#1185: “Need scripts for moderating how much guests drink in my home.”

Hi Captain!

My fiancé (they/them) and I (she/her) recently bought a house. My little sister (she/her) also lives with us. It’s awesome.

We throw parties, where people drink (sometimes a lot – fiancé and sister are college students, I’m a few years older) and hang out. We’re planning on implementing a house rule where people have to agree how much they’re planning to drink when they get to the house, and they’ll be cut off once they reach that limit. None of us really mind having our friends come and hang out and get very drunk, but I especially get upset by the whole “oh I’m only going to drink one or two” *cut three hours ahead; they’re obviously sauced and doing another line of shots*, or the good old “stop me if I’m going to drink too much” “you’ve reached your limit, stop drinking” “no I don’t want to” – mostly because that used to be me, and it’s why I don’t really drink anymore.

Do you have any scripts about how to let people know about this change in house rules? I want people to take it seriously, but also not feel like we’re shaming them. One strategy we’ve considered is presenting it as ‘my fault’ (due to my history) because the people who this is most aimed at are my little sister’s friends, and a couple of my fiancé’s, so maybe that way it would seem a little bit less personal and more of a good guest thing vs. a ‘my friend thinks I have a drinking problem’ thing.

Also, do you have any scripts for then enforcing that rule? I’m pretty comfy being the ‘bad cop’, but I’m less sure how to respond when a firm ‘No’ (and then taking and hiding the bottle) doesn’t work – for a lot of my fiancé’s friends, in the worst case scenario, we’d just kick them out and call a lyft; but some of my sister’s friends don’t live that close so they come down for the weekend and stay on our couch, so when they get drunk and petulant the options are slightly fewer, and tend to be things like ‘call it a night and send everyone home’ which tends to feel bad. We’re hoping that the more explicit boundary agreed upon while sober will nip a lot of that in the bud, but would still like some fall back scripts.

Thanks!

No-Irresponsible-Fun-Allowed

Hello No Irresponsible Fun Allowed,

Moving into  a new place is a great time to rethink what you enjoy about being a host.

Furthermore, I think that party rules are great and you should definitely make some, because we all have a greater chance of thriving when we know what to expect. For example:

  • If someone is hosting a political fundraiser for a certain political party on the top floor of a venue with no elevators in a room with only tall tables and no chairs, serving only beer that has been competitively brewed to include The! Most! Hops! Ever! In! A! Single! Keg!, kindly spell that out from the start so I can cheerfully decline!
  • My house has cats in it, they touch everything with their little cat feet and cat butts, if you’re extremely allergic to felines, maybe  we should meet for lunch at a neutral location instead of you coming to movie night.
  • Let’s assume that beer, bacon, or both will be in each and every dish at the annual Beer & Bacon Fest, so if you’re a vegan and you super want to come along, that’s dandy, just, you definitely gotta bring your own food.

Guests actually need to know stuff like: What do I wear? Do I need to get a babysitter or can I bring the small buddies? Is the thing accessible to me? Who’s paying for what? Is audience participation expected? What time does it end? Is it legal to park on the street? It’s not “mean” to tell people about your party rules, and the less you assume and the more you spell out, probably the better. And don’t bait & switch! The old “Funny thing, coworker, I know I said the team was going bowling but this is really a DATE” trick calls for an immediate report to Human Resources. If you invite me to what I think is a brunch and it’s actually an escape room, I’m definitely gonna escape from that room and possibly our friendship. Tell. Me. What. To. Expect. If I opt in, I will wear shoes and a bra and other appropriate garments and joyfully try my best to follow your rules and I expect the same.

That said, Letter Writer, I think that trying to individually negotiate and monitor each guest around a pre-arranged, self-selected drink limit is almost guaranteed to fail. You already know who can be trusted and who can’t, you know that many people you & your housemates know can’t be counted on to self-monitor their booze intake, you know your fiancé and your sister are, shall we say…unsuccessful so far…at facilitating healthy drinking behavior with certain friends, so, please forgive me, but I don’t actually have scripts for implementing this plan because it is doomed? ( I should say, I cannot overstate how much I love you right now, because I can absolutely see the kindness and the logic wheels turning as you search for the most “fair” and “reasonable” solution, just, imagine The Parable of Solomon where King Solomon “modestly proposes” cutting a kid in half to find its true mother, and then imagine King Solomon’s assistant helpfully whipping out a sword, like,“Solved it for ya, buddy! Logical AND Fair!” No one wants that.)

Good news: I think we can do better!

Let’s adjust. For starters, I think you do actually mind when people get trashed at your house (hence the proposed change in policy) and that’s okay! You want to be able to relax and enjoy yourself when you host instead of worrying about your guests or fearing you’ll relapse into behavior you’re trying to leave behind, so you’re trying to find a way to do this that gives your sister & fiancé maximum cover and allows you to appear to be maximally chill.Good news, once you admit and acknowledge that you do have preferences and needs, many not-doomed options present themselves.

One recommendation: Strongly consider whether the scripts you seek are for guests (“Hey buddy, that’s enough for tonight, switch to soda or water please now” or “Oof, time to get you a cab!”  are classics for a reason) or for your housemates, which may involve far more advance negotiation, re:

  • Do we have parties? How many? What kind? Is this a Party House or a Once In A While, We Have A Soirée house?
  • Are booze or other substances on offer/allowed? How much? What kind? All the time? Only at certain times?
  • Do you realize I’m trying to be sober? Can you help me out?
  • Would you prefer to have awkward talks with the people among your friends who always tend to overdo it or would you prefer to change up how we do our inviting for a while and see if that solves the problem on its own?

If you, a person who owns a house and lives in it, are looking actively for non-boozy things to do at home and trying to change your hosting style to be less-boozy because that’s what’s best for you, that is a legitimate thing to want and expect your housemates/partner/family members to support you in. And in my opinion, making it quite personalI’m not drinking currently, so while I want to see people, I need the people in my life to be cool with changing the style of what we do together so booze is centered far less, can we plan the next six months accordingly, with a mix of parties with clearer limits and more dry events” – is actually way more respectful to everyone (including yourself) than trying to get everyone to stealthily buy in, drink by drink, under the illusion that it is somehow NOT personal. (Especially if we consider that drinking is not required at any time and that there are places besides your home where people can drink if they are that committed to it.)

Here are some party alternatives, which I recommend you try out on an event-by-event basis (vs. trying to set and explain and enforce a new rule on each person at every event):

  • Make parties shorter and have a hard (and much earlier) end time. “Please come by next Saturday! Doors open at _____, we’re kicking everyone out by ______.” People from far away can decide if they want to make the trip for the time window offered, they can decide if they want to drop by your party on their way somewhere else. For years a friend has thrown an annual cocktail shindig that goes for exactly two hours and deposits everyone outside in plenty of time to make a dinner reservation or theater tickets. It’s delightful.
  • Outright ban drinking at certain events. “We’re taking a break from being the House of Booze this month, but we’d still love to see people. Come by for movie night on Friday, we’ll have 2 kinds of soup. Bring bread, cheese, or whatever (non-alcoholic) thing you’d like to drink.” Are you afraid to ban drinking b/c you fear nobody would come if that stopped being an option? Because in my mind it would be extremely interesting to see who enthusiastically shows up to something like this and who skips it or makes it weird.
  • Reset expectations by drastically shifting the time of day and the type of activity. “Afternoon board games + pizza,” one month, “Come by for brunch & bring a craft project you’re working on, we’ll have art supplies and pancakes” another time, or “BYO Complete Works of Shakespeare, we’re gonna pick a play at random and read it doing all the voices, costumes provided/welcome” another time. There are more parties on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in “come to our house, get shitfaced!” models, you have infinite freedom and infinite time to reinvent…all of this. People’s expectations about what parties at your place are like didn’t come out of nowhere, and you’re allowed to reset things any time you like.
  • Consider smaller guest lists and rotating invitations. Who are the hard-core drinkers? Does it make sense for your sister and/or your fiancé invite them all together (and get it over with) (maybe on a night when you have theater tickets and can crash with a quiet friend)(or to invite them one at a time to daylight/lower key things, maybe spread their influence out, and see who adjusts)? And then you invite the people who love moderation or not drinking at all to other things? Also, be honest: Is it time to kick out some assholes?
  • Hire a bartender mix & pour drinks vs. letting people help themselves. Maybe every now and then you throw an old-school all-out party, but plan it a little differently, with a theme, a dress code, a distinct start and end time, a clear budget, and a bartender  – not a friend-bartender, a REAL bartender – to keep an eye on your guests so you don’t have to.
  • Straight up use drink tickets, a certain # per guest. This is not my first or most ideal suggestion (people who want to can always trade/accumulate tickets, for example), but this is a common way of setting an overall expectation for how much guests should plan on drinking, and it’s still probably less work and angst than trying to implement individually tailored Drinking Contracts and then try to enforce those once everyone’s had a few.

Fortunately there are lots of ways to tackle this so you see friends, provide good hospitality, and honor your own well-being and comfort level in your new home. Whatever you do, spell it out in the invitation so people know exactly what to expect, and celebrate with the people who enthusiastically show up and enthusiastically respect your house rules. I hope you find something that works for you very soon!

P.S. A note for this Letter Writer’s potential guests: If someone you know used to have boozy parties and changes up the booziness or the general partyness of their parties (like, there are definite ends to parties now, and instructions to go home), a good thing to do if you like this person and want to keep spending time with them is to show up as you’re able and just quietly abide by the new expectations without making the person explain or justify anything. Assume they have reasons, please also never pressure people to drink or to center drinking in an event if they’ve made another choice. Committed followers of Dionysus can always throw their own parties, their way,  in the woods when the moon is full and the harvest is safely in, flanked by trusty Maenads who are dressed for justice and glory.

P.P.S. *Mad love to my former housemate B.B.M.B. who 100% fostered a Party House and who 100% just used to turn on all the lights and play Closing Time on repeat when she wanted to kick people out of the place at the end of a night. People immediately grasped what was happening, they had a good laugh, and most importantly, they left by the fourth play-through. Definitely by the fifth.

P.P.S. **Mad love also to my other friend, A., who used to get really stoned and bake homemade treats late at night and push us all out the door with something hot and sweet in our hands for the walk to the train. “Smells like toffee bars, time to find my coat!”  It’s okay to end things! 

 

180 comments
  1. attica said:

    You might also try limiting the supply and when those 4 bottles of CabSauv are gone, they’re…done! I get this is harder if everybody is accustomed to bring in reinforcements with them, but it’s doable with a little management of expectations.

    • This is smart and a good idea. Make it so that everyone (let’s just say) could have two drinks if they wanted to without anyone adding on.

      What my wife and I have been doing lately as I move away from the Party House shenanigans of my 20s (also a healthy heaping of fear no one would come if not sated with many drinks).

      • Uh, I mean “this is what…”

        People will bring drinks, maybe, but it won’t be enough to get folks sloshed unless they explicitly intend to do so.

        I had so many slippity sloppity parties from like 2005-2014, but like LW (to whom i wish much luck), there is a time and a place.

        Much harder with college student(s) as housemates, of course. But maybe they can visit your place to pre-game and then go to another place if your end time is earlyish, too?

