5 icebreaker games for your next party

5 Icebreaker Games for your Next Party

It’s about time I bring back a post topic that’s an oldie, but a goodie. It’s something that people ask me about all the time: icebreaker games.

At 27, I find that I’ve gotten to the age where I know people from many different areas of life. There are co-workers, bloggers, church-goers, choir singers, RAs, engineers, friends of friends, and people I randomly introduce myself to. How they heck do you get them all to talk to each other at a party? An icebreaker game is sure to do the trick. Here are my top 5 tried-and-true icebreaker games to get people to connect at a party.

Give ‘Em Something to Talk About

Whether your party is extravagant or simple, it’s easiest to get people to start talking when there is a theme or activity to talk about. You don’t need to know the person next to you to talk about how cute the cheese tray is or ask “what does that one taste like.” You also don’t need to know the person next to you if you’re all playing a game – you can skip the introductions and head straight to what’s in front of you right now. My favorite of the themed parties have been: a chai tasting, a beer & cheese party, a find the best bottle of wine under $10 party, and a find the best hot fudge party. Each one of these parties in itself provides questions for the guests to talk about right off the bat.

Ask a Question

One of my favorite, and the simplest one of the icebreaker games, is to ask everybody to answer a question at the start of an event. And no matter how formal the event is I like to keep the question relaxed. What is your favorite new restaurant? What cool new thing have you discovered lately? Where did you grow up? What’s your favorite Disney movie? I even once had a party where we started with “what’s your favorite kind of salad dressing”. Unexpected answers keep things interesting and give people something to talk about later. I recommend the party host answer the question first and then everyone else answers in a (counter-)clockwise circle. That way the host can set the tone right off the bat and nobody needs to “volunteer” to go next.

This is also way easier than something like “two truths and a lie” where people have to come up with something about themselves. That always puts people on the spot of needing to come up with a topic cool enough to use.

Pair People Up

If you want to take the “ask a question” to the next level, you can pair people up. The thing about forcing two people to talk to each other is that somehow the pressure is off (probably because you already have a partner). And it’s really easy to start with something like, “wow, this is ridiculous, isn’t it?” I’ve been to many events where you have to introduce the person you get paired up with to the crowd, which also keeps things interesting. Not only that, but it helps people feel accountable for making sure others have a really fun introduction.

Go Move Your Car

This is now and forever will be my favorite one of the ice breaker games. It only happens a few times a year that I get to use it, and in all honesty it’s not really easily replicated, BUT I feel the need to tell you anyway. Every year I host a Christmas party in Connecticut at my parent’s house. We have a very long driveway and there’s not that much parking at the top, so sometimes when it gets too congested I send people down to park. What usually happens is I find 5 people who drove and don’t know each other very well and I say, “you, you, you, you, and you, go down the driveway in 5 cars and come back up in 1.” It’s an interesting way to throw people together. Plus, it’s efficient and effective.

Give ‘Em Something To Do

If you’ve tried a bunch of icebreaker games, you’ve tried the “hey Sara, Louise is planning a trip to San Francisco and I know you just went there, you should totally give her some tips about it,” along with the “hey Tom, Sam plays tennis too,” but there’s still somebody hanging out that seems like they don’t have anyone to talk to, ask them if they will help you with a task. I know that when I feel awkward at parties it always makes me feel better when I have a task. It makes me feel more important, like I’m helping the host, and gives me something to talk about.

Do you have any other tips that you use to make people feel included? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


My 25th Birthday Party: Invitations and Guests


The only picture I have of (only) myself for the evening.  Thanks, Mom!

Well, it’s about time I share some details about this birthday party that I’ve been talking about for months now, huh?  I’m going to break it down into four posts: invitations and guest list, alcohol (that’s right, it gets a whole category to itself), party details, and costs.

Why am I documenting this party in such detail?  Well there are a few reasons for that (1) I feel like I’ve been a huge tease about this and for that I apologize, (2) so that I can learn something from my experience, (3) so that somebody else might be able to learn something from it, and (4) so I can google it later to see exactly what I did.  Also, for the record, the reason that I do so much detailed planning before (and after) a party is that when I actually do execute these parties, it seems simple.

