It really is true that the years seem to fly by faster the older I get, and now that I’m in the second half of my 30s (and my babies are officially “big kids” now!) I’m on a quest to slow down time. Or at least, make it feel that way. The one strategy I’ve discovered that actually works? Marking the moments with occasions that break routine. Spontaneous dance parties, adventures to new places, and finding unexpected reasons to have a party, these are the experiences that carve memories into our brains that we can still recall years later.
Have you ever noticed that you tend to remember experiences from your childhood and early adulthood better than those from say, last week? Research shows there’s a reason for that. Apparently, the human brain transcribes novel experiences better than mundane ones. One study found that 93% of vivid life memories concern unique or first-time events (think your first kiss, having your first baby, visiting a new city for the first time, etc.) My practical takeaway? If I want to stretch out those moments with the people I love, why not do it by gathering us together more often and getting a bit creative with the “why” behind it? Instead of waiting around for the big milestones, I’ve been looking for those more everyday reasons to have a party—the more fun and outside-the-box, the better.
Although birthdays and engagements make for great events, I’m a firm believer that those smaller everyday moments are equally (if not more) fun opportunities to gather the people you love. Because living another beautiful day is reason enough to celebrate!
That said, I also believe that any good party has a spelled-out reason behind it—communicating the purpose of a gathering not only gets your guests excited, but also creates cohesion behind the menu, design, and overall energy of the occasion. So, to get your creative juices flowing, I culled 21 reasons to have a party—most of them pretty unexpected!—with a few tips for success. I also polled our community on Instagram, and they delivered some really creative reasons to have a party, too. So queue the playlist and text your friends—there’s simply no reason not to throw a great party this summer.
To Say “Welcome Home”
A friend or family member is moving back to town. Welcome them home by inviting the gang for casual hangs, snacks, wine, and hugs. The guest-of-honor will know how much you all missed them, and are so happy to have them back.
You recently went wine tasting and discovered a new favorite bottle or perhaps you signed up for a new wine club subscription. Either of these is the perfect opportunity to invite friends for a food and wine pairing night. Consult these tips, and whip up a few snacks. Take it seriously by writing down your tasting notes as you sip each one, or keep it totally unserious and just vote on your favorites.
On Instagram, @artcpf shared, “The liquor store had a case sale on really good champagne, so we had a ‘bubbles + potato chips’ party!” Yes, please.
You Quit Your Job
@Jessicabazan shared on Instagram that she had a party when she quit her job! I also love the idea of throwing a party for a friend who just quit their job, ’cause usually, it’s been a long time coming. This can be a scary and vulnerable moment in someone’s life, so having a tangible reminder that they’ve got a circle of friends supporting them on this next chapter can go a long way.
A Non-Milestone Birthday
A birthday may seem obvious, but really: when’s the last time you had an actual party to mark a birthday that wasn’t a milestone number? Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, birthdays are a rare opportunity to gather the people you love together and go all out. This is also a great way to celebrate your partner or best friend who always does so much for others. Why not invite a bunch of friends to ring in the big 3-7 (or 4-1, or whatever!) and make it one for the books?
Half-birthdays are also a fun excuse to throw a party. On Instagram, @kcannbat shared, “My grandmother had a party six months after her birthday just because she made it another year!”
Tips for success: Don’t take it too seriously: I’d recommend saving the slideshows and sappy toasts for the bigger birthdays and use these non-milestones as a time to just let loose and have fun.
Make it obvious (Super Bowl) or a little more arcane (National Dog Show—serious fun), but sports are a great excuse to invite your favorite people for a little viewing and a lot of snacking. This year, the Olympics are a perfect time to create some fun—they only come around every few years, so why not mark it with an “Opening Ceremonies” party?
Tips for success: Beware the “diehard” fans who might get annoyed if people are talking and socializing during the game. They might need to be relegated to their own viewing room (or just stay home, hehe.)
Reality Show Watch Party
Top Chef, Housewives, The Hills—pick your poison, but there are few things more fun than gathering your a few fellow reality TV fans and freaking out over the latest plot twist together. I really think that Bachelorette watch parties have become so popular is that people are actively looking for reasons to have a party, and a weekly TV show gives a baked-in reason to gather friends at home without too much pressure.
Tips for success: Make it a potluck. Especially if this is a weekly thing, lighten the load (and expense) on yourself by letting friends take turns bringing wine, mocktails, or snacks for sharing.
A Clean Bill of Health
A friend’s cancer is in remission or you finally got the boot off your fractured foot (that’ll be me soon!), I guarantee the crew will want to gather around and celebrate your good health and freedom. Hosting a gathering is a great way to show gratitude, support, and solidarity with a friend who’s gone through a really tough time.
New Business Launch
Celebrate a friend who finally took the leap and turned that “side project” into a business. A big leap like this takes guts, and celebrating their courage will make them feel so supported.