    • Allison said:

      I like this idea as well, but be prepared for some people to drink quickly and go in for their 3rd glass before some of the last minute stragglers get a chance to have any. That might involve bringing two out to start, and waiting until a certain time to bring out the other two.

    • MusicWithRocksInIt said:

      This is a good idea – but best to let people know ahead of time. I feel like collage students usually bring their own? So cut it off on the pass and say “Hey – I will provide 4 bottles of CabSauv for the evening, but once they are gone we are done! Please don’t bring anything else unless it is snacks! Thanks!”

      • Ren said:

        Just like the Captain suggested warning people if you’re only going to serve one style of beer at a party it might be worth preemptively mixing it up from party to party. “This month we’re having a fancy wine party, next time we’re doing gin tasting/local brewers samples/mini cocktails.” That way people who don’t drink wine/spirits/beer/whatever the first invite was for won’t feel excluded from future events. A friend of mine banned BYOB at her parties but only serves one low quality lager and prosecco to guests. Most of our friend group won’t drink either of those so now we have sad friends and a sadder host with poorly attended parties.

        • MusicWithRocksInIt said:

          Very good point – everyone is not gonna like the same thing. Maybe everyone can bring their own bottle of wine ish thing? Or everyone can bring one sixpack? Maybe provide four different options that are all about the same % of alcohol?

          I once went to a wedding where they only had a keg – nothing else (not even pop or juice) and I had never needed to drink more at an event in my life (and I hate beer a lot). I contemplated a wine run but couldn’t make myself do it. But I did get to drink later when we all went to a bar… so there is that.

          • Persia said:

            Boo! That’s asking for trouble! That could lead to drunk and dehydrated guests at the very least.

          • Kacienna said:

            I feel like having only one alcohol option is fine; people don’t have to drink. But having no non-alcohol options at that wedding was definitely not okay! Soda and juice are fine, and enough of them that people who drink aren’t complaining about other people drinking all the mixers, but definitely need to have something – there are so many reasons why someone might be unable/unwilling to drink alcohol on any given night!

          • (Out of nesting) Water at these things should be considered mandatory. Not everyone can have (or likes!) pop or juice, either.

          • Kacienna said:

            Good point. I tend to think more about providing soda and juice because I entertain at home and water is always right there. But if it’s a place where the tap water isn’t available or isn’t palatable, water should still be available to drink somehow.

          • Jane said:

            Yeah I don’t drink and can’t generally have caffeine so if your only options are alcohol and Coke I’m gonna be a sad bunny. And if you have three or four alcoholic options and I’m stuck with water… I’m gonna leave early.

    • Zara Thustra said:

      Ding ding ding! Easiest to limit the supply—it doesn’t guarantee nobody can get hammered, but it lowers the probability. Everyone is likely to remain on a more even keel. As for the BYOB potential: it’s totally fine to thank a guest for a bottle and then put that away for another day. In the alternative, when inviting, say “You don’t have to bring anything, but if you want to, maybe dip/seltzer/chips/other non-alcoholic thing”?

    • Also, be sure there are fun non-alcoholic drinks. People are going to drink more if the alternatives are diet coke and water, because . . . meh. Making the non-booze as fun as the booze will help people slow down on the alcohol.

      • sorbus said:

        This is a great time to break out fancy mocktail recipes, with fresh fruit juice, or a really nice tea collection. Heck just reading this I already have so many ideas for a mocktail party.

    • Marie said:

      This is my recommendation! My problem drinkers are the in-laws, especially on Special Occasions, and we hosted Christmas this year. When we were out of booze we were just out of booze and too bad father in law that you wish there was another whole bottle just for you.

  2. Drew said:

    I kind of want to start suggesting other themes for the LW to try out, because the Captain’s suggestions are delightful.

    * “We’re going to choose a couple of episodes of Star Trek that pass the Bechdel Test — Original Series need not apply. Do you prefer Next Gen, DS9, pre-Seven Voyager, or post-Seven Voyager?”

    * “Come as your favorite David Bowie character. Sorry, the Goblin King is claimed, but Major Tom is still available.”

    * “InstaPot lightning round! Bring your favorite recipe and we’ll throw together a potluck on the spot.”

    * “I’ve got a friend who makes vegan-friendly mocktails and she’s willing to teach us. Bring $10 for ingredients and paper umbrellas.”

    • Nobby Nobbs said:

      “Probably better specify your favorite Voyager season, actually, cause it’s gonna be mostly Voyager. Funny what making the captain and chief engineer female does to your Bechdel score, huh?”

    • zaracat said:

      “Come as your favorite David Bowie character. Sorry, the Goblin King is claimed”

      I’m imagining a party where *everybody* comes as the Goblin King. Hilarious. Lots of eyes roving around trying to find *anywhere else* to look.

      • Angel said:

        Your postscript reminds me of a weekly karaoke night I used to go to with friends, where “Closing Time” playing at 2am to signal the end had stopped working. They switched to the incredibly hilarious “Smell Yo Dick” instead, a song about a woman who’s pretty sure her husband is cheating on her. People FLED THE BUILDING upon hearing the words to this song. It was fantastic.

        • Angel said:

          this was not meant to post here at all? what? how did this happen?

  3. Persia said:

    It may be best for the LW to send a list of rules, in writing, to the invited guests several days to a week before party time. That way, people will clearly know what the expectations are and can decide whether they can/will adjust their behavior. This also keeps people from missing unspoken cues.

  4. Dear LW,

    A subset of the Captain’s suggestion to invite fewer is the dinner party. They are great for lots of reasons. Here are some.
    – They have a time span (e.g. arrive at 7 for dinner at 8, leave by 10:30- 11 at the latest).
    – The booze is limited to apéritifs, whatever you serve during the meal, and digestifs.
    – People eat, so some alcohol will be soaked up.
    – You can have a small number of people.
    – The house can be really really pretty.

    Fwiw, the idea of tickets bothers me. A bartender, however, is a great idea.

  5. I am the resident grinch on this subject. I don’t object to drinking, but I neither want to deal with a sloppy drunk (falling into people, losing their social filter, breaking things), nor do I want to clean up after one.

    Ergo, I have a Not in My House rule: if you are visibly drunk, you can shift to non-alcoholic items, or I can call you a cab.

    It makes life much more civilized.

    • TrixM said:

      Yep. And for the out-of-town guests, they get the rules explained to them, and if they do it once, they get cut off AND they’re not invited back for an overnighter.

  6. A list of rules would be helpful as well. That would clue in any guests who are unaware of the changes.

    • A friend who does a lot of hosting has a nicely-calligraphed set of House Rules on prominent display. Saves a lot of questions/arguments.

  7. Lil Fidget said:

    Hosting social events with roommates in the picture is always an interesting proposition. I lived with a roommate who loved to throw parties when I didn’t, and it was definitely just an opportunity to practice compromising. Sometimes she threw parties and I agreed to be gone at that time, sometimes she agreed that maybe it wasn’t a good time for a party, and sometimes I agreed to stay and be a good sport – but in each case, we had to talk through it. What the party looked like was part of this conversation. There were no shortcuts.

  8. Allison said:

    I love your bit on party rules! I sometimes need the reminder that it is okay to have them, and it doesn’t make me a boring killjoy or a “bitch.” Also, snaps for telling people what to expect! Don’t tell me it’s a “game night” when we’re actually gonna spend 3-4 hours hanging out, and then only playing Cards Against Humanity at 10PM once the people with kids have gone home and the hosts’ kids have gone to bed. That is a pleasant evening, but telling me it’s one thing when it’s very much another thing will make me mad regardless of your otherwise good hosting.

    Which relates to my feelings on alcohol rules. I respect that people may have rules for their home, no matter how wonky they may sound, but it’s always a good idea to tell people about the rules ahead of time so they’re mentally prepared to comply – springing it on them may cause uncomfortable, awkward situations. I enjoy a glass of wine when hanging with friends, so if you’re having a dry party and tell me it’s dry, that’s cool, I may have a drink beforehand but I won’t drink there and won’t complain, but if the dryness is a surprise I may be a bit annoyed, perhaps even embarrassed if I bring a bottle. If you’re limiting the amount of alcohol people consume, again, I’m fine with it if I know beforehand, but if you don’t tell people until the party I may bristle at the fact my intake is being limited. Also important, if you have that rule for a while you may take for granted that everyone “just knows” that about your house, that you’re only allowed a couple drinks, but it’s a good idea to keep putting that in event invites so that new people aren’t blindsighted because someone forgot to warn them.

    • Smithy said:

      Completely agree with all of this. I’m a drinker who’s wine/spirits – no beer. And while this is simple to me, I know plenty of people who feel like their preferences are simple (no brown spirits, no white wine, no IPAs, etc etc etc), but when throwing a party but trying to limit available alcohol this can be very complicated. Therefore a heads up of “wine and beer” or “my special margaritas and Modelo” – whatever it is – that gives people the chance to be mentally prepared to what they’re walking into and how they’ll personally adjust. And if someone contacts you with “I’m on a diet and trying to only drink vodka sodas – can I bring my own?” or “I just went on a trip and came back with this amazing wine, can I bring that?” you can adjust accordingly before the party.

      At the end of the day, whenever there are boundaries there is a likelihood of people pushing against them – but if those boundaries are shared “pre-party” then it’s much easier to address that before a party then during in terms of monitoring how much people are drinking. Also, if the rule is no BYOB and we’re drinking wine and beer only and someone shows with a bottle, then you address that specifically versus having to mind a party full of folks where some people agreed to two drinks, others three, others four, etc. Having hard limits like “party ends after the game” or “party includes X many beers and Y bottles of wine” are much easier boundaries to negotiate.

      • JenniferP said:

        GENERAL SUGGESTION: As we get more and more into discussing the details of who drinks exactly what, CONSIDER STRONGLY that a party is not the same as a fully stocked cocktail bar, and it’s okay not to have everyone’s perfect favorite drink on hand or negotiate about that at all. 🙂 “We’re supplying beer & wine, contributions of same welcome, we’d appreciate everyone laying off the hard stuff.” People who want to “negotiate” about that are showing their asses in my opinion. If your favorite drink isn’t at someone’s party, drink water. Water is right there.

        • Yep Captain, a party isn’t a bar.

        • La said:

          This is fine as long as you’re flexible for allergens and similar dietary requirements. Beer isn’t gluten free, so if someone invited me to a beer only event and implied I was being unreasonable for asking if I could bring my own stuff that I could actually drink, I probably wouldn’t be going to their parties any more. (Though, to be fair, if someone invited my coeliac butt to a beer drinking event, I’d probably just skip it without bothering to try and negotiate).

          • JenniferP said:

            Okay, but the emphasis in the comments on trying to find the perfect mix of alcohol to serve is not the actual purpose of the thread.

      • Kaitlyn said:

        FWIW I’ve been to and hosted LOTS of college-era parties, and the general rule of thumb was ALWAYS BYOB. If my host offered a keg or a box of wine, they were Above and Beyond; I fully expected to show up with, and drink, my own booze. So, yes, signalling the type of party ahead of time is key to moderating the alcohol intake. A house party that starts at 9 PM will (probably) be sloshy; a games night that starts at 4 PM might mean a beer or two is cracked once the pizza arrives; brunch or lunch = no booze at all.

