I’m not great with money but I thought that the best way to spend all the cash I didn’t have at uni was to throw a massive party.
- we lived in a 12 bedroom house and it would be criminal not to throw at least one ridiculous house party during our time there
- We hadn’t had a proper house party yet (apart from a spectuacularly crap Halloween one that no one came to) and I was about to turn 21
- I could use photos from it for a future portfolio (yeah right…)
- I wanted to throw the best house party anyone had ever been to
Okay, we’ve all been to a million pre-drinks/house parties with some crappy homemade decorations that’ve been put up, and that’s fine because tbh all your there to do is get drunk. I wanted to go beyond this and put on a party that no one would forget.
So PROJECT BATE was born, which I dropped over £800 on (as a broke student, remember)- but it was definitely worth it! So I’ve written a guide to throwing a party to remember…
1. Get your house mates in on it.
obviously you can’t really throw a house party if your flat mates are whingeing about deposits. We’d trashed the house anyway so a party wasn’t really going to add any more damage. It was also agreed on that we put in a tenner each which added up nicely to £120.
2. Make a plan!
If you want to put on a really great party, it will take a few weeks of planning. You need to figure out what your theme is and then what you need to purchase. You need to figure out how many rooms you are going to use and how these will be decorated. You need to think about any decorations you are going to make and how these will be secured. You may need to contact people e.g. DJs/photographers and arrange for them to come/negotiate a fee. I personally found it helpful to draw a plan of the layout of rooms and where everything was going and also write a list of tasks that needed to be done on the day (otherwise you might explode with stress)!
3. Warn the neighbours!
This doesn’t always work and people will still call the police (look up local council regulations on noise complaints). If your neighbours are students, invite them! This way everyone wins. I stressed a lot about spending a ton of money and then just getting the party shut down. Fortunately this didn’t happen and it was still going at 6am. (By which point I had nearly collapsed and kicked everyone out since I’d been awake for 24 hours. Did I mention that my dissertation was due in the day before the party?!)
4. Soundproofing and taping
If you are getting proper speakers in, you NEED to soundproof. Sound ‘leaks’ (imagine it like water), so you need to block up any gaps e.g. windows. One great technique is to tape/prop mattresses up against windows (especially those facing the street). This is also fab because it provides a place to store your mattress if your clearing out bedrooms!
Tape shut any cupboards/doors etc. that you do not want people to go in! The bigger the deterrent, the less people will bother to try and steal/destroy things when they are trollied.
The fun stuff! I always think the best parties have a theme, even when people aren’t too keen on dressing up. I chose the theme ‘Underwater’ because it was casual enough costume-wise but it meant I could create a vibe throughout the whole house! Note on this – because I said it wasn’t going to be a strict dress code, of course no one dressed up. If you want people to dress up, you need to be enthusiastic about it on the event invite!
Decorating the house meant emptying several rooms of furniture. One poor housemate volunteered their room to store most of the crap, which actually worked out quite well. We spent many hours pre-party dragging sofas up and down stairs – but believe me the dedication is worth it when you have a completely empty room for dancing in! We had underwater blue lighting and underwater decorations hanging from the ceilings (get creative with some cheap craft materials off amazon – I made jellyfish out of paper lanterns).
Zones – I would definitely recommend having different zones throughout the house instead of just one area. People are gonna want to dance, but they’re also wanna be able to hang out and have a conversation. In addition, you can have totally different themes in different zones. The zones we had were: photobooth room, blackout disco room, chill room, shisha room and beer pong room.
On the middle floor, two bedrooms were turned into chill out areas with all our seating furniture/ One of these rooms also had a 4-way shisha pipe set up in the middle (I would definitely suggest investing in one of these for your party, people love them! Just don’t drop the hot coals on the carpet like we did, despite having a ton of bubble wrap covering the floor…).
Downstairs we made one room into a photobooth area with props and a photo frame. Again, very cheap to do (bought off amazon), but is another great element – everyone loves photobooths at parties.
On the top floor, we had a beer pong table (literally just need disposable cups and ping pong balls – people are easily pleased) and then on the middle floor, next to the two chill out rooms we had the blackout room.
The blackout room was by far the coolest thing we did at that party. I actually managed to rope in my flat mates to cover the entire interior of the room in black bin bags. Once we got the DJs, the strobe machine, the smoke machine and the glow sticks in there as well, the effect was crazy! It was like a small, sweaty club and people spent most of their night in there.