The theme for my 25th birthday party was a late night boozy brunch.  I rented my favorite brunch venue in Philadelphia, Cafe Lift – a BYOB restaurant that holds approximately 65 people.  Also, I found a DJ for the occasion. 🙂

Then I started making the birthday party list, in Excel, of course.  I made a preliminary list of all of the people that I usually hang out with, then scrolled through my cell phone, and then I looked down my gchat.  I did a final quick glance over Facebook, but that probably wasn’t my best idea, it made things far more complicated in my brain.

At the end of the day I had a list of my 158 closest friends and family (including their other halves) – which can essentially be separated into church choir, co-workers, college, resident assistants, and friends from home.  Yes, that number sounds crazy, but 73 of them lived out of state, which leaves me with 85.  That being said, come the day of the party I looked around and I felt so honored and blessed and loved by everybody who had made it in to visit me from out of state, in a snowstorm, – people from NYC, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Texas, and a bunch from towns over an hour outside of PA.

I decided to email the invitations to everybody so that I would have a more direct line of communication with everyone.  I was shocked to find out how many of my friends email addresses I didn’t have, so that was an adventure in itself.  Also, I made the executive decision to email groups of people together so that people knew who else was invited to the party that they would know.Here’s the invitation I created.

Chrystina's Birthday Party copy

I tried to keep it simple and I tried to figure out what questions people were going to ask before it came up.  A big one at my parties is dress code, I don’t know when it started – probably at the murder mystery parties, but people always think they’re supposed to dress a certain way – I should probably take advantage of this at some point, but this time I didn’t.  I ended up deciding on Smart Casual.  Mainly because – just look presentable and jeans are totally fine, but if you want to wear a dress with me that’s totally legit too, but don’t forget it’s going to be cold because it’s January in Philadelphia – was too long.  I also liked how in the end it ended up being $25 on the 25th of January for my 25th birthday.  I also asked for homemade cards, because you’re allowed to do that on your birthday.

As for the RSVP situation, I really really needed that number, so I was pretty much a woman on a mission about it.  I emailed everybody a week before to remind them that I needed them to RSVP in a week.  Then I texted/called/IM-ed/and g-chatted everyone I could think of on the 10th.

So you know how my life is a little bit… out of the ordinary?  Always in a different state, never quite sure when I’m going to be anywhere.  Well, there’s a bunch of my friends that are the same way (and I love them for it and wouldn’t have it any other way).  My two favorite, “I’m not sure if I can come yet” reasons were – (a) I’m not sure what day I’m flying back from Chile yet, and (b) she doesn’t have a visa to the country yet so she’s not sure she’s going to be here.

A few days before the party I sent out an email to everybody who had RSVP-ed yes with every detail they ever could have wanted divided into the following categories: the basics, the food and drink, the atmosphere, the dress code, the payment, and what to bring.  I also inserted this nifty pie chart that I created.

25th Birthday Party Pie Chart

I figured it would grab people’s attention.  And it did.  I got text messages of everybody asking which group they were in if it overlapped.

So, I’m sure you’re asking yourself at this point, but I thought the venue only held approximately 65?  Well, at the end of the day, we ended up with 70 people total so it all worked out just fine.  Although, I admit there were a few moments when I was a little bit nervous.  And nervous about where all of these people were going to stay.

What an adventure.  Stay tuned for the next post about, so, how much alcohol exactly do you bring for 70 people?

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How to Create a Guest List

how to create a guest list

Now, I could sit here and write a procedure for how to plan an event that has caterers and room rentals and hired performers, but #1) I’m not fully versed in that level of event planning yet and #2) I’ve got to believe that most people reading this blog aren’t at that level yet either.  We can get there together 🙂

Most people planning events are planning birthday parties, small gatherings – shindigs if you will, and holiday parties for no more than 30 people at a time.  So that’s where we begin.

Step one: the possible guest list

Start with the guest list.  This is going to determine so many other factors that it would be silly to start anywhere else.  Separate your guest list into groups by how you know people – college, choir, high school, middle school, work, etc.  Include every possible person that you may want to invite to the party.

