Alcohol does not guarantee a successful party. The presence of alcohol may even ruin an otherwise fun time if someone gets inebriated, especially if the person plans on driving home and is not of legal age to drink. Throwing a party at which alcohol is served can bring a fun-loving host a world of troubles if a partygoer has a car accident or gets ill. Though some localities permit parents to serve alcohol to their own underage offspring, it's frowned upon, and serving other minors alcohol can get you into a lot of trouble -- even if you are not physically present at the party or don't know about it.
With the holidays fast approaching and planning for memorable New Year's Eve celebrations under way, many party hosts are weighing the presence of alcohol versus non-alcohol party fare. Alcohol or no alcohol should be a no-brainer for teenage parties. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistics, "Traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens (15-20 years old), and 31 percent of teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related." Be sure to tell your guests that the party is alcohol-free when you invite them, and ask for their cooperation. Share your reasons for keeping your party dry, and stay firm with your decision.
There are other considerations to keep in mind, though, such as health or social demands. Even finances can help make a decision.
"With the economy down, many are trying to cut costs and save money," says Alex Tiba of Bar Products.com Inc. "Mixing virgin drinks can be a lot of fun and economical compared with having to spend the money on liquor and beer. When the cost for a bottle of liquor averages about $30-$50, it is easy to see where the majority of the expenses will go to. A fun party idea might be something like having a 'best mixed drink' contest at a party. We have three-piece shakers priced as low as $1.20. If the host is planning a 15-30-person party, he can purchase shakers, mixes, salts and sugars for less than the cost of a bottle of liquor and a six-pack. Throw in 'The Original Guide to Alcohol-Free Beverages and Drinks' and a fun group of people, and you will have the best party in town."
As Tiba suggested, there are several nonalcoholic versions of many popular party drinks. Combine cranberry or grapefruit juice with seltzer for a super nonalcoholic spritzer. Make virgin pineapple coladas with pineapple juice, crushed pineapple and coconut milk. You can make a great and tasty party drink with equal parts pineapple, cranberry and orange juice and 2 parts lemon-lime soda; toss in crushed ice and a gallon of fruity sherbet. Use sparkling cider or sparkling grape juice to toast the midnight hour and welcome the new year.
Paying attention to your menu also will help to keep your party moving. Plan a theme for your table, and include plenty of finger foods and noshes. Fondues and chocolate fountains are always great fun on a table. Keeping decorations and a color scheme in your theme makes the table a little more festive. Think about throwing a costume party; hire a local band; or rent a karaoke machine. Hosting a party at a venue other than your home -- such as a museum, art gallery or bowling alley -- also can be a lot of fun.
Plan age-appropriate games, although some games -- such as charades and Twister -- seem to transcend age restrictions. Many games you played as a child or your own children play now can be changed to fit older groups, even adults; think of a scavenger hunt or Simon says. Try having a poker night, or get a roulette wheel and host Las Vegas night complete with poker chips. Poetry slams and "murder mystery" dinners are other fun things you can do. Plan your party based on the ages and number of your guests and their common interests.
Don't be surprised if your guests just enjoy a relaxing night of conversation, good food and watching the ball drop in Times Square on television.