To Say “Bon Voyage”
It’s always bittersweet when a friend moves away for a new adventure, and I think it’s so important to let them know how much you care! Everyone wants to know they made an impact, and their presence will be missed. Here are a few tips and menu ideas for sending a friend off with love and great memories.
On Instagram, @ashleephair said, “We had a Non-Voyage Party party when my friend decided to not move across the country with her soon-to-be fiancé!”
Recently moved into a new place? Welcome old friends into your new home, and make it the first of many gatherings there to come! This is also a great opportunity to meet your new neighbors, so don’t hesitate to mix groups and invite a few people from your new street that may soon become new friends.
Tips for success: Make it an “open house”-style gathering where people can come and go as they please. You can do this by noting on the invitation “come-and-go from 3 pm – 7 pm.” This casual vibe will give you more opportunities to actually talk and meet some new people since everyone won’t all be showing up at once.
You Grew Your Own Vegetables
Last summer, my dad grew the most incredible tomatoes in his garden, and they were the centerpiece to every dinner menu we had all season! He made a big tomato salad with corn and burgers with thick slices of heirlooms. It was such a simple way to add a celebratory, festive tone to a “normal” weekend barbecue. And the best part is that he always sent a few fresh tomatoes home with everyone!
Whether it’s your bumper crop of watermelon or the fact that you finally grew fresh herbs in pots on your front porch, design a menu around your harvest and name it a “Summer Tomato Party” or a “Watermelon Fête” for a built-in theme that feels so seasonal.
I hear so many people mention that they don’t really get to know their neighbors these days the way that the previous generations did, which, to me, is really sad! Why not do something about it by being “that neighbor” who rallies everyone together and makes it a point to get to know each other. It doesn’t have to be fancy—invite everyone for a neighborhood happy hour in the front yard, BYOB, set out some snacks, and crank up the tunes. I promise you’ll be so glad you did.
A Pet Party
On Instagram, @mightyalrighthome said, “I’m going to my daughter’s dog’s 1st birthday party this afternoon.” I’m here for it!
A Post-Vacation Party
You just got back from Italy, and you’re dying to share your pics, memories, and food inspiration with your friends! Cook up a big bowl of pasta, source some buffalo mozzarella just like you had in Rome, and invite your friends to experience la bella vita without leaving the country.
Tips for success: People are definitely going to want to see a few of your best photos. They’re definitely not going to want a play-by-play of every photo stored in your iPhone. Keep this portion of the gathering to 5 minutes or less or you might lose some people.
Or shall we call it a “freedom party?” Instead of mourning the end of one chapter, why not gather a few trusted pals to celebrate the beginning of a new one?
You Mastered a New Recipe
What’s that you say, you’ve been working on your sourdough bread baking? That is 1000% a reason to have a party. Bake a couple of loaves, slice it up, do a build-your-own toast menu and make this salad. And if you’re feeling really generous, you could even gift your friends a loaf of their own (or a sourdough starter with your recipe!) to take home with them at the end of the night.
Other fun recipes to celebrate: homemade pasta, beef bourguignon, ramen, or croissants. If you learned how to shuck oysters, order a bunch of really good ones to be shipped to your door and break out the bubbly!
There’s a Full Moon
There’s something about a full moon that feels festive and mystical and inviting friends to a full moon party is just cool. Check out the lunar calendar, invite some friends (but leave a little mystery), and host a feast under the light of a full moon. Lots of ideas for this party concept right here.
Show Off Your Renovation Project
Maybe you did a full-scale reno, or maybe you just bought a new rug for the living room. Either way, your pals are definitely going to want to see your new and improved space, so this definitely counts as an excuse to throw a party.
Tips for success: Watch out for the red wine—that new rug won’t clean itself!
A New Job
Mark a milestone moment in your or your friend’s life by inviting friends to celebrate finally getting that dream gig! This is one of those moments that often pass by with little more than a “congrats!” text message, so a gathering will really communicate how excited you are for the person you love.
On Instagram, @lua_lou shared that her friends had a party because it was 80 degrees in Michigan in November! Love this idea—and there’s no doubt that beautiful weather puts everyone in an automatically celebratory mood.
Another milestone life event that often passes by with little fanfare. It’s so important to let someone know what an impact they’ve made in the lives of others at work, or how proud you are of them for working so hard all these years. Throw a party to help make the transition an especially happy one.
You Hit a Big Goal
Whether it was to lose 30 pounds, stop smoking, work out every day for a month, or something else entirely, the “new you” deserves to be celebrated for such an incredible accomplishment. Invite your friends to celebrate with you!
On Instagram, @mrsclaudstagram said she threw a party when her son completed the Los Angeles marathon. So sweet, and a definite cause for celebration.
Tips for success: This party should respect the goal. So, if you’ve stopped drinking, it’s probably not the time to break out the celebratory tequila. Or if you’ve lost a bunch of weight, it may not serve you to order a giant ice cream cake. Celebrate in ways that are aligned with how good you feel now!