Party Prestige

Celebration Club

I’m part of the leadership of an on-campus club that, once a year, throws a big party. I’m a little concerned, though, because these parties don’t tend to be the classiest affairs. While I don’t have a problem with what club members do on their own time, I’m a little worried about breaking rules and throwing a rager (some people in the club are underage). I’m hoping to plan something else earlier in the day instead--something a little more likely to impress and a little less likely to get me expelled. The graduating seniors like to do a toast at each year’s party, so I was trying to figure out a way to run a bar that cards people, or something. Any tips on running a classy party?

First of all, congratulations on your sound decision to not flout your university’s rules and (more importantly) the law on underage drinking. Your idea to have an afternoon party seems like a good one that keeps your club’s tradition alive while letting your collegiate career do the same.

Since you're having your party earlier in the day, you may be able to host it outside. A few outdoor tents and a catered meal, party planning experts told us, are a great way to give a festive vibe to a booze-free party.

And, unfortunately, your party should probably be booze-free. While your idea to run a bar that cards drinkers was well-intentioned, it could be a very costly one. Bartending services aren’t cheap, and not all bartenders or venues will allow you to provide your own alcohol. Even if you do, liquor costs can add up fast, those in the industry told us, and beer can be even pricier. Running a bar even for a short time can mean inviting a lot of red tape into your planning process, and liability issues would be another concern. Excessive alcohol use costs the United States $249 billion each year, and it can cost you, too, in the form of lawsuits stemming from the many liability issues experts identify as coming with the booze-distribution territory.

Perhaps the senior toast can happen at a bar after the party, freeing your booze-free picnic up to claim a location on-campus. Booking a spot through your school may be cheaper and simpler than trying to track down a party location elsewhere, and it will help ensure that your personal liability is limited.

It’s possible that your decision to do away with the booze-soaked party won’t be popular, even if the drinking die-hards choose to party on their own time after your event has finished. But you have made the right decision. About 88,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption, and no celebration is worth the danger of an alcohol overdose.

I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table. --William Shakespeare, Macbeth

(Nancy Pearson is President of Nancy Pearson Design).

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