        OP, if you’re blunt enough to kick folks out when they start getting stumbly, you for sure have the guts to spell out expectations ahead of time. Even a quick, “Hey, we’re no longer going to be the go-to house for everyone’s messy-drunk nights; please respect that our house-guest alcohol levels now max at out at ‘dinner party,’ not ‘Mardi Gras.’ If you want to continue the party, local bars X and Y are great venues within walking distance and have terrific (responsible) bartenders.”

        • BSWW said:

          I feel like this is a good example of why explicit party rules are so smart! When my friends invite me to brunch, there is a pretty strong expectation from all included that there will be mimosas or bloody marys on offer. So, probably better to literally tell people what to expect than to count on everyone’s expectations being in line about whether “lunch” will involve having a beer or not.

        • aebhel said:

          Yes, this. I’m good with the kind of parties where everyone gets smashed, falls asleep on the living room floor, and stumbles out to the IHOP the next morning for Hangover Pancakes (or, well, I was when I was in my 20’s and didn’t have kids); I’m good with the kind of parties where everyone has at max two drinks and clears out by eleven. But if you usually host the former and want to switch to the latter, it’s good to give people a heads’ up so they know what to expect.

  9. Ooh, the Captain is smart! I love all those positive alternatives for how you can get something you’re comfortable with.

    The Captain’s answer doesn’t talk much about *why* to consider approaching it differently. For me, I’d say that the main reason to look for different approaches that acknowledge your needs is the principle that managing other adults’ alcohol use (or food intake, or relationships) isn’t a particularly healthy pattern. Especially if they aren’t asking you to. It puts you in a kind of parental/enforcement role which is problematic in a peer relationship. You should always take care of yourself (“This isn’t going to stay fun for me the way it’s likely to play out, so I’m going to stay away / just be there for the first hour and then go to bed / skip this one and invite them all over again next weekend, but for brunch and a walk”) and as a host you should intervene if someone is risking drunk driving or other physical endangerment of others, but a policy of involving yourself in other people’s limit-setting is bound to end badly. If what you want is some justification to say “I don’t want to be around Chris when they drink because they end up drinking more than planned”, you can say that now without setting Chris up for failure.

    Also, you say that you don’t really mind people getting drunk around you; what you mind is the sense that they are betraying promises. If the thing that really sets you off is the feeling of not being able to trust someone who appears to lose control and change a plan to be moderate, one way to resolve or reduce this problem might be to not even listen to what their plans are, and especially not to ASK them to set limits? Just assume they’ll get shitfaced and crash on your couch/cab home every time, and see if you feel better about that. It might be that after that happens a few times, you realize that you don’t really like that happening very often either, and you and your housemates can work out some different party strategies so that you don’t have that kind of get-together very often, or so that you aren’t part of it very often.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      I agree with this, and regarding the LW’s claims of not minding people getting drunk around her, I think she was being a little disingenuous there. I get why: she’s having house parties where a lot of the guests are college students—a demographic famous for their heavy heavy drinking. I think she was trying to head off unhelpful responses of, “Well, if you don’t like people being drunk, don’t throw parties involving alcohol and college students.”

      It sounds to me like there’s a tension here involving different life-stages. The LW has outgrown her hard partying early 20s, but she’s living with two people who are still very much in those years—whether or not the fiancé and the sister are hard partiers themselves, they certainly have friends who are. The LW doesn’t want to be the killjoy who stops them or anyone else from having their fun (especially after she got to have hers), but also doesn’t want to be around it any more. I think the solution is inevitably going to be that the party (or some subset of it) moves somewhere else to finish out the night. Depending on how attached the LW is to the idea of having parties, this could suit her down to the ground, or it could hurt her feelings.

      • LW said:

        Pretty on the nose! The problem is that in general I really genuinely don’t mind a lot of drunken behavior, there’s just specific behavior that I really mind (I get really upset by people saying things like “I’m going to regret this later!!!” and then proceeding to do the thing). Then I feel bad about being like “Oh yea, I can hang out with Adam while he gets sloshed, but keep Cynthia far away from me” because that feels ‘unfair’ – this I think is what I should work on; it’s perfectly reasonable for me to make judgments about what circumstances I can hang out with people in, and for those judgements to be different for different people even in the same context.

        • Me said:

          Back in my grad school days, when we had an apartment that was big enough for parties, I had a fairly simple rule. When I invited people I assumed that they were adults and could handle their liquor – knowing their limits, and not behaving badly. If they disproved that, I would call a taxi and send them home. This covered anything that made the party less pleasant for other people – aggressive behaviour, barfing, causing noise violations, obnoxiously hitting on people, trying to get other people drunk. (We were broke students, so almost no-one had a car, and the people that did generally made arrangements for somewhere to crash for the night).

          Then I would not invite them again, or, if that was hard to do, I would talk to them before the next party and let them know that they were welcome to come, but they were no longer allowed to drink at my house. I didn’t have to do this often, but it was pretty effective. I also didn’t care if people were annoyed by it – it was my home, they had been given a chance to act like responsible adults, and they failed, so I set limits. I was also responding to their behaviour, not the actual amount consumed, so it wasn’t an issue of how much they drank, it was an issue of their behaviour.

        • Lizards80 said:

          Would it be helpful to think out your thoughts and feelings about the way people drink, and then script some potential conversations you anticipate having with/about Cynthia and Adam?

          The below statement may or may not resonate with you but I projected myself and this is what’s true for me about drinking:

          “Drinking responsibly is extremely important to me. Part of that, for me, is to be able to trust that people can control their drinking. It doesn’t mean they need to limit their drinking – I don’t have a problem with people being shitfaced – but I DO have a problem with people saying they’re going to have a couple glasses of wine and then they’re doing shots. It’s not about the wine or shots, drunk or sober – it’s the fact that I need to be able to trust that people are choosing to drink, instead of not being honest with themselves or me about what they’re doing. It makes me really uncomfortable and I simply need this part to change.”

        • Jake said:

          I hear you entirely on the “I’m going to regret this later” thing. It also triggers my rage monster.

          I don’t know if this is why it upsets you, but to me it feels like people abdicating responsibility for their actions, or expecting others to manage them. And since I know attempts to manage them will inevitably fail, it just makes me feel like the person has dumped a responsibility on me and then set me up for failure.

          There are a couple things that I have found help me get past this. The first is getting really clear in my head that the only person whose behaviour I am responsible for is me. I absolutely, 100% decline to take responsibility for anyone else’s choices.

          The second is that I have a rule (with VERY LIMITED exceptions for the first couple times a person tries alcohol) that you are 100% responsible for your behaviour while you are drunk. If drinking makes you behave badly, choose not to drink*. If you choose to drink, you are expected to show people the same kindness and consideration that you would if you were sober. I will be having none of this “Oh, it’s not their fault, they were drunk” or “No, that’s not really what they’re like”. If I don’t like who someone is when they are drunk, I have permission not to like that person. If I wouldn’t accept certain behaviour or treatment from someone when they are sober, I won’t accept it when they’re drunk. People who I don’t like or who can’t behave are not invited to my house.

          This rule doesn’t eliminate my irritation with people who performatively make bad choices, but it gives me absolute permission to set my boundaries about my exposure to those choices wherever I want. You want to show off what a feckin idjit you can be? Cool story, bro, but I am not your audience. Take it elsewhere.

          * If a person has a mental illness that makes it very hard or impossible to choose not to drink, I have lots of compassion for that. That is really hard. But they need to get help to manage that illness and they _still_ don’t get to mistreat me or my friends or crap all over my party. Compassion != permission.

        • Kacienna said:

          I think those feelings are totally legitimate – behavior that upsets you is behavior that upsets you, whether it’s influenced by alcohol or not. If it’s not unfair to set boundaries around people’s behavior when they’re sober, it’s not unfair when they’re drunk either.

        • moss said:

          One thing I tell my kids: If all else fails, raise your standards. That is, you don’t have to like all people equally. It’s totally fine to have an opinion of one person and a different opinion of another. People are different. Some of them are safe to be around, some are not. Some are cool, some harsh the mellow. So don’t feel bad about keeping “Cynthia” far away from yourself. You are not a public school and people are not entitled to equal access to you. I have warm feelings about my adult son being selective about who he hangs out with and controlling his space; I wish you strength to do the same.

        • It sounds to me as if you’re well on the way to articulating what it is you want and need, and identifying some better strategies for getting it than the one you’d started with. Which is great.

          I also wanted to comment on the whole issue of “I get really upset by people saying things like “I’m going to regret this later!!!” and then proceeding to do the thing”. This is also a good insight, that you’ve identified something particularly upsetting for you. And while it’s not feasible to expect a large social circle to change their way of talking about their choices, it’s probably worth letting your household members know that it bothers you and asking them to consider owning their choices around you. (Of course, to make this work, you shouldn’t be engaging yourself in their consequences. “Are you coming to bed?” “No, this new Netflix show is so good and there are only two episodes left, I’m going to stay up and finish it” “Okay, goodnight!” instead of “Bad idea! Doesn’t your 8 am class have attendance points?” … “Wake up! Come on, WAKE UP! You shouldn’t have stayed up watching TV!”)

          It seems to me as if people say things like “I’m going to regret this …” not so much because they really can’t control themselves, as because “lack-of-control” is a socially accepted game that people play. “Cookie?” “Oh I SHOULDN’T” …

          • Kacienna said:

            Yes, I also hate that game even though I find myself falling into it now and then. I try to avoid using that language for my own choices and not to engage with it with other people’s choices, responding somewhere along the lines of “Okay, well, whatever you want to do” – sort of reminding myself and them that their choices aren’t my concern and I don’t need to judge them either way.

    • Anonyish said:

      + 1 on (attempting to) manage other people’s intake in this way putting you into an enforcement role that could well cause problems in itself. I don’t get shitfaced at parties. In order to support friends’ comfort levels with alcohol and parties I am happy to drink no alcohol (but PLEASE provide clean glasses and cold water, not just soft drinks I don’t drink), the limit of one bottle between 6 and then it’s gone, to BYOB or not BYOB, to leave at an agreed time that may be quite early, to wash up or to keep out of the kitchen, whatever. It’s your party and there are loads of ways that you should be able to decide how to serve alcohol and expect guests to respect it.

      But what I am not going to love is being treated like a 6 year old who is told to say how many pink iced biccies she would like to have, have that number approved or not, and then be expected to report back on my iced biccie consumption. I am not 6, I am an adult. If a strategy is needed to deal with guests who can’t or won’t behave responsibly then I respect that, but this is a strategy that I think risks alienating a lot of people, not because you’re restricting alcohol or enforcing a limit on drunken behaviour (and I’d definitely think you justified in saying tough luck to Sister’s friends, they were asked not to get shitfaced, they did, they are kicked out and have pay for their taxi home), but because the way you’re doing it explicitly says that you are taking on this weird responsibility for my behaviour.

      • aebhel said:

        Yeah, I think this articulates my issue with this approach really well. I’m a responsible drinker and I’m happy to just…not drink at parties, and I’d be really put off if a host attempted to monitor my drinking like this.

