Tips for putting on a Riot-free 18th Party

Ronnie all set for her 18th birthday

Ronnie all set for her 18th birthday

Our daughter, Veronica, recently turned 18. (Yes, yes, of course I was a child bride…) And while her birthdays have been cause for much celebration over the years, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this one.

It’s not that I was worried about Ronnie. As I wrote in a Blog not so long ago, her Saffy-like tendancies mean she doesn’t drink alcohol nor did she plan to on her 18th. But she DID want a party. And these days, an 18th is a seriously tricky event.

Particularly because Corey Worthington wrecked the plans of millions of teenagers when he held that impromptu party at his parent’s home while they were away… You know the rest. About 500 feral youths trashed his home and the neighbourhood.

So forevermore, parents will be haunted by that story, fearing the worst when their own offspring plan an 18th celebration. Like me.

The biggest issue is alcohol. Whoever is celebrating their 18th, will no doubt have many guests who aren’t yet at the legal drinking age. So how can you, as a parent, monitor who is and who is not allowed to drink grog at a party? The laws have changed, so that if you are found to be serving a minor alcohol, (including those with fake ID) you can be fined or/and potentially sued. Even if the party is in your own home…

My biggest tip for parents of younger teenagers, is to start talking about the fact that you WON’T be throwing a party for their 18th NOW. Get in early. It’s just TOO damn hard. Give them money, send them on a holiday, buy them a car – just DON’T hold a party. Here’s why.

For starters, it’s impossible to find a venue. If you don’t want to hold the party in your own home – and who would with the threat of social networking sending a locust swarm of rampaging youths to your house within minutes – then good luck trying to find a place that will. We rang restaurants, function venues, the council and even the local RSL. While our initial enquiries were warmly received, as soon as I mentioned the dreaded birthday age number – EIGHTEEN – the phone line went dead. No one wants to take the risk.

In our case, we got lucky. We booked a local church hall and paid the deposit before one of the senior vestry members rang me, spluttering with concern, that we were staging a… SHOCK, HORROR – 18th!!! Turns out there’d been some miscommunication along the way and the lovely lady who took our booking, had no idea 18th birthdays were considered such a dangerous risk. As we had paid our deposit and sent out invitations, the booking had to be honoured. Lucky us.

Ronnie with some of her guests arriving at the party

Ronnie with some of her guests arriving at the party

Then there’s a myriad of organisational tasks ahead. Here’s a quick checklist that might help:

1. Notify your local police about the party with the necessary details.

2. If you can afford it, hire a couple of security guards as an extra precaution against gatecrashers. We decided not to take any chances and did.

3. Have a thorough guest list and make sure those invited know they are not allowed to bring along uninvited friends.

4. Make sure there’s plenty of bottled water and soft drink available, as well as alcohol. And food!

5. Rather than alco-pop bottled drinks – favoured by lots of girls – organise a slurpy machine so you can add you own alcohol. It’s cheaper, plus you only need add a very small amount of grog to help prevent anyone over-indulging. (sneaky, huh?)

6.  Organise wristbands for those that CAN drink alcohol to help bar staff or friends serving beverages, to keep it legal.

7. Call on family and friends to help on the night. The more back up you have, the better.

Our door staff, checking off names included son Tom (centre) and my niece, Charlie. (right)

Our door staff, checking off names included son Tom (centre) and my niece, Charlie. (right)

Relegated to the kitchen

Relegated to the kitchen

 

8. Save money on a tiered birthday-cake display. Popular cupcake stores often hire out cake stands for $30 a pop. Buy your own on-line for between $30 and $50 and you’ll have one for keeps. I bought the Giant Cupcake on the top but then saved money by making the actual cupcakes. Okay, I ‘fess up – I used packet mix from the supermarket – but still a helluva lot cheaper than the cake shop versions. The pale lilac icing was challenging… Try mixing blue and red food colouring, but go easy on the blue.

 

 

Table hockey

Table hockey

 

9. Organise as many games and activities as possible to distract the party crowd from grog being the focus. Fletch was a star and sorted Table Hockey and Foosball machines that were really popular – especially earlier on before the mob worked up the courage to hit the dance floor.