Step two: narrow down the guest list

Look at the list that you have created and take a highlighter to it.  Separate people into the “must haves”, “want to haves”, “would be cool to have” and “why did I put this person on the list again?”.  Now, remember, there is no reason for anybody else to be seeing this list, so you can be completely honest on it.

Step three: complete the guest list

Once the list has been color coded, make the finalized guest list.  Put all of the “must haves” on the list and then fill in the gaps.  Think about who else usually hangs out with that group of people, think about who’s really good at being the life of the party, or think about who makes the best dessert.  If there’s somebody that doesn’t seem like they know anybody else, tell her that she can bring a friend and then the ball is in her court.

Step four: asking the tough questions

Look at how many people you’re dealing with.  Look to see if there’s anything that these people have in common.  Are you dealing with a group of people that really likes to go out to the bars or a group of people that loves to play board games in on a Saturday night?  Nothing is wrong with either scenario, but unless your heart is set on a specific type of party, the affair will run much smoother if the guests feel comfortable.  Here are some questions you now want to ask yourself.

  • Do I want to pay for this party?  What is my budget?
  • Will every person pay his or her own way?  What is a reasonable cost to ask each of them to pay?
  • How much prep work do I want to do the day of the event?
  • How will people be getting to the event?
  • Is there public transportation or a place for people to stay if there will be drinking?
  • Do I want to have the party at my house or will it be at a different venue?

 Here are some ideas –

A night in:
Potluck, wine and cheese, brunch, baked potato party, taco night, ice cream sundae party, breakfast for dinner, game night, movie night, a specific food themed party, arts and crafts, holiday sweaters party, ladies night in with manicures and Sex and the City

Out in the country:
A kickball game, a recess themed party – hop scotch, tag, playgrounds, scavenger hunt, line dancing, pumpkin picking, apple picking

Out in the city:
Karaoke, fondue, concert, musical, theater, movies, bowling

Events somebody else can host for you:
Wine tasting, brewery tour, pottery painting, jewelry making, swing dancing, salsa dancing, pole dancing, rock climbing, volunteering, food tour

Foolproof & easy to execute:
Dinner and/or drinks

Some tips that I’ve learned along the way:

  • If you’re having an event where people need to pay their own way, it may be worth it to put “no gifts necessary” on the invitation
  • If you’re going to have a dinner and you can get a fixed rate, tell everybody the fixed rate including tax and tip and round it to a nice whole number
  • If it’s cash only, tell your guests that ahead of time
  • Sometimes it’s cheaper if you don’t tell the venue that you’re throwing a party.  For example, if you are going to go pottery painting, they’ll usually give you a fixed sitting fee for everybody that is higher than the normal sitting fee – so just call and make a reservation for however many people you need.  This works the same with bowling as well.
  • Check for coupons online
  • Ask for a lower rate from vendors, it can’t hurt
  • Ask your guests if they have an interest in bringing food or wine to an event – most people are glad to help out!

Step five: the invitations

Either make your invitations or send them out using a website such as Evite.  I’ve learned that handmade invitations are an awesome idea – unless you lack the means to get them to everybody ahead of time.  Now, the best part is that you are pretty much done until the day of the party, all you need to do is keep tabs on the RSVPs.

the finishing touches

Now that the party is planned, there are a few more details that you can start thinking about to make the event a little bit more personalized.  Is there a specific party favor that you want to give out to guests to remind them of the party?  Something that I have done in the past that has worked very well is created a collage of pictures, printed that collage on a 4”x6” picture and writing a thank you note on the back for each person.  Also, now is the time to start getting people psyched up for the party.  The more you talk about it and the more excited that you are for it, the more excited that your guests will be!  (No, seriously.)

Also – I’ve been horrible about this recently, but thank you cards are a very nice gesture, even if there was no present involved.  The reason that you invited somebody is to spend time with him or her and it was nice of that person to make time in his or her schedule to attend the gathering.  I hope to be better about this in the future.

Other posts that could follow this one:

  • Planning a menu
  • Prep work the day of the event
  • Decorations
  • Budgeting

Let me know what you’re most interested in hearing about!