    • CC said:

      “the main reason to look for different approaches that acknowledge your needs is the principle that managing other adults’ alcohol use (or food intake, or relationships) isn’t a particularly healthy pattern. Especially if they aren’t asking you to. It puts you in a kind of parental/enforcement role which is problematic in a peer relationship. ”

      Really well said. I was trying to articulate why this whole idea of OP’s was really bothering me – and it’s not just simply because I enjoy alcohol in social settings. Especially the bit about “says they’ll only have a few drinks, then gets really drunk”. That’s just… yeah, a weird policing of other people in a way that would make me feel uncomfortable as your guest. I agree with the way you suggested managing expectations around that, too.

  10. Eye said:

    Changing up the TYPES of drinks available can help, too (and set the tone for a party). Shots get people drunk faster and easier than beer, wine, or mixed drinks, as well as setting a vibe of “we are here to get drunk,” since they’re 100% about ingesting high-proof alcohol as quickly as possible. Not that people can’t get plenty trashed on, say, just beer, but it will happen slower, giving your guests more time to process exactly how drunk they’re getting, rather than coming to an “I’ve made a huge tiny mistake” realization 5 minutes after slamming back a shot or three they shouldn’t have. (This is also a good reason to avoid the sort of punches you make out of lots of high-proof liquor combined with sweet mixers to disguise the taste, because they make it very easy to drink more alcohol more quickly than you’d planned.)

    • Ugh, yes, this. The drunkest I’ve ever been in my life was off of shots.

      Bottled beer over kegged beer, too; same thing about the type of beer suggesting a different vibe to the night.

    • I took a class on alcohol/alcoholism in college, and one of the bits of trivia that really stuck with me was this:

      The whole concept of the “bar” was an invention of the industrial revolution. Before that, you got drunk at your local pub… over the course of hours, often with food, mostly for the camaraderie. Factories became a thing, though, and every hour your workers weren’t working or sleeping was an hour of productivity lost. Factories started putting in a bar – literally just a long counter with stools so they could get their workers drunk as assembly-line quickly as possible and shoo them off home to sleep before their next 12-hour shift. It encouraged only surface-level friendships so the workers would have as little social life as possible. Gin (“blue ruin”) got its low-class reputation because doing shots of gin was the cheapest way to get yourself drunk and fast.

      Not relating to the original question at all, of course, but your answer reminded me of it 🙂

      • God, that’s depressing.

  11. MusicWithRocksInIt said:

    Well – this brought up a lot of feelings in me about the a recent party in a smallish good area of a very large less safe major city where I went to a lot of trouble to provide a safe, secure parking area, tell everyone about the safe secure parking area in as much detail as possible and have someone stand out in the frigid cold to let people into the safe, secure parking area. And then comes the one person who waves them off, insists on parking in the street, leaves a fricken ipod sitting on their dashboard and of course gets their car broken into. Leaving me feeling an odd combination of supreme guilt, then annoyance that the incident dampened the party, then a lot of guilt, then some resentment because everyone knows you don’t leave electronics sitting in plain view in big city, and then more guilt. So yea, a hosts job is clearly lay out the rules and expectations, a guests job is to follow them.

    But also don’t change the game plan mid way through. Don’t wait until people have started drinking before you present the new rule set – let them know ahead of time. Also don’t invite people to a game night and decide you are gonna smoke pot right in the middle of a game when people did not know that was on the menu for the night. I have no problem with you doing that somewhere else, but my god that is the worst smell ever and I cannot play Settlers of the Catan while that is happening next to me.

  12. scullymurphy said:

    LW you mentioned people doing ‘another line of shots,’ in the late hours. Maybe it’s time to switch up the way drinking occurs in your house. Like, shots and other ‘drink only to get-wasted’ type experiences (kegs? tequila? anything with Boone’s on the label? jello?) are not on the menu anymore. For an alternative you can have a punch bowl or dispenser with a pre-mixed cocktail that comprises the only hard alcohol on offer. Everything else is put away somewhere that the usual suspects won’t find it. I entertain a lot and make punches frequently and they are always seen as fun and festive. I also often make them quite weak with a lot of juice and mixers, just to accommodate all the different levels of tolerance in the group. There are a ton of delicious recipes out there too. This is a great way to control how much people are drinking without having to address it overtly.

    • Shown Furcotte said:

      Hmm. I haven’t been “wasted” (or even had more than 3 drinks in a day that I can recall) in several years but I enjoy tequila cocktails fairly often as part of the 1-2 drinks on average that I have per week. I understand the association of shots with heavy drinking but am not understanding what makes tequila itself verboten… everybody’s different, I guess.

      • JenniferP said:

        LOL “Will no one speak for tequila?”

        • birdmommy said:

          #notallshots LOL

      • I can’t speak for scullymurphy but I know in my case tequila is the Do Not drink drink because of a college roommate who almost got alcohol poisoning from the stuff.

        Similarly, for another friend, Amaretto is the Do Not drink drink because of a bad drunken/hangover experience.

        I suspect most of us have at least one Do Not drink drink.

  13. Amy said:

    A good thing to keep in mind when planning parties (or really any event) is that there is no such thing as an event that’s safe and fun and inclusive for everyone. If you have a Big Drinking Party, people who are trying to go sober, people who don’t like being around drunk people, and people who like quieter hangouts probably won’t come. If you have a sober movie night, people who really like drinking, people who really want to go dancing tonight, etc. will probably opt out. The point is, no matter what, you’re not going to make everyone happy at one event. If you think you are, what you’ve likely actually done is designed an event that caters to whatever you think of as the ‘default’ guest–which almost definitely isn’t everyone you might want to invite to your shindig.

    The solution to this isn’t to work harder to please everyone. That’s impossible. The solution to this is to design your events intentionally: decide who you really, really want to include, base your planning around that, be upfront on your invitation about what kind of event it is, and let people decide for themselves if they’re into that.

    In your case, OP, one core person who you should include in your target audience is yourself!!! You aren’t drinking, you don’t enjoy being around people who are getting really drunk, and you definitely don’t want any part of managing other people’s drinking. So you should probably plan your events such that ‘get shitfaced drunk’ just isn’t on the list of things to do. I can almost guarantee that some of your invitees will be thrilled to attend a non-Big-Drinking-Party event, which will likely balance out the people who decide they’d rather spend their evening at somewhere a little more alcohol-focused.

    • Amy said:

      Another note: if your sister wants to hold a Big Drinking Party and you don’t want to be there, she can plan it for a night when you won’t be home, or she can plan it for another venue. That’s just polite roommate behavior–you don’t subject your roommates to things that make them uncomfortable in their own home.

      • LW said:

        Oof yeah, you’ve hit the nail right on the head – we’ve definitely been trying to be as inclusive as possible, with decidedly mixed results (and a great deal of exhaustion :P)

        • Amy said:

          This is a good goal in theory! But impossible in practice. You’ll wear yourself to the bone trying, and it’ll never fully work because when you start talking large groups of people, some of them will inevitably have conflicting needs. I think you’ll be a lot happier, and have more successful events, if you get more specific in your planning.

        • Emma9 said:

          Establishing clear advance party parameters can help with this too! You might have friends who would attend multiple varieties of shindig, from wild to sober and everywhere in between, if they know in advance what sort of event it will be and can manage their expectations accordingly.

      • Elsajeni said:

        I was going to mention this also — it sounds like the current parties are maybe trying to include the whole overlapping social circle of everyone in the house. Maybe this is a good time to separate things out a little more, take care of planning the parties you want to have, and let your sister take care of planning hers (while you plan to be elsewhere). (And same for the fiance, honestly! When you’re living with a partner, it’s natural that you do a lot of stuff as a unit, but it’s also ABSOLUTELY FINE to be like “Fiance is having some friends over this weekend, meanwhile I will be taking myself to dinner and a movie, y’all have fun!”, or “I want to have a quiet night at home this Saturday, if you want to see friends can y’all meet up somewhere else?”, or whatever, especially when you or your circles of friends have very different Party Styles.)

      • TootsNYC said:

        Also–it’s a house, not a dorm room. There should be some rooms where our OP can go if she wants to “not attend” a party her sister is throwing.

        Sure, it’ll be loud, and the bathroom is shared.

        But I’d look into the infrastructure of the home to see if there’s a way to just not be “at the party” even if you’re at home.

        • Amy said:

          This might be a boundary that gets set in addition to the drinking thing. My knowledge of very drunk people tells me that they’re not very good at respecting boundaries like “The second floor is off limits”.

    • Koala dreams said:

      I really agree with your last point. Even in a student environment, there are problably some people who would prefer a sober party, but feel a pressure to go along with shots or just don’t show up.

  14. hamsterpants said:

    The captain’s advice is spot on as always. I do wonder if there are a couple of people who… Just maybe shouldn’t be invited anymore. At least in my social group, there were two people who always got hammered at every party and (often successfully) encouraged others to do the same. Not inviting these people made parties much less boozy without any other deliberate change.

    • sofar said:

      We had One of Those, too. Plus, he’d thrown up in an Uber (and was thus banned from the service), so if we invited him, were stuck with him well into the next day until he was sober and awake enough to drive his ass home. He was also belligerent with our other guests.

      I fretted for months about how to solve this problem, and my husband, finally, sat him down and was like, “dude we are all too old for this. You can’t get drunk at our place anymore.” He rarely attends our parties now and has found other places to be a drunk idiot.

      • Jules the 3rd said:

        They lose me at belligerent. I will totally kick someone out and not invite them back at the first angry yell.

        We used to throw Big Parties once a year. We converted the house to Middle Earth for the first Lord of The Rings movie, and some pieces just stayed up until the next year (and the next), but we usually also had 2 kegs + liquor. We had couch and mattress space for 6 – 10 extra people, mostly occupied; we were pretty much wide open.

        We had one guy we had to talk to the first year (dude, trying to pull the beard off the wizard is Not Cool), and when he started yelling at someone 15 minutes later, he was out of there. Fortunately, he was only human, and I had an ent, a troll and multiple elves at hand.

        • Sofar said:

          Oh man. I’d kill to be invited to your party and the fact that this guy just threw it all away …

  15. thatfruitcake said:

    Agreeing with commenters who suggest cutting down on the supply. When I was living with roommates and trying to cut down on my own drinking, I stopped having parties that were BYOB,or asked folks to bring mixers instead. I knew there was a finite amount *I* was willing to spend on alcohol for an evening, whereas my friends’ friends’ friends’ partners would have a near infinite parade of “bottle of wine to share with the host each.”

    • Smellanie17 said:

      The thing is, I think this has the potential to backfire. I’m just… going to show up with a bottle of wine or a 6 pack for the host. Unless you specifically tell me “Don’t bring a bottle of wine or 6 pack because I’m trying to limit how much alcohol is at the party” and then I think you are back to a doomed plan…

      • TootsNYC said:

        I think you can say, “no one may bring outside alcohol to my parties.” Of course, that puts a BIG expense on you.

        Or, you can say, “No one can bring more alcohol than they will drink without getting terribly smashed.”

        It’s your house–you can set limits!

        You can also take the alcohol and set it in a box on the front porch for them to take home with them later.

        • Smellanie17 said:

          Well I guess what I meant with my comment was, it’s typical in my culture, when someone invites you to their home to not show up “empty handed.” You bring a bottle of wine, or a snack, or a dessert… something. I would need to be specifically told not to bring anything, and if that was strictly limited to alcohol, I think that could put things back in the realm of “trying to control others’ drinking in a way that might come off strangely.”

