A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, or recreation. A party will typically feature food and beverages, and often music and dancing as well.
Some parties are held in honor of a specific person, day, or event (e.g., a birthday party, a Super Bowl party, or a St. Patrick’s Day party). Parties of this kind are often called celebrations.
Types of parties
Birthday parties are a feature of many cultures. The guests may be asked to bring a gift for the honored person. In Western cultures, birthday parties are often accompanied by colorful decorations, such as balloons and streamers. In these cultures, a birthday cake is usually served with lit candles that are to be blown out after a "birthday wish" has been made. The person being honored will be given the first piece of cake. While the birthday cake is being brought to the table, the song "Happy Birthday to You" or some other dedicated birthday song is sung by the guests.
Birthday parties are often larger and more extravagant if they celebrate someone who has reached what is regarded in the culture as a milestone age, such as transition from childhood to adulthood. Examples of traditional coming of age celebrations include the North American sweet sixteen party and the Latin American quinceañera.
A dinner party is a social gathering at which people eat dinner together, usually in the host’s home. At the most formal dinner parties, the dinner is served on a dining table with place settings. Dinner parties are often preceded by a cocktail hour in a living room or bar, where guests drink cocktails while mingling and conversing.
At some informal dinner parties, the host may ask guests to bring food or beverages (a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, or appetizers). A party of this type is called a potluck or potluck dinner. In the United States, potlucks are very often held in churches and community centers.
Tea parties are often characterized by the use of prestigious tableware, such as bone china and silver. The table, whatever its size or cost, is made to look its prettiest, with cloth napkins and matching cups and plates.
In addition to tea, larger parties may serve punch or, in cold weather, hot chocolate. The tea is accompanied by a variety of easily managed foods. Thin sandwiches such as cucumber or tomato, bananas, cake slices, buns, and cookies are all common choices.
Christmas caroling party
In English and American culture during the Christmas season, it is traditional to have a Christmas caroling party. People go from door to door in a neighborhood and sing Christmas carols. In Spain, this type of party is called "El Aguinaldo". It's the same as in England and the United States, but the only difference is that the kids who sing the carols are given tips.
Some popular Christmas carols are "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Deck the Halls", "The Twelve Days of Christmas", "Frosty the Snowman", "Jingle Bells", "Silver Bells", "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", and "O Holy Night".
A reception is a style of party that is well suited to receiving many guests. The hosts and any guests of honor form a receiving line in order of precedence near the entrance. They greet each guest in turn as he or she arrives. Each guest greets the first person in the line (who, of course, is the person of lowest precedence). The first person then introduces the guest to the next person in the line and turns to the next guest. Each guest properly speaks little more than his name (if necessary) and a conventional greeting or congratulation to each person in the receiving line. Thus the reception progresses steadily without unnecessary delay. After formally receiving each guest in this fashion, the hosts may mingle with the guests.
Dances and balls
A dance is a social gathering at which the guests dance. It may be a casual, informal affair or a structured event, such as a school dance or a charity ball. Dances usually take place during the evening. An afternoon dance is formally known as a tea dance. Some dances feature specific kinds of dancing, such as square dancing.
A block party is a public party that is attended by the residents of a specific city block or neighborhood. These parties are typically held in a city street that has been closed to traffic to accommodate the party.
At some block parties, attendees are free to pass from house to house, socializing, and often drinking alcoholic beverages.
A shower is a party whose primary purpose is to give gifts to the guest of honor, commonly a bride-to-be or a mother-to-be. Guests who attend are expected to bring a small gift, usually related to the upcoming life event, like getting married or having a baby.
As a gift-giving occasion, it may not properly be hosted either by the guest of honor or the close relatives of the guest of honor, as requesting gifts from friends for a near relative is seen as either greedy or begging.
Costume or fancy dress party
At a masquerade ball, guests wear masks to conceal their identities. Guests at a costume party or a fancy dress party wear costumes. These parties are sometimes associated with holiday events, such as Halloween and Mardi Gras.
A surprise party is a party that is not made known beforehand to the person in whose honor it is being held.
Birthday surprise parties are the most common kind of surprise party. At most such parties, the guests will arrive an hour or so before the honored person arrives. Often, a friend in on the surprise will lead the honored person to the location of the party without letting on anything.
The guests might even conceal themselves from view, and when the honored person enters the room, they leap from hiding and all shout, "Surprise!" For some surprise birthday parties, it is considered to be a good tactic to shock the honored person. Streamers, silly string, and balloons may be used for this purpose. Evidence of a party, such as decorations and balloons, are not made visible from the exterior of the home, so that the honored person will suspect nothing.
