Parties are a big deal for me. I have to call up a lot of self-esteem to have a party, because I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. In high school, I didn't have some neat clique to call over and hang out with, and I was always afraid that if I had a party no one would come (probably likely). I had a new year's eve party once and only six people or so showed up, and I'd invited five times that number, and I was upset about it. Looking back I shouldn't have been... I've learned since then that six people can make a pretty damn good party, and you should always direct your energy towards people who do show up, not people who don't.
In fact, my annual new year's eve eve party is sort of a tribute to my low self-esteem... I just don't have the confidence to "compete" with all the new year's eve parties. I don't want to try and present people with an argument as to why they should chose my party instead of someone else's.
So why have parties at all? Well, after college, I started throwing dinner parties and was surprised about how much fun they could be when you just relax. I love being in a group of people having conversations, and occasionally things end up going until 5 in the morning and that's the best kind... talk for a long time, get deep, get to know people, it's the best thing in the universe. You never know when that's going to happen, so I've started having more parties with the idea that since there's a chance any party will turn into that.
Other philosophies I strive for:
Invite everyone. Even though I've had people get weird at parties, I've never flat-out regretted inviting them. I have regretted not inviting people. I've also invited people that I thought I'd regret inviting, and they ended up being awesome and contributing some very important elements. These are almost always people who I don't know that well and feel scared to invite them because I think they'll reject me or have something better to do.
Do not entertain "fishers". You know, those people you invite who call you three times that day to find out who's coming, what the planned activities are, historical notes on the party, etc. You do not owe them that information. I try to convey the idea to people that if I am throwing a party, I will definitely be there, and that alone should make them want to come because I am fabulous. I almost never request RVSPs for my parties, and I can use that against the fishers too... tell them I honestly don't know who's coming, but I honestly do know I'll be making my famous margarita pitchers, and I also honestly know that if they show up and don't like the crowd they can honestly leave.
Have a food plan. Have food ready to switch out every hour on the hour, so you can refrigerate dips when it's not their "turn" and always have things out. I hate running out of food, which I did last night.
Something else I didn't do, but will do next time: have a large, inviting pitcher of ice water with lemons to encourage water drinking. I personally did not drink enough water last night, and was hung over as shit this morning.
The only thing I haven't mastered in party planning is Friend Drama. This is new because, as I said before, I didn't really have friends until I turned 23 or so, and even then I was new to groups so there was no drama. Since then I've learned how annoying and complicated it can all be... how it seems like the clique always takes the wrong side when drama goes on, how a lot of times the person who says "if he's going I'm not" has a perfectly good point that you relate to, but you don't want to not invite someone at their request. I'm still learning to navigate all that.
I invited neighbors over last night, and left around midnight to check out some other apartment, came back thirty minutes later and attendance had dropped from 10 people to about 4... so that's a mistake I'll remember for the future. but anyway those four people and I had a great talk and two of them were folks I didn't even know that well, which is always a prime goal of parties... meet some people, make some friends, connect.