          • “Please don’t bring additional alcohol but snacks and other munchies are welcome.” And, personally, I’d add “Please plan to take home whatever doesn’t get consumed” because otherwise you end up like my roommate and I staring at a table absolutely laden with food neither of us wanted that was partially open and couldn’t be donated.

            But, seriously — if you’re bringing a host gift and you expect the host to open/use it then and there you may be disappointed.

      • EffEmm said:

        A good thing to remember is that a host gift does not have to be opened immediately! I am fussing about food and wine pairing. If you show up for my dinner of braised short ribs with a bottle of sauvignon blanc, I will thank you genuinely and then not open it that night. Totally fine.

      • thatfruitcake said:

        Honestly I’d do the same now that I’m closer to 30 — but when I was just out of college with other broke just out of college friends “we’ve got all the booze you need, just bring snacks!” actually did cut down on quantity or at least let us set the tone for “tonight is wine and beer and not shots.” But of course like anything your mileage may vary.

  16. Nanani said:

    The list of Clear Rules and party suggestions brought a joyful tear to my eye :’)

    LW, assume your friends come to your parties to see YOU, and not just to get drunk. Those who ditch when you’re no longer providing booze venues are maybe not the friends you thought they were, which sucks, but I would be willing to bet that will be a smaller subset than you may be fearing.

  17. Amtelope said:

    I think the Captain’s suggestions are good ones, and I would add: it will probably work better for everyone to state your boundaries in terms of what you are and aren’t okay with, not in terms of helping other people make better choices about alcohol.

    “I would like to have a chill evening where people don’t get falling-down drunk, please help make that happen” (+ all the suggested strategies for encouraging that) is better than “I just want to know how many drinks you intend to have so I can remind you of that later.” “You are super drunk and not fun to be around right now, it’s time to go home” is better than “You said to cut you off, so I’m just doing what you wanted.”

    I get it that “I’m only going to have a few drinks … oh hey I am drunk again” is pushing buttons for you, but I think you will have better results if you try to avoid conversations about how much other people intend to drink and whether they’re keeping those resolutions (it is okay to straight-up say “please don’t talk to me about how many drinks you plan to have”), and focus on what kind of behavior at your parties is okay with you.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yes, all of this, all of this! State it in terms of your preferences and be clear.

    • AMT said:

      Yes, the LW needs to be up-front about the fact that bad drunken behavior bothers her, period. It’s dangerous to make it about anything else (e.g. other people’s health, their problematic drinking, the LW’s history with alcohol, or specific types or amounts of alcohol) because it makes deflection easier. You don’t want to get into a game of “How dare you call me an alcoholic!” / “My drinking doesn’t force *you* to drink” / “I’ve only had three” / “But you said mixed drinks were fine!” If you focus only on the impact of their behavior, it’s hard for them to argue that their behavior doesn’t actually bother you.

  18. In our house we’ve had to establish firm limits around parties for different reasons (health issues, limited social energy), and I’ve found people respond really well to set party times being included with the invitation – for earlier parties this especially helps, because people can tell it’s not “arrive early and settle in for a night-long session.” As someone said earlier, that lets them decide if they want to pregame at home, or go on to another party after yours.

    Another thing is that when you invite people they often want to know what they can bring anyway – a cheery but firm “no need to bring anything, we’re sorted” might help if you’re trying to stave off your sister’s friends bringing the entire contents of the off-licence to your party. If a lot of the guests concerned are students and on a budget, they might actually appreciate a reason NOT to bring a bottle/six-pack – god knows, booze isn’t cheap these days…

  19. --E said:

    A key phrase here is “recently bought a house.” This is not a rental. This is YOUR HOME. Some of the guests may play the “Geez, lighten up, old lady!” card, and I am here to say you can 100% stick to your preferences. Presumably you’re paying a mortgage, paying to fix anything that breaks or needs maintaining, paying for homeowners insurance, and all of that other “grown up” stuff that comes with owning a house.

    (You’re also potentially liable for any injuries your drunk friends may suffer while in your home, and now you have an actual asset you could lose.)

    Whatever you ultimately decide and however you handle it, please please please don’t let anyone make you feel like a buzzkill. Or more to the point, it is perfectly okay to be a buzzkill. People can do whatever they want in their own domiciles; this one is yours.

    • TootsNYC said:

      you may also be liable if they leave your place drunk and something happens to them because of it–and you have an asset you can lose.
      Your homeowners’ insurance should cover you, but life is SO MUCH EASIER if you don’t go there.

    • Here and There said:

      Cosign all of this except for one thing—it’s equally as true if you’re not a homeowner! A rental is a home! Not just practically (sometimes you’re *more* on the hook for damage as a renter than as an owner, where you can choose how and when to repair something), but also a place worthy of respect and full nesting.

      Just piping in because its super pervasive to equate home ownership with being fully adult, or being a more significant member of the neighborhood, and that’s so harmful. Not just on a community level, where that attitude leads to the idea that owners contribute more, get more say in community matters. On a personal level, I think it’s problematic to tie your sense of adulthood to one particular financial arrangement (especially one that isn’t an option for many). You get to decide when a residence is a place you’re putting down deeper roots—whether that’s an apartment or house, owned or rented, with roommates or not.

      But otherwise, totally agree! “People can do whatever they want in their own domiciles; this one is yours.” <— Yep!

  20. Smellanie17 said:

    LW, do you LIKE hosting parties? I had a therapist ask me this when I was describing stressing out about hosting parties, not having them enough, people are drunk and won’t leave, oh look my partner is going to bed, shit, it’s 2am these people just aren’t leaving…. She point-blank gave me permission to not want to invite people over and it was truly something I’d never considered before. I ended up discussing it with my partner-at-the-time, who was like “Oh I thought we just did this because YOU liked it” and realized we were both perfectly happy to not host parties at our house.

    I get that you have a younger fiance and sister to consider–who sound like they might be more in the “house party” phase of their lives–so there may not be 100% agreement, but I couldn’t quite pick up from your letter if you LIKE hosting parties and I think it’s worth looking at.

    • Nanani said:

      I think I shocked a relative when I flat out stated I didn’t want to host family gatherings.
      They were analysing my living space and fretting about how to fit family members in for (insert holiday here) .
      I just said that wouldn’t be a problem, as I wasn’t planning on inviting the whole family over. Shocked silence followed.

      I don’t want to host family holidays, or parties, or really anything bigger than a small number of close friends at a time.
      There are other people in the family/friend group who can host, and probably *want to* more!

      • LW said:

        I like having parties at our house, though I probably wouldn’t bother hosting if my fiancé didn’t absolutely love it. All of our parties have ultimately been good so far; we’ve just identified the drinking issue as a consistent source of extra, unnecessary stress, and something that might go badly in the future, so we’re trying to head it off at the pass 🙂 Thanks for bringing this point up!

      • Kitty said:

        My mum likes to make passive aggressive complaints about how the younger generation in the family haven’t stepped up to host big family events like their generation always used to. Cool mum, but most of us millennials can’t actually afford a place big enough to accommodate the entire family! Not to mention maybe we just don’t want the hassle of hosting huge events?

        • Amy said:

          If it was just the hassle, I’d kind of agree with your mom–hosting has always been a hassle, but if family bonding time is important, someone’s got to step up and do it, and that shouldn’t always be on Grandma. But the space thing is so real! Housing is so expensive these days–and with how bubble-y the market’s gotten, it’s not even a reliable investment anymore.

          • Kitty said:

            I don’t know, even if we all had huge houses I’d still feel like it’s okay for our generation to have different ideas and preferences around hosting. Not everyone wants to do the huge event with the entire extended family, some prefer smaller gatherings. Just because mum’s generation liked hosting these huge events doesn’t mean they can automatically expect it of the next generation.

            Though that said I do kind of miss the more frequent family gatherings.

          • JenniferP said:

            Traditions and celebrations can be lovely, traditions can need to adapt as the new generations grow up and the older ones get older, why can’t it ever be a discussion like, hello, do we want to keep having this large holiday event every year, if so, who is set up best to host it and how can we divide up the work and keep the parts that are important and special and lose/adapt the parts that aren’t necessary anymore and can we actually talk about how much it costs and how much work is involved and make sure costs/work are shared fairly and why is it always the women who have to do everything, can we make sure the men and boys pitch in, too? (vs. arguments or complaints that no one is stepping up or dumping a bunch of expectations on the closest daughter all of a sudden or the old people martyring themselves into the grave).

          • Amy said:

            Oh definitely, the “if family time is important” line in there is crucial! If it’s not the way your generation of your family wants to do things then that’s totally fair. If that’s the case, the older generation can host for as long as they want and are able to do so, and traditions can shift as they start to back off.

            I just meant that IF it is important to you that these gatherings happen, then the new generation does need to step up and participate in making it happen at some point. (And I do mean the whole new generation with that, not just one or two people.) Otherwise there will eventually be a point where there are no more gatherings–which, if they’re important to you, would be pretty sad.

        • Smellanie17 said:

          I think of “hosting” very much as a 50s/60s kind of baby boomer thing. Hosting social and family events in your home was what people did in that era (hello? my grandma owned like so many ice buckets and serving trays and…and… tongs… shit that would never occur to me to want or need!) and they lived in homes that allowed for that. I definitely have friends (30s) who have homes that allow for that level of entertaining and who enjoy it. And I have people (myself included) who are happy to bring whatever you’d like or wash all your dishes–but don’t live in a home with built-in event space (or care to).

          • Elizabeth Daniel said:

            I have an ice bucket in the shape of a knight’s helmet. My grandpa got it brand new at a yard sale – apparently it was a wedding present that the bride really didn’t like. It’s an awesome conversation piece. Men in particular seem to covet it.

    • TootsNYC said:

      re: the college students who live in the house:

      There’s often some pressure to have the college students who live in a house host the alcohol fests. You can’t do it in a dorm, and sometimes not easily in an apartment, bcs of the noise issues with the neighbors. Plus a house just feels more autonomous.

      • Kacienna said:

        Though on the flip side, most college students are 17-22; only about a quarter of them are actually legal to drink. There is nothing wrong with a homeowner saying they don’t want underage drinking in their house, especially with the legal/liability issues.

        • You’re assuming US. Drinking laws are different in other countries.

    • Becca said:

      I was so happy when my friends finally started aging out of parties where there didn’t seem to be anything to do but get drunk, and started just like…having people over for dinner and then playing board games after. I wish I’d had the confidence/inner coherence to start that evolution myself, but I thought I was the weird one who didn’t like ragers. LW, I bet if you start hosting board game night/GoT watching night/Hey Let’s All Learn How To Knit Together night (or whatever sounds fun), there are one or two people in your group who will greet this evolution of party night with enthusiasm and relief.

  21. Party Rules are your friend! Put them in the invitation! Make posters to put up around your house!

    But seriously, for a while my roommates and I had the Party House and it reached a point where we felt like we had lost control and hosting was not fun anymore at best and actively dangerous at worst. Instituting rules and clearly defining the expectations for that specific party in the invite went a long way towards reclaiming our space and allowing us to be safe and comfortable hosts again. Sometimes it really was as blunt as “this is a dinner party, please keep your clothes on for the duration of the night.” Our friends generally understood and appreciated it, and frankly we were not too concerned about hurt feelings after the inadvertent Thanksgiving Orgy. People appreciate boundaries and those who get mad at you for enforcing them are not people you need to cater to.