Parties for teenagers and young adults
A “house party” is a party where a large group of people get together at a private home to socialize. House parties that involve the drinking of beer pumped from a keg are called keg parties or “keggers.” These parties are popular in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia and are often attended by people under the legal drinking age. Sometimes, even older party-goers run afoul of the law for having provided alcoholic beverages to minors. Arrests may also be made for violating a noise ordinance, for disorderly conduct, and even for operating a “blind pig.”
A spin-off of dance parties, the rave involves dancing to loud house music, techno music, or industrial music. Rave parties may be attended by as few as a score of people in a basement or, more likely, by a few hundred people in a club, to as many as thousands in a large warehouse, field, or even tens of thousands in a sporting arena, city block, or other large space.
Outdoor parties include bush parties and beach parties. Bush parties (also called “field parties”) are held in a secluded area of a forest (“bush”), where friends gather to drink and talk. These parties are often held around a bonfire. Beach parties are held on a sandy shoreline of a lake, river, or sea, and also often feature a bonfire.
A crush party is a party in a sorority or fraternity where the sisters or brothers are given a certain number of invitations (according to their “crushes”). These are passed on to friends outside of the sorority/fraternity and given to the “crushes” (while keeping secret the name of the inviter). There may be some sort of disclosure at the party, so that the guests can find out who has a crush on her/him.
Singles dance party and mixer
Usually a “mixer game” is played, to make it easy for people to meet each other. For example, each guest may be given a card with an inspiring quotation on it. The game is to find someone of the opposite sex who has the same quotation. Couples who have matching cards may be given a small prize.
These parties are sponsored by various organizations, both non-profit and for-profit.
A fundraising party, or fundraiser, is a party that is held for the purpose of collecting money that will be given to some person or to some institution, such as a school, charity, business, or political campaign. These parties are usually formal and consist of a dinner followed by speeches or by a presentation extolling whatever the money is being raised for.
It is very common to charge an admission fee for parties of this kind. This fee may be as high as several thousand dollars, especially if money is being raised for a political campaign.
In some places, parties to celebrate graduation from school, college or university are popular.
- Bridal shower
- Bachelor party (aka UK: stag night; Australia: Bucks Night)
- Bachelorette party (aka hen night, hen party)
- Wedding reception
- Divorce party
A housewarming party may be held when a family, couple, or person moves into a new house or apartment. It is an occasion for the hosts to show their new home to their friends. Housewarming parties are typically informal and do not include any planned activities other than a tour of the new house or apartment. Invited family members and friends may bring gifts for the new home.
A welcome party is held for the purpose of welcoming a newcomer, such as a new club member, a new employee, or a family's new baby.
In many cultures, it is customary to throw a farewell party in honor of someone who is moving away or departing on a long trip (sometimes called a bon voyage party). Retirement parties for departing co-workers fall into this category.
A cast party is a celebration following the final performance of a theatric event, such as a play, a musical, or an opera. A party of this kind may also be held following the end of shooting for a motion picture (called a “wrap party”) or after the season’s final episode of a television series. Cast parties are traditionally held for most theater performances, both professional and amateur.
Invited guests are usually restricted to performers, crew members, and a few others who did not participate in the performance.
A pre-party is a party that is held immediately before some event, such as a school dance, a wedding, a birthday party, or a bar mitzvah. These parties are usually of short duration and sometimes involve getting ready for the event (e.g., the guests may put on makeup or costumes). Guests usually leave at the same time and arrive at the event together.
Parties on special days
- Saint Patrick’s Day
- Pakistan Day
- Midsummer Eve
Turkic Countries (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan etc.)
Parties associated with religious events
- A social gathering during which the guests play party games.
- A party that involves multi-player computer games and uses a Local Area Network.
- A party that is hosted in a private home for the purpose of supporting a particular candidate, political party, or ballot measure, or to share information and opinions about an upcoming election.
- A pool party
- A party in which the guests swim in a swimming pool.
- A sleepover or pajama party, also called a slumber party
- A party for which the guests are invited to stay overnight at the home of the host. These parties are usually for teenagers or young children.
- A party in which the guests wear togas.
- Cocktail party
- Convention (meeting)
- Crayfish party
- Cuddle party
- Event management
- Event planning
- List of party organizations
- Naked party
- Party stores
- Tung, Jennifer (2005). In Style Parties: The Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining. New York: Melcher Media, Inc. ISBN 978-1-932994-11-7.
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