FOOD: keep it simple, go for finger-foods and other simple nibblies. Something I've seen done at several "cocktail dinners" is to have a paste-like food (a thick tasty dip, spicy egg salad, a pate, even peanut-butter with interesting "things" in it -- served on spoons -- one decent-sized gob per spoon). Things-n-dips are always good -- chips 'n' dips, veggie-stix 'n' dips, and Turkish bread 'n' dips all go over well. And you can never have enough good, old-fashioned devilled eggs.
Idea: Don't put out all your food at once. Bring out, say, three kinds of food at a time, and when these are mostly gone, play a game or run an entertainment (watch short video, sing karaoke, ...). After the entertainment, bring out 3 more types of dishes, and so on.
DRINK: It's fun to have punch in a big bowl, especially because you can "decorate" both the bowl and the punch glasses. But beyond decoration, stick with ordinary carbonated drinks and juices that you know your friends will like. It could become part of the entertainment, though, to provide the ingredients for mocktails, and give prizes for the best combinations ("best" being different things -- best color[s], best taste, sweetest, best use of paper umbrellas, skewer-sticks, or straws, most believable alcohol-mimicking, fruitiest, best taste without fruitiness, best use of chocolate, whatever).
GAMES: Good old parlor games go over surprisingly well, assuming you have a good grip on your friends' tastes.
You can always write up several themed rounds of TRIVIA QUESTIONS, and run these intermittently throughout the party -- whenever things get slow. Use only 4-6 questions per round (keep a couple extras on each theme, in case of problems or to break ties). Give a goofy prize for the "team" that wins the round, and give it immediately. ("Teams" can be 1-3 people who just happen to be sitting close together, and can have different members for each round played.) Prizes can be cheap-but-fun dollar-shop trinkets; fun stuff such as sparklers, confetti, or party-poppers; things that *can* be shared such as chewing gum or print-outs of jokes; or services, such as having all the "losers" of a round give the 1-3 "winners" neck massages, pedicures, or cool nail-jobs, etc.
Themes for rounds can be personal (current events in the year & month of your birth, for example; or Qs having to do with your school, if you all go to the same one) or general (research some on the internet).
And then, there's the I NEVER game. This is a great game for a group of close friends or people who really like to share hints of their dark pasts. The only supplies are people with enquiring minds, and small printouts of "consequences," folded up and dumped together into a covered basket or fancy tin. It's a great way of making the newer friends at your party feel comfortable with the group.
Everyone sits around a table, or around on the floor if you so desire. One person goes first by making a TRUE statement that begins with "I never...." For example, "I've never been to Disneyland." Then, if any other player HAS DONE what the person said, they draw a folded-up paper with a "consequence" on it, and do whatever it says to do.
As the game progresses, the statements tend to get more personal and explicit. But the game only works when people are honest. However, if somebody draws a consequence on an "I never ...," they don't have to give ANY explanation. For example, if someone says, "I've never had a boyfriend I DIDN'T kiss," and someone ends up performing a consequence for it, no explanation is needed. It can be quite a lot of fun either when the question is *particularly* random, or when *several* people draw consequences to perform. Note: you can get all the consequence-performers for a single "I Never ..." to do the same consequence.
You do have to be comfortable that everyone playing is mature enough never to hassle or torment someone into explaining why they took a consequence on a question, either at your party or at any time afterwards.
"Consequences" ideas can include: Downright silly stuff: lick your finger and stick it in your ear, hold for a count-out-loud of 10, or 50; go sing a verse of "Bicycle Built for Two," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," or "Lambs Eat Oats" to your mother (look up words and music on the internet); sit with a dab of mayonnaise on your nose, for 5 minutes (use a kitchen timer), or maybe until the mayo turns transparent; count one number in order, every time anyone says a common word (examples: "I" or "me," "no," "uhm," and so on), but without explaining why or what they're counting until they've counted 8 or 10 of them; and things like that.
And include physical stuff: get one side of a Rubik's cube all one color; solve a parlor-game puzzle from a toy-store set of puzzles; touch their big toe to some other part of their body (difficult but not impossible, such as to their elbow); balancing an object on a part of their body; etc.
Answered By: gildersleeve - 6/21/2009