    Likewise, some of my friends host quarterly big parties with defined times for family-friendly boardgames and such during the day, dinner, and then a later evening party with booze and sexy party games/designated makeout areas/adult conversation, etc. People can select which parts of the day they want to attend, arrange childcare as needed, and know what they’re getting into up-front. They also have a mandatory nametag policy with a built-in consent system to show if you are interested in participating in the racier elements. I have been so impressed by how smoothly their parties run and everyone seems to have a fun and enjoyable time!

    • TootsNYC said:

      Yeah, I think someone who has a Party House could easily discover that all the people who DON’T live there actually are acting as though it’s “their place.” It can become a “common place” to them, and then you have the tragedy of the commons, where because they think of it as belong to everyone, they think it belongs to no one, and they’re willing to trash it (the place, and the gatherings held there).

      So instituting rules, and pushing back, will really help everyone.

    • LW said:

      That’s kind of how most of our parties have started going – open doors at noonish, have sort of a charcuterie lunch/dinner setup with people who show up early, transition gradually into Shenanigans as the night goes on. It works pretty well for us, but more explicitly outlining the different sections would probably smooth things out a lot; and providing a solid closing time to the Shenanigans section will probably also ease things way up. I like the idea of putting ‘Closing Time’ on repeat and starting the post-party clean up as a clear and blunt but not too abrasive way of saying ‘get the heck out of my house’ hahaha

      • Tim Tam Girl said:

        I read an NYT article a few years back about how in China, the equivalent was Kenny G’s ‘Going Home’ and that it was used in businesses as well as private houses as a culturally-agreed-upon signal. I would really really really love to have something similar.

        • Nanani said:

          An instrumental track that sounds like Auld Lang Syne (but is actually called Hotaru no Hikari and isn’t quite the same) has this role in Japan. I mostly heard it in department stores and such around closing time, but also at the end of events like concerts and festivals.
          It really does cue up the TIME TO LEAVE thought process!

          • MysteryFan said:

            Of course, there’s always “Goodnight Irene!” The staple of the dancehall…

        • pickle said:

          Does Stairway to Heaven still have that connotation for people?

        • Amy said:

          I’ve been to parties in the US that used ‘Closing Time’ this way. It’s a very clear signal, especially when it’s around the ending time for the party that was listed on the invitation, and ESPECIALLY when played on repeat.

      • birdmommy said:

        “Get Outta My House, Roach” by the Shuffle Demons is an excellent second choice for those who still don’t get the hint. 🙂

  22. blurfts said:

    Oh, BLESS. This sounds like the kind of rule I would invent. It is, in fact, doomed.

    As I’ve gotten older and more friends have gotten sober, I’ve come to know the beauty of just issuing invites to dry parties, as dry parties. It does reset the expectations for how your whole household will be getting down in the future, even if in the future you have a mimosa brunch or two.

    If you’ve got one or two Problem Drinker friendquaintances, I’m sorry to say that no number of polite rules will help. I mean, tw alcoholism, but a real problem drinker is gonna get into the cooking wine on the DL or drink eight of your roommates’ beers while your back is turned, you can’t make them comply with a system where they check off beverage points by ABV on their phone etc. I am happy to tell you that you that this is not your problem. If being around hardcore party drinking makes you uncomfortable, you get to change the event, change the guestlist, and/or change the environment by keeping hard liquor out of your house or, you know, hiding it in your sweater tote and locking your bedroom door. You neither can nor will nor should be in charge of making other adults behave reasonably.

    And literally ANY REASON that the hard drinking is making you uncomfortable is a good enough reason. You are not banning alcohol in the surrounding county. You’re planning your personal evening that you will be at. People who aren’t into the kind of evening you want to have can make a different plan for their own evening somewhere else. And that will be just fine. Most people I know who hosted party houses in college burned out on picking up cans eventually and just stopped.

  23. Sofar said:

    Ah yes. As my husband and I enter our 30s we have had to make some party-atmospheric shifts. As people start to have kids, some of this is happening automatically, but some of our dear friends will not let go of the idea that all house parties must be EPIC.

    In a few of my husband’s friend groups, limiting supply alone does not work because someone responds with, “Hey there’s no more vodka/tequila/we are out of booze! Who wants to chip in for an alcohol run to the liquor store across the street???”

    With those people you have to be extra blunt and make things crystal clear, especially if you are trying to shift the type of parties you throw.

    I’ve had luck with asking the instigator to chat in the hall real quick and say, “Hey remember how we specified on the invitation that we are trying to host a chill gathering? Can you cancel the alcohol run? We’d really appreciate it. Some folks here have zero chill when drunk.” Nobody has argued with me to date. I think a lot of them think they are helping to “save” the party but are just as happy to drop it once they realize what the host wants.

  24. HindsightGraduate said:

    The Closing Song by Red Peters has a tired line about “Make like a tree and leave/ All you Cinderellas and ‘Cinderfellas’/” (EYE. ROLL.) but most of the lyrics are simple and effective (and you can loop the first half ad infinitum OR sing it a cappella if you’re feeling particularly energetic about ending the night):

    It’s that time again
    We gotta say good night
    You know it’s getting late
    Tomorrow is another day my friend
    You don’t have to go home
    But you can’t stay here
    Now you’re making me mad
    You’re gonna make me swear

    Get the fuck outta here
    Finish up that beer
    You might as well call it a night my friend
    You gonna have to
    (3-count pause) Get the fuck out!

    Maybe I’m outta line
    But I’ll take the blame
    There are no better choice of words
    That I can use to explain

    [GTFOOH refrain]

    • HindsightGraduate said:

      (forgot to tack this on- my brand of being D-O-N-E with drunk guests may not look like yours/YMMV in terms of conflict dynamics, but I hope it’s at least cathartic to imagine yourself singing some version of this song)

    • For years, my family attended a Very Large Event that took place in hockey arenas. And Every Year, when the venue dragged out “On the Road Again” we laughed at how fast the place cleared, us included.

  25. bbbright said:

    Gah, this is wonderfully timed. My partner and I (late twenties) have a friend who is a few years younger than us. This friend has been staying over at our place a LOT (which is another issue in and of itself) and while we love this friend, they tend to get so intoxicated that we end up babysitting them, which is not fun for us, and is particularly stressful if we’re hosting other people.

    We’re having a party this weekend and we’ve chosen not to invite said friend, which I’ve been having a TON of guilt/anxiety about… we invited other mutual friends and I’m scared the uninvited friend is going to find out and feel hurt (ahoy, Geek Social Fallacies!). But it’s my fucking house. They got completely obliterated last time I had a party and I ended up spending hours drunk babysitting which was stressful and also completely took me away from the party. The level that they were at was not appropriate for the party and nobody else got that wasted. And we’re celebrating an achievement of partner’s (yay, partner!) and I want to be able to enjoy the event and not feel stressed.

    Anyway, thank you for this answer and all of the great stuff I’ve learned about GSFs and boundaries!

  26. LW said:

    Thank you so much! Really good point about how much I do not actually want to be monitoring everyone’s booze in-take, and so probably shouldn’t set myself up to try doing that haha. I’m really loving all the party theme suggestions! We’ll definitely be doing a Star Trek watching party at some point 🙂

    I think I am really getting stuck on the whole ‘fairness’ fallacy. I really genuinely don’t mind being around most drunk people – but some people I know are less graceful when drunk than others; and it feels like it’s not fair to (quietly, to myself/my housemates) say ‘so and so can come to our dry parties, but they are not allowed at our boozy bashes because they’re too sloppy’. Eh, that’s something to work on – it’s not unfair to make calls like that, and even if it was it’s not wrong 😛

    • TootsNYC said:

      correct–it is not unfair to say to someone, “YOU behave badly when you’re drunk, so you have to leave,” and to another, “You are OK drunk, you can stay.”

      It IS fair to judge people on their own behavior. This is something they CHOSE. They have control over it. If they knock stuff over and break it when they’re drunk, they ought to be smart enough to not get that drunk then (it’s not a right they have, after all).

      There’s a line I love (doesn’t totally stand up to scrutiny, but damned close):

      Fair isn’t when everybody gets the same thing. Fair is when everybody gets what they need.

    • Anonyish said:

      You’re right – it isn’t unfair to make calls like that. The problem isn’t how much people are drinking in itself, it’s how their choices to drink are leading them to behave in ways you aren’t happy having in your house. If they want to get invited to your house, then demanding that they change that behaviour, or just deciding you’ve given them enough chances already, is going to be easier than trying to get everyone else who does drink in a way that you’re OK with to report on their drinking to you (which I also think there is a high chance they will *not* be OK with, not because you’re limiting drinking, but because of the thing a commentator mentions upthread about setting up a different kind of relationship, a parental/enforcement one).

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Hear, hear! Trying to be “fair” often causes more problems than it solves. It’s your house, you’re allowed to be as unfair as you want.

      Even if banning sloppy drunks were unfair, it’s the sloppy drunks who are making it unfair, so let them bear the brunt of it.

    • Fairness doesn’t mean treating people exactly the same. It means treating people with the same amount of respect. Including yourself!

      And I think you know that it’s not unfair to say “some people can come to our parties and others can’t” because there are lots of people who aren’t invited to your parties for whatever reason. It seems to be something specifically about “this person can’t come to our boozy parties because they can’t handle their liquor”, as though that’s not a thing you’re allowed to care about or make decisions based on. But you get to draw that line for any reason, because it’s your house.

      • Persia said:

        Being invited to a party is a privilege. If you act up, you lose your privilege.

    • I applaud only inviting people to parties when you’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy their company. If that means Chris isn’t invited to parties with alcohol, so be it.

      Some people are unpleasant when drunk. You’re wise to avoid that situation. “Fairness l” isn’t the point. Enjoyment is.

      • Kacienna said:

        This works amazingly well. I have parties about twice a year that usually wind up with ~15 people from different parts of my life. I know friendship isn’t transitive, but everyone does get along and have a great time. (I do keep a running list of people not to mix). I’ve been complimented on being able to blend people so well, but it’s really no skill of mine, just a firm No Asshole rule 🙂

    • Amy said:

      It’s not unfair to say that people who get sloppy drunk will be asked to leave! People generally know how they are when drinking and have at least a vague sense of how much they can handle (unless they’re very new at it, but I’m assuming you’d accept someone’s sincerely mortified apology if they went overboard because they didn’t know better yet). If they choose to overindulge regularly, that’s a behavior they’ve chosen, not an intrinsic trait of themselves as a person. You can decide you don’t want to be responsible for their poor choices.

    • I have to admit, I was wondering how you were planning to monitor everyone’s intake if you went ahead with that plan. I can’t imagine keeping track of even one other person’s consumption at a party I was enjoying, let alone every single guest. I was visualizing a kind of prop table moment where you’d section off the kitchen table with masking tape, label them with people’s names and put their requested number of drinks in their part, or hang out by the fridge with a clipboard checking off drinks as they were taken…

    • MusicWithRocksInIt said:

      All people do not get drunk the same. Some people are happy drunks, some are angry drunks (although why you would drink if you know it makes you angry is beyond me) and some are obnoxious or jerks. Personally I feel that people that are obnoxious jerks are totally able to control their behavior but choose not to because they have the ‘excuse’ of being drunk. And if you act that way everyone else has a right to choose not to be around you when you are like that.

