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Hosting a great 18th birthday party

Turning 18 is a milestone that young people often like to celebrate with their friends and families. Planning these parties is a lot trickier than for earlier birthdays, because they raise alcohol-related questions. For example, if many guests are 18 and legally allowed to drink, how do you keep them safe?

Rod from the Australian Drug Foundation recently hosted a great party for his son’s 18th birthday and wants to share his experience with you.


When it comes to planning an 18th birthday party, who better to consult than the birthday boy himself? Rod’s son and son’s girlfriend were involved throughout the planning process. The guest list was kept to around thirty 17 and 18 year olds. Rod felt it was important to only invite a number they felt comfortable with.


Rod and his wife were lucky enough to have a few extra people available to help with the party. They found it particularly useful to have someone in charge of checking that only invitees were arriving at the party, as they already had their hands full organising other aspects.

The invitation

Guests received hard copy (not Facebook or SMS!) invitations that they needed to bring to gain entry. The invitations specified the location and duration (7.30–12.30pm) of the party. They also stated that responsible serving of alcohol practices would be in place, and that there was to be no BYO. Any alcohol brought would be taken away and returned at the end of the night.

Parental consent for underage guests

Victoria’s secondary supply legislation requires that anyone supplying alcohol to a minor has the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Rod’s invitations contained a separate slip to be completed and signed by parents of underage guests, if they consented for their child to be served alcohol.


A limited range and amount of alcohol was supplied (beer and a couple of mixed drinks), and served according to responsible service of alcohol principles like not serving alcohol to anyone who is obviously intoxicated. No self service of alcohol was allowed, and non-alcoholic options were made available.

To avoid having too much glass, mixed drinks were served in small plastic cups decorated with umbrellas and strawberries. Not only did this help to space out drinking (and each serving was smaller than its bottled alternative), it made drinking more of an ‘event’ rather than a routine.


Chips and dips are standard party fare, but Rod and his wife supplied more substantial food, including spring rolls, dim sims and mini pizzas, along with some sweet treats. Serving the food provided an opportunity for adults to mingle and keep an eye on guests.

The venue

The party was held at Rod’s family home. A lot of effort was put into creating a great party environment, including a marquee, juke box, dry ice machine, laser lights, balloons and fires. The family’s pool and table tennis tables were also made available for use by the guests.

Rod felt that showing guests you care enough to make an effort helps to make it an enjoyable experience and encourages them to act respectfully. Having activities like pool and table tennis also gave guests something to do that didn’t involve drinking.

How did it go?

Rod reported the party passed smoothly, with much laughter and cheer throughout the night. He felt they were successful in modifying the behaviour of certain guests who may otherwise have been heavier drinkers. No one became intoxicated or was in danger of harm. Importantly, the feedback from his son and friends showed that everyone had a great night.

Republished from August 2012

Share your experiences with organising a teenage party by posting a comment below.