7 Game-Day Party Mistakes You'll Never Make Again

These no-stress fixes for common party-planning troubles will guarantee a good time for everyone enjoying the big game.

A Winning Strategy

It's one of the easiest parties to throw — no playlists to worry about (the entertainment is built right in), comfort food is practically required, and nobody needs to dress up. But there are still some sticky situations that can throw a big-game party off track. Here's what to watch for — and how to head off problems at the pass.

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The Mistake: You Let Everyone Fill Up on Food Too Quickly

The Fix: Rather than serving all the goodies at the same time, think of the evening in five acts and space the food accordingly. Set out one or two room-temperature snacks for the first quarter. Second quarter is for heated munchies like pigs in a blanket. Serve a main dish at halftime, followed by dessert in the third or fourth quarter, depending on the stamina of your crew. Have coffee at the ready from halftime onward for any early departers.

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The Mistake: Disposable Cups Mean Guests Can't Keep Track of Their Drinks

The Fix: Set out a few colorful permanent markers next to the buffet so people can label their cups. This way, mixups will be eliminated and your house won't fill up with "floaters" (you know, those random half-consumed drinks).

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The Mistake: You Spend the Whole Game Mixing Drinks

The Fix: Put down the cocktail shaker. You have a long night ahead of you. More to the point, so do your guests; you don't need them pounding the hard stuff. Pacing is the name of the game here, so stick with less-potent offerings like beer, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. Stash them in an ice-filled cooler on your deck or by the kitchen door. This frees up space in the fridge and gets people moving from the sofa (and nibbling more snacks). Don't forget the bottle opener.

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The Mistake: Your Menu Requires Utensils to Eat

The Fix: Skip the steak and spaghetti, and choose items guests can eat with their fingers or (at the most) with a single utensil and plates balanced on their laps. Think build-your-own tacos, chili bowls or sliders. Or go totally utensil-free with a 6-foot hoagie or pizza. If you're getting delivery, place your order in advance; the night of the big game is one of the busiest of the year.

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The Mistake: You Let Finger-Friendly Food Leave a Mess Behind

The Fix: Save your sofa upholstery and guest towels by putting out plenty of napkins, moist wipes or even a few rolls of paper towels so people can clean their hands easily. A couple of strategically placed trashcans near the food and TV will give people a place to toss their dirty wipes along with used plates and cups.

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The Mistake: You're Too Exhausted (or Busy) to Enjoy Your Own Party

The Fix: Make it a potluck. You can focus on one great homemade dish (say, a one-pot jambalaya or showstopping wings) and fill in the rest with items from guests and store-bought snacks. Murphy's Law says that the person assigned to bring appetizers will be late, so make sure to have a bowl of chips and dip on hand for backup.

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The Mistake: You Don't Have Enough Seating

The Fix: People are coming to your house for one reason: to sit, eat and watch television. It's your job to make sure they can do it. (OK, maybe they want to spend time with you, too.) Do a test run the morning of the big game. Check out the view of the TV from different angles of the room, eliminate obstacles like floor lamps, and make sure you have an adequate number of seats (sofa arms don't count; ottomans, step stools and picnic benches do). Bonus points for turning on the set to confirm you have a good picture. If you don't, you'll still have time to come up with a plan B.

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