When the party's over, the party's over... or is it? If you've had trouble in the past getting your guests to pack it in for the night and go home, you may need a new approach, or two. There are ways to politely clear your guests, but you need the right timing, as well as a simple strategy in place. Take a look at the following techniques for easing your guests out the door.
Avoid open ended invitations
Probably the easiest way to send your guests home is to have an end time right on your invitation. Make sure you clearly state that your party will begin and end at a certain time. This way, you should only have to walk around and declare something like; “Will you just look at the time!” Since all your guests saw the end time on the invitation, this will click fast. The end time puts you in a place to politely move your guests out the door with style.
Enlist the help of other guests
In any group of guests, there are usually some who are very punctual, both coming and going. When you look at your guest list, keep this in mind. The guests who naturally leave on time are often those who are paying a babysitter or who have to work the next day. When you see these guests getting ready to leave, be sure to make a point of getting their coats and walking them to the door, rather noticeably. As your guests watch you escort other guests to the door, they will quickly see that the party is winding down. This is a subtle way to start moving all your guests toward the exit; they will naturally start gathering their belongings as you are saying goodbye to your departing guests.
Honesty is the best policy
Being honest with people is a simple way to wrap up a party. This doesn't mean being rude and nasty. Instead, you will just tell your guests how thankful you are that they were able to come and what a great time you had, and... let me get your coat and walk you to the door. Who can argue with that? If a guest is still slow to move toward the door, you can fill in with a few comments about having to work in the morning and the kids will be up at the crack of dawn. No one will miss the point when it's honest and direct, but still polite. Simply stating the facts in terms everyone understands will work for most guests and in most instances. Party stragglers who miss the subtle hints typically get it when you use the honest approach.
Ask about plans for getting home
Asking your guests about their plans for getting home is a subtle way to move the conversation in another direction; namely out the door. Some guests may need you to call a cab. Perhaps a guest is waiting for a ride from someone. Do they have a driver on the way? Maybe your guest would appreciate it if you moved their car up closer to the house. Simple questions like this can begin to get your guests thinking about heading home, which means that you can think about wrapping up the party and enjoying some much needed rest.
Start cleaning up
Nothing says 'time to go' like the host disappearing into the kitchen to do dishes. When you start to clean up, everyone notices that you are ready to wind down. Of course, you don't want to be rude, but if you have a few guests who simply haven't followed the other guests out the front door when they should have, then rattling those pots and pans may be justified. If they still don't take the hint, then ask them to join you in the kitchen and put them to work. At this point, your guests will leave or they help with the dishes, which isn't bad either way.
Ruin the mood
I saved this one for last because it's really a last resort. Blow out the candles, turn up the lights, put away the decorations, and turn off the music. Don't forget to pick up the snacks and put away the wine! This is a bit harsh, to be sure, but it is very effective for even the most stubborn straggler. Sitting under bright lights in a house devoid of all festive spirit is going to drive any guest to the front door. Short of shutting off the lights, locking the door, and going to bed, this strategy seems to work even with the most oblivious guest.
Hosting a party is exhausting. You put a lot of time and effort into planning the party, preparing for everything, and then finally welcoming your guests. Being the good host that you are, you'll be spending lots of time making sure that everyone is having fun. Although you are enjoying yourself, too, by the end of the party, you are ready to wrap it up and send your guests merrily along their way. With these ideas for subtle, and not so subtle, methods for moving your guests toward the door, your party will end just as smoothly as it started.