored mineral waters generally go over well at parties. "Mocktails," otherwise known as alcohol-free blender drinks, are refreshing drink specialties that you can serve to add pizzazz to your celebration. Also festive is an alcohol-free punch, be sure you clearly label the punch bowls.

Plan to serve food
Have food readily available when your guests arrive. Set the food table with a generous and attractive selection of high-protein, non-salty selections. High-protein foods are good because they slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Avoid salty snacks, which tend to promote thirst and may cause guests to drink more alcohol. Also provide snacks to nibble on and place them throughout the party area. Offer trays of food to seated guests.

Offer foods that are not awkward or messy for guests to handle. Finger foods such as sandwiches, deviled eggs, shrimp, nachos, stuffed mushroom caps, petite quiches, and fresh raw vegetables with dips are easy for guests to pick up - and easy for you to prepare.

Plan the party setting
Set up the party room to promote interaction among guests. Arrange tables and chairs in a manner that encourages group conversation; doing so will help to create a fun and comfortable environment.

Plan activities
Plan other activities so that drinking is not the central theme of your party. Place games such as Pictionary, Scattegories, Backgammon, Scrabble, or Trivia Pursuit around the room to encourage socializing. Play some upbeat music and encourage dancing. If you do include dancing, clearly identify a dance area and be sure it is large enough. If your guests are active and interact with other guests, everyone will have a better time and will be less likely to drink too much.

During the Party

Have one designated person serve drinks so that someone is aware of how much alcohol each person is consuming. All guests should be made aware that a particular person will serve them, and this person should be advised not to drink alcohol.

The bartender should not serve doubles or allow guests to have strong drinks. A standard drink measure is 1 1/4 ounces of distilled spirits, a 12 ounce beer, or a 4 ounce glass of wine. Also the bartender should not automatically refresh glasses and should mix lighter drinks for those who are drinking faster.

During the party, observe your guests. Watch for those who are drinking rapidly and those exhibit signs of impending intoxication. Slurred speech, raised voice, and red or glassy eyes are some indications your guest may be impaired. If a guest is drinking too much, do not become confrontational. Offer food and alcohol-free beverages and delay him/her from leaving the party.

Near the Party's End

Offer coffee, tea, and desserts during the last hour of the party. These items will not make an intoxicated guest sober, but it may encourage him or her to stay longer. Time is the only factor that helps reduce the impairing effect of alcohol.

If a guest has had too much to drink, do not let him/her drive. Honest expressions of care, respect, and concern are often all that is needed. Have a friend drive the guest home, call a taxi, or ask the guest to stay overnight. As a last resort, take the car keys or let the air out of the tires. Call the police if neither of these actions are successful. These might appear drastic measures, but they could very well prevent and injury or save a life.