      Think of it like choosing a traveling companion – some people are strictly structured vacationers and like to have every minute planned, some people like to go with the flow. Just because someone is your friend doesn’t mean you have to vacation with them if your styles don’t mix and you are annoyed when you are dragged out of bed at 5 am for Sunrise Yoga. You just choose to opt out of traveling with them and do other things together that you can both enjoy. Some friends are non-drinking time friends, and that is fine.

      You are also allowed to like them a little less because of things they did while drunk – being drunk is not your body being stolen by aliens – you are still you when you drink and you do not get an automatic forgiveness pass if you do something shitty or annoying.

    • As a former blackout and probably asshole drinker, I can say, I 100% needed to hear about my behaviour when drunk. It was/is entirely up to me how I behave when attending a party. I would never have found the willingness to make changes in my life if my friends/people who love me weren’t willing to have loving confrontations with me about how I drank, what I did when drinking (oh the stories!), etc. That being said, I love that people are saying it IS fair that one person is cool to hang with when drunk and another is not. It really is OK! I read somewhere in the thread where you wanted to be “inclusive” and I say you don’t need to. Have a party where you are selective about who comes and then have another party for other people. Be selective about who you want in your circles. I also adore that CA suggests about having a non-booze party. People who are not meant to be in our life will fall away naturally when the circumstances change to a degree that they are no longer willing to meet us where we are at. Do you and the rest will follow.

    • Allison said:

      I think it’s totally fair to approach a friend who often comes to your parties and say “I enjoy your presence when you’re sober, and even when you’re a tad tipsy, but I really don’t like the person you become when you’re drunk,” and cite behavior that bothers you, if applicable, and use that as a justification for “I don’t want you getting drunk at my house. I’ll give you a chance to moderate your drinking, but if you keep getting drunk at social gatherings in my home I will have to stop inviting you.”

      In fact, as a party-goer who has avoided big boozy ragers for years BECAUSE of how some people act when they’re sloshed, I think people would appreciate knowing that the “bad drunks” are being dealt with, and they may feel more comfortable at your parties.

    • Emily said:

      I think the fair boundary you are setting is around behavior. Think of it as a question of regulating outputs rather than inputs, where input is alcohol and the output is behavior. It is totally fair to regulate the output by saying “I don’t want anyone at my party who is going to be loud and obnoxious and out of control.” It’s fair and consistent to say “obnoxious guests no, polite guests yes,” and it doesn’t really matter that that includes both obnoxious sober people and polite drunk people.

  27. Shifrah said:

    How underage are these drunken college students? Because if your house is known as the Booze House where you regularly allow youngsters to drink until they pass out, you could really open yourself up to some serious liability.

    As I’m sure you already know, but just something to factor in to your own thinking and/or your conversation with your housemates.

    • JItz Girl said:

      Yeah, as a former heavy drinker, please just tell people you’re trying to have dry or less alcohol-focused parties. From the other side, it is much easier to understand what is going on and cooperate or opt out if it’s clear that the purpose is “we’re going for a different vibe now.”

      Imagine attending a party and the hostess immediately wants to know how many cookies you want to eat all evening. “Uh, two, I guess? Why?” And she makes a vague reference to how “we’re ALL trying to cut back on refined sugar, of course.” (We are? All? Of course? Even at parties?) Then three hours later you reach for a third cookie and she calls you out on it! “You said two! But that’s your third!” And she is not joking! So she’s been counting everyone’s cookies all night? And cares, why? Control freak? Thrifty? Super-focused on new diet? “It’s a party, I’m not counting calories, I’m trying to enjoy myself. So back off.”

      I know it’s not the same. Alcohol is psychoactive in a way cookies are not. Drunk people do dumb and annoying stuff that people on sugar rushes do not. But that is how it will come across if you suddenly demand everyone declare a limit and you hold them to it, with no indication why you suddenly care.

      • This is a great analogy! Thanks

  28. e271828 said:

    LW, depending on where you live, you may incur liability for what happens after an intoxicated guest leaves your home if they harm themselves or other people or property. This alone is a compelling reason to slow down that booze train! E mentions this above, but it is really a big deal and in itself is a very strong reason to not have people drunk in your home unless they are sleeping there.

    In my experience, having food, a LOT of food, really helps with keeping the drunkeness level down. Having a premixed punch that’s lightweight helps too, for example in hot weather or at dance parties, people drink because they’re thirsty and not having what they’re drinking be full proof is better for everyone.

    Finally, if someone makes you (or others) uncomfortable when they are drunk, as per your comment, you should think hard about how much you like them sober, because they are not a different person.

  29. geobqn said:

    The Shakespeare suggestion made me think of a tradition that the theatre community had in my old town: Twelfth Night Parties. On the 12th night of every month, people would gather at someone’s house and collectively read “Twelfth Night” out loud. (They would change it up by reading MacBeth in October and Julius Caesar in March.) They would do all kinds of wacky combinations–switching parts every scene, cross-gender casting, three people reading Malvolio’s speech in unison. The source of entertainment was built in, you didn’t need to be an actor to participate, alcohol was available but not required for having fun, and the end of the play served as the natural conclusion to the party. It’s amazing what people can think of outside of the Party Box.

  30. alsafi said:

    Many moons ago, I lived in The Party House for a significant part of my friend group. We *loved* throwing parties. We loved having all the food, and all the drinks, and our open bar was always free. Except for the first drink. The first drink cost you your keys, which we tagged with a name & kept in a safe spot, and you didn’t get them back unless whoever was bartender (usually me) judged that you were safe to drive. That wouldn’t work for all the LW’s guests, it sounds like, but it did tend to foster both more responsible drinking, and an acceptance that in our house, we made the rules; thus if we cut you off, we weren’t opening the floor for debate about it.

    • I applaud this idea very much, but as someone who didn’t get a full driver’s licence until age 29, what did you do with people who said they hadn’t driven themselves there?

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        If you didn’t drive yourself to the party then the host doesn’t have to worry about your driving home drunk?

  31. Bearpelt said:

    A swing dance club I used to go to would play Sandman when it was time for everyone to leave.
    Good luck with setting those boundaries, LW!

    • walkingwhilefemale said:

      I had a brain fart and thought of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” when I read this. That would certainly be one way to clear the room at a swing dance club!

  32. Room of Requirement said:

    You can have your sister to be explicit about expectations for staying for the weekend to her friends. Ban shot glasses, no drinking games, no pre-gaming, toss around code words like “quiet evening”. Have your fiance do the same with the specific friends who need it- “hey, we’ve had to pour you into a Lyft the last few times, can you dial it back when you come over?”
    Start and end times are great when extending the invite. I don’t think the first step is emailing a list of rules.

  33. Anon said:

    I hear you! I think everyone has covered a lot of it and I’m a huge fan of explicit and specific party rules (one of mine is: extra guests need to be already trans educated and whoever brings them is responsible for correcting them if they slip up; repeated offenses get the boot).

    I wanted to add: not everyone has to be invited to every party. This doesn’t have to be mean! Curating your guest list to cultivate a certain atmosphere is part of party planning too, imo. Some friends get invited to pajamas-and-chat gatherings, some to gossipy mimosa brunches, some to big parties, some to work dates over coffee. There’s a lot of overlap and depending on the mood you want, as long as you still spend time with the friends you want to see in ways you enjoy their company, there really hasn’t been any hurt feelings in my social circles so far. Sloppy drunks don’t get invited drinking, but maybe to the movies, I don’t get invited to board game nights but happily attend brunch, everybody wins.

    • Kacienna said:

      “not everyone has to be invited to every party”

      This is really important and is something anyone who wants to be friends with me has to respect. I know maybe 50 households that I’m happy inviting to parties sometimes. I do not want 50 people at once in my house ever, so I invite a subset. If you’re not invited this time, it’s nothing personal, maybe next time will be your turn. (Of course I don’t rub it in people’s faces that they weren’t invited, and I don’t bring up the parties with people who weren’t invited unless enough time has gone by that it’ll just be “some party I wasn’t at” rather than “some party I wasn’t invited to”)

  34. Have not finished reading, but I do want to say that Shakespeare reads are the BEST! We did one for my girlfriend’s birthday last year, and it was super fun. We mixed up the parts every act.

    No, I don’t remember which one. It was a comedy. There was cross-dressing. There was no Falstaff.

  35. Karyn Ellis said:

    Definitely do all the things the Captain has suggested, as suits your needs. However, if I take you at your word that you don’t mind being around drunk people, you just mind being around drunk jerks, that’s a different conversation.

    If your fiance’s friend gets pretty drunk, but is fine going home in a Lyft, and is otherwise good company (not belligerent, not petulant), does that behavior bother you? If your sister’s friend (who is crashing on your couch) gets pretty drunk, and overpours for themselves, do they then do super inappropriate stuff and then harf for three hours? Those people can have conversations about how their behavior is not okay–and it doesn’t matter that they were drunk. Drunk, high, or sober–jerk behavior is jerk behavior.

    If you still want to host the occasional bash, use Evite or FB for party organizing, and lay it out that you’re trying to dial back on the wackiness. Spell out ‘No shots, and we’re going to wind it down around 1 am’. If your household thinks that a heads-up conversation with the wilder participants will be enough to rein them in enough that everyone has a good time, great! If y’all think that a couple of current invitees won’t handle it well, and will continue to be a problem–don’t invite them. If they hear about it and ask, tell them why. “Because you have a history of acting like a jerk at these kinds of parties. Would love to see you at a daytime thing!”

    But definitely try the stuff that the Captain and everyone else said that sounds like fun to you!

  36. nnn said:

    To add to the list of things to state in party rules, if you’re a “no shoes in the house” household within a location/culture where not that might not be glaringly obvious to everyone, say so in the party rules so people can plan accordingly.

  37. nnn said:

    Also, depending on the people involved, what if you didn’t call it a “party”? Even if it’s the same kind of event, you could describe it in a more low-key sort of way. (“We’re going to get a pizza and hang out”).

    Also, Lent starts tomorrow! If doing so is useful, perhaps you could wean your circle from the idea of getting drunk at your house by saying that your house is giving up alcohol for Lent, and host a few alcohol-free evenings to get them accustomed to the new paradigm. (Even if you aren’t Christian, it’s not uncommon for secular people to use Lent as an opportunity to experiment with abstaining from something.)

  38. Anonamoose said:

    I agree with Captain, setting party rules beforehand in the invites, coupled with doing a couple of things centered around a non-drinking activity to break the party-chain, would probably be the best bet. I think rather than people agreeing to a limit, just moving the atmosphere to “no one gets trashed” would be better. Every person adheres to the same rules so it’s easier to understand, remember, and reinforce. Just tell people that it was too stressful making sure everyone got home okay and wasn’t destroying things, so now you’d prefer to do a couple chill beer/wine parties rather than ragers. If the people are good people, they’ll understand where you’re coming from. And if they’re not, they can party hard elsewhere (or you can mix up the parties! Majority are chill, and hard-drinking ones are special occasion and announced as such and maybe you just make a resolution to let people self-police, even if you hate hearing the “I’m driiinnkinnng tooo much” comments).
    It’ll help alot if your fiancee and sister will commit to not getting really drunk. I’m in grad school and live 5 doors down from another apartment of grad students from same department. The guys down from me drink hard and love shots; every party at their house is a rager. Every party at my house is going to involve snacks and no one drinking enough to wake up with a hangover because that’s how my roommates and I prefer to drink. The party hosts and their attitude towards drinking set the tone of the party. It might be a bit tricky with your sisters friends if they’re coming down to see her, but if SHE wants that to change, using a statement like “We have limited time together so I want to both remember it AND not waste time tomorrow being too hungover” should help.