Lighting – lighting is the most effective way of creating an atmosphere at an event. My pet hate is having your normal bright house lights on at a party where you’ve put a load of effort into the decorations – cos they’re gonna look shit! Invest in lighting before any other decorations – it can transform a space and create different ‘vibes’. A really cheap way of doing this is just getting coloured lightbulbs.
7. Sound and DJs
There are always loads of students at uni who proclaim to be ‘DJs’, but some of these are pretty decent. If they’ve got their own decks, you’re winning! I asked a local DJ duo called Presidential to play (and paid them a small fee) and they were absolutely phenomenal. They brought all their own stuff, even a table, and I just left them to it – amazing!! I would seriously recommend asking around and getting a DJ for your party, it definitely is more exciting than a Spotify playlist playing through your laptop and provides a focal point.
That said, we did have extra, smaller speakers in 3 of the other rooms playing different genres, which just adds another element e.g. house music in chill out zones.
The word catering is a bit strong considering it was a university house party, but you get the gist. It was important to me to spend money on providing alcohol because I think it makes your event so much more attractive. I provided 40 cocktails as well as had some punch…. everyone loves free alcohol. I would suggest choosing a really simple cocktail recipe (3 ingredients max) and making sure one of the liquids is coloured, to go with your theme. Buying some plastic cocktail glasses off of amazon is also a nice touch. These can be welcome drinks – put them on a table near the entrance for guests to have on arrival.
I also bought loads of sweets and put them in a cardboard treasure chest I bought off Amazon – just another element that adds to the theme. Cheap, doesn’t require any effort/cooking but is effective. Students love anything free.
If you really want to go all out, you can get your house party sponsored if enough people are attending. Student brands like Red Bull, Spotify and Smirnoff have dedicated student reps who will bring freebies to your party – just call up the local branch of the company and try to get their details.
I had Red Bull come down with some free cans and also Red Bull branded cups, which were great for beer pong. Again, just another element to make your party that bit better than the usual fare!
Photographer – As I mentioned earlier, I did want some good shots that I could potentially use for a portfolio in the future. But aside from that, hiring a photographer is a great idea. You can contact companies like IAMVIP who will quote you for a private event – I think I paid £80 for 2 hours which I thought was fairly reasonable. They can add watermarks/logos etc. onto the images (e.g. Project Bate) after and will also edit them. Everyone loves to grab the photographer for a snap when they’re out clubbing, so I was just trying to re-create that vibe and provide some memories from the party. Of course, if you’ve got a mate with DSLR who wants some experience, rope them in… but they’ll probably want to get pissed! Even the photographer at my party was making use of the free cocktails! Ha. Another option is to contact the uni photography society, but you’d be more unsure of good they are.
Security – With all 12 of us inviting people, the number of people invited ended up being around 450. I was freaking out about this, mainly because I didn’t want the party to be shut down. In the end I actually hired two security guards from a local security company to come down and be on the door, which I’m so glad I did. In fact I ended up paying them both to stay 3 extra hours (and making them a lot of tea…). Hiring security for a big party means you don’t have to stress about it all kicking off and being shut down – definitely worth it when you’ve already spent hundreds of pounds. I also used the back of the house as the entrance to the party, in an effort to minimise sound in the street. The front door was blocked off in such a way that people could not open it to let in their mates!
If you don’t ask you don’t get. I had no idea that certain companies actually sponsor house parties and bring down free stuff. This isn’t just restricted to ‘studenty’ brands like Red Bull – try calling local companies and see if they’ll do anything for you. If you’ve got good negotiating skills and are putting on an event that will generate worthwhile exposure for them, you’re likely to get results.
Same thing with the security and photographer – both companies had never worked at a house party before and were pretty sceptical (in fact they thought it was a joke). However, if you’ve got the cash then there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to help you out. photographers from a company like IAMVIP are experienced shooting in low-light conditions like clubs, which is why I chose them over a student photographer.
Details – it is the details that will set your party apart from the rest. Don’t just use a bog standard table for your DJ equipment – cover it in black fabric or be creative and use bin-bags. Use temporary fixtures to hang up your decorations, rather than brown parcel tape. (cable ties, cable mounts and fishing wire are particularly effective). Clear the room of ANYTHING unnecessary. Create seating areas where people can socialise.
So that’s it! Hope there’s been some helpful tips in there for if you were planning on throwing a ridiculous party at some point during your uni career. Yes, it may blow a huge hole in your pocket and you may be clearing up the damage for hours on a hangover…. but its definitely worth it. Believe me.