  39. Emma9 said:

    Regarding this specifically from your letter:

    “the good old “stop me if I’m going to drink too much” “you’ve reached your limit, stop drinking” “no I don’t want to” – mostly because that used to be me, and it’s why I don’t really drink anymore.”

    Would it be worth addressing this particular *behavior*, if it’s coming from a friend you think would engage with such a discussion? (While they are sober, of course.) Could be either when you’re hanging out irrespective of parties, or specifically when they trot out the ‘Stop me’ line; “Hey friend, you’ve said that before, and then you argue with me when I try to honor that request later in the night. It sucks for me to be in that position. What’s a different way we can handle this?”

  40. DeltaDelta said:

    I would 100% go to a BYO Complete Works of Shakespeare party, regardless of whether alcohol is involved.

    • Apari said:

      Commenting late to say thanks for this link, my housemates and I love this show and wanted to do a taskmaster themed party with our friends but couldn’t work out the logistics.

  41. potterchik said:

    I had a friend who would start singing “Goodnight sweetheart, we-ell it’s time to go….” around 10 pm. Funny and friendly, and unmistakable.

  42. Hi I'm New Here said:

    Based on my own experience of being the first in my group to buy a house, fiance and sister’s friends are really excited to have a place where they can hang out and party. No landlords to worry about, possibly no neighbors to disturb, and a reduced chance of parental figures finding out what you were up to because, hey, your friends aren’t going to spill details. We had a couple of friends who just sort of assumed how things would be when we bought a house, which we didn’t expect.

    Parties with themes are great. They make it clear the focus is not drinking and give greater control over the amount and type of alcohol served. We’ve had cookie-decorating parties, brunch+activity, bad movie parties and homemade pizza parties. We usually had beer plus a cocktail, and guests would often bring a six-pack, but drinking was moderate because we were actively doing something, there was clearly a limited supply of alcohol, and no one wants to be that person getting drunk when no one else is. We had friends who party enthusiastically, and that’s fine, no problem — but they weren’t doing it at our house.

  43. Sheelzebub said:

    P.P.S. **Mad love also to my other friend, A., who used to get really stoned and bake homemade treats late at night and push us all out the door with something hot and sweet in our hands for the walk to the train. “Smells like toffee bars, time to find my coat!”

    OMG I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS AND WILL TRY IT AT MY NEXT PARTY!

    • JenniferP said:

      A. is also the person who, in concert with me, threw a party where we invited everyone we knew who had unspoken* crushes on each other plus a bunch of friends who were sweet and outgoing and good at flirting, lit a bunch of candles and other flattering low-light sources, filled vases in every room with cheap farmer’s market flowers, made sure there was plenty of comfortable seating including giant cushions on the floor, put mints and chocolate in little bowls all around the place, played nothing but “chill” mixes filled with Portishead, Morcheeba, Everything But The Girl, Fiona Apple and other 90s make-out stalwarts all night, and watched like Fairy Godmothers from the sidelines, like, ‘FIGURE IT OUT, PEOPLE, THERE WILL NEVER BE A GREATER TIME FOR YOU TO FIGURE IT OUT.” I miss her.

      *Unspoken to their crush object, spoken all the time to me, A., the wall, everyone but their crush object.

      • pickle said:

        This is awesome. Did it work??? Do tell…

        • JenniferP said:

          It didn’t work. People don’t want to be happy.

          • I’m surprised NONE of them did.

            It could be a reason they weren’t speaking to their crushes about their crushes was because they were sure their crush was wrong for them. Maybe even so very wrong they made a “safe” person to have a crush on, because of Never Having To Go There.

            Or there’s the time-honored, “Not dating until I finish my grad degree,” focus. Which also is sometimes aided by deliberately a crush on someone you really don’t want to tangle with.

          • JenniferP said:

            I mean it worked on one level, the charismatic flirty people we invited cleaned up like makeout bandits! Just, no star-crossed crushers made it to each other. Which is their decision! We did what we could!

      • Drew said:

        That sounds AMAZING. Did it work?

      • myzania said:

        I love that idea…..

      • Just in hopes it’ll make you a little happy:

        In 2000 I threw a party to which I invited (among others) a woman I liked a lot but who wasn’t yet my close friend. I had two thoughts : maybe we’d become friends, and maybe she’d like my brother.

        She and my brother saw each other across a crowed room and have been together ever since.

  44. Admittedly my house has never been so much a Party House as a Soiree House, but I do have a suggestion for the Party Rules conversation. In my house it’s spelled out on a lightboard next to the booze: DRINK WATER. Glasses and filtered water are easy to find, and there are lemon slices sometimes and little stick-on mustaches to differentiate your glass from other glasses. I myself am usually carrying around a water glass as well as a wineglass. I tell people I am aiming for a 1:1 ratio of alcoholic drinks to glasses of water, and while it’s true that I don’t always remember or meet that goal–that’s precisely the kind of self-care that goes forgotten after drink 3–we’ve established a shared value of staying hydrated, so when you see the sign and so many other people drinking water, you remember to slow down and take a break.

  45. I tend to get sleepy far earlier than most of my social circle, so I collapse on my couch and say “Go home, nice people,” until they go.

    • Kacienna said:

      Yes, I also have an earlier bedtime. Everyone knows that my parties end by 9 or 10.

  46. Not Australian said:

    Not terribly helpful, I know, but I’ve never been happier to be A Certain Age and to confine drinking/partying to certain sedate dinners with wine or beer and my now-legendary New Year’s Day champagne brunch. Guests who self-limit their alcohol consumption are more of a blessing than I’d realised.

  47. A_Well-Intentioned_Online_Friend said:

    You could also allow alcohol, but state beforehand that you as the host will not provide any yourself, but that guests are welcome to bring some. When they have to spend their own money, they are more likely to be more careful, or they can go to a bar instead.
    You could consider pot luck so that everyone is bringing something rather than everything being on you.

  48. Quinalla said:

    Nothing wrong with laying down rules for Your party at Your place. Limiting alcohol supply or having parties with no alcohol are both great ideas!

    And yes, cannot reemphasize enough that folks should NEVER pressure people to drink or to more center alcohol in an event. I enjoy drinking at parties a lot of times, but sometimes don’t feel like drinking and always try to be very careful about not pressuring people to the point where people have been confused because I am so non-pressurey they aren’t always sure if they should drink at my parties when they are first getting to know me. (This was more of a thing in college where nearly everyone gets pressure to drink, but still people are surprised by how chill I am about offering drinks. I literally never assume someone wants an alcoholic drink, even if they always have one every time they come over. I’m probably a little weird about this!) I will then explain that I don’t want anyone to feel pressured in any way, but that I have a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available and everyone is welcome to bring their own as well.

  49. I used to host an annual 4th of July party for 80-120 of my nearest and dearest. And their nearest and dearest. It definitely helped that we were post-college aged, but still.

    My house rules:
    1 – Don’t get stupid drunk
    2 – HYDRATE
    3 – Only sober people play with fire (lots of fire spinners)

    I had a couple people break rule 1. The ones who were friends of friends weren’t welcome back, the ones that were friends were embarrassed and promised not to do it again. It helps at that age, most of my friends knew their limits.

    But, I DEFINITELY learned not to start until after 2pm. Handling 1 meal is fine. Handling lunch AND dinner means by the time the late lunchers are done, it’s time to start grilling dinner… It’s a lot less exhausting if you don’t have to handle 2 meals.

    And my dad started showing up, so ‘no shenanigans til after midnight’ became a rule.

  50. Seeking Second Childhood said:

    There’s another factor here: “Social host liability”. Google it.
    Your home may be on the line if your guest drives away drunk and causes an accident. And that’s BEFORE we get to the potential internalized guilt over having served the booze that led to a drunk-driving death.

  51. luca said:

    LW, I feel for you deeply because you’re playing this exhausting game of trying to figure out how to get to the feeling (trust) that would let you stay with this guy and be happy. Of course you want that. But I hope you find your way to a happy that doesn’t require this much work and trying to make your feelings smaller

  52. as for signaling the end of a party- one tip I’ve seen is to serve everyone coffee when it’s just about time to leave. it allows the host to show thoughtful attention towards each guest, and it prompts the guests to start saying farewell and make that mental switch to move on. I don’t even drink coffee, but I like the idea and maybe it could be adapted as needed.

  53. DCLite said:

    LW, I might be projecting all the hell over you, but I’m also in a time in my life of being married and starting to have couches and tables that aren’t for sleeping and beer pong on and somehow coming up with crushing guilt/anxiety about being lame/not wanting to be the one who calls an end to this party called our young adulthood, but it’s TOTALLY OKAY to just make that transition to We Have Not Those Parties Now.

    As someone who has also been the person who was suggesting the extra rounds of shots when everyone else had one glass and wanted to hesd home, those people notice. They notice that they have to go find their other (drinking) people if they want those parties, and that they are ending up as “that guy” in a room full of one-glass-drinkers. In a way, that will begin to sort itself out on its own.

  54. myzania said:

    I like the Capt’s scripts!
    My friend likes to host a monthly catch up. If it’s an in-house thing, the rules are that people bring something to eat and (usually) their *own* drinks. Everyone in the group is pretty level-headed/ slash can hold their alcohol well/ knows their limits so that helps it be fun and for all to have a good time without getting silly. Rules are good, setting expectations are awesome.
    Also that “Closing Time” thing was also a thing at my uni’s bar at one point….

  55. I don’t have any advice the Captain hasn’t already covered, I just want to validate how utterly infuriating it is to hear “stop me if I’m going to drink too much” from an adult. No, adult guest, I am not your mommy and I’m not going to pretend I am. That’s basically the least fun thing I could possibly be doing with my evening, which makes it stunningly selfish to put me in a position where I either have to do that or get shit from you later for not doing your adulting for you.

  56. Amanda Belen said:

    In college, I lived in a once-in-a-while-host-a-wild-party house, and I felt really nervous about things getting too wild. Once, before a big party, I talked with one of the Big Men On Campus guys who I trusted, and told him I was nervous about people getting too drunk and destructive. He listened, then later that night, I made eye contact with him and made a nervous facial expression. He started loudly talking up a different party at another house, walking through each room cheerfully encouraging people to leave, and had the house empty in five minutes!

    Maybe you could try finding a non-host ally who can help monitor things and influence the party mood for the other guests. Could be one more helpful factor combined with some of the Cap’n’s suggestions!

  57. slythwolf said:

    Gosh, honestly, as a grown adult who for life-circumstances reasons is friends with a bunch of younger people still in college, having clear ending times for gatherings would be amazing. I like to know ahead of time that wanting to leave when the numbers on the clock are still in double digits is not going to get me razzed by a bunch of people who can still bounce back from 3-4 hours of sleep on a regular basis.

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