 

 

 

 

The photo booth was a winner!

The photo booth was a winner!

10. Hire a Photo Booth. This was the BIGGEST hit on the night. Again, this genius idea came from Fletch, who sourced ours from the Australian Photo Booth Company. They also provide an assistant to help, plus a range of goofy hats, glasses and fancy dress paraphernalia to give endless hours of dress-up entertainment.

 

Photo booth practice

Photo booth practice

 

Doubles are made of all the photos, so that copies can be put into an album for the birthday person at the end of the night – a fantastic momento from the evening. Even better, it arrived earlier in the day, giving our family loads of laughs taking practice shots before the party. I even managed to get in a bunny-ears shot with Ronnie. Which is just as well, because I wasn’t allowed in the main party room on the night unless I was bearing food… (Mothers are SO embarrassing.)

 

Ronnie and Bec

Ronnie and Bec

Ronnie, Tom and Ruby

Ronnie, Tom and Ruby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Book a GOOD DJ. I had no idea about DJs, but after talking to my niece Charlie, who knows far more about teen parties than me, I learnt there are plenty of local types who don’t cost a bomb but do a great job. So I took her advice, (about who was the most popular on the scene in our area) and it worked a treat. Again, more dancing means less drinking.

The DJ kept the dance floor packed

The DJ kept the dance floor packed

Not a Corey in sight...

Not a Corey in sight…

 

12. Worry less. You’d be surprised how well behaved our teenagers are. It’s quite shocking, really. No one vomited, no one threw any punches and I didn’t even see ONE messy drunk. Although that could be because I wasn’t allowed in the room much…

 

Photo booth snogging

Photo booth snogging

In fact, the most risqué behaviour I came across was when I flicked through the photo booth shots the next day. There WAS a little bit of random booth snogging… (Thank God – they ARE normal.)

And even though I DID worry too much, and Fletch and I worked our butts off cleaning up that messy hall with the help of my Mum and step-father, Ken, till TWO THIRTY in the morning, there was THAT smile on the face of our gorgeous daughter all night that made it completely worthwhile. In a word – incandescent.

The smile that made it all worthwhile

The smile that made it all worthwhile – Ronnie with her pal, Sunjuri

 

Who needs London when you can chill at the beautiful Mitchelton Winery?

So I had a huffy moment yesterday about Fletch FORGETTING to tell me that he met a long-held major CRUSH of mine – MR BIG – at the British TV Awards. Not even a phone call or an autograph, which would have been appreciated given I wasn’t even able to be there…

Never mind, I said, I can make my own fun and promptly got on a mini-bus yesterday with a bunch of mates and headed up to the stunning Mitchelton Winery, about an hour and a half’s drive up northern Victoria.

Mitchelton Winery near Nagambie

Mitchelton Winery near Nagambie

First stop – forget a grand tour – we headed straight to the elegant restaurant with a cosy open fireplace to get lunch and the wine tasting underway pronto.

Mitchelton winery grounds

Mitchelton winery grounds

It started off a fairly sedate affair. Here’s the group of us BEFORE the wine came out…

Party group before the wine tasting...

Party group before the wine tasting…

At the front and to the left is Mitchelton’s Managing Director, Andrew Ryan, who was definitely the host with the most-est. The feast with accompanying wines to follow was truly outstanding… It’s easy to see why this is such a popular wedding venue.

Then Mitchelton’s wine expert John Beresford gave us the rundown on the various wines we’d be sampling and the fun began.

Nick samples the reisling...

Nick samples the riesling…

Alex, Dean, Juliana, Jack and Sam all listened attentively to the wine rundown

Alex, Dean, Juliana, Jack and Sam all listened attentively to the wine rundown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitchelton's signature wines - it's award-winning Shiraz 2009 and 1999

Mitchelton’s signature wines – its award-winning Print Shiraz 2009 and 1999

 

Then the famous Mitchelton Print Shiraz was brought to the table and it was time to see if our taste buds were clever enough to tell the difference between a 2009 or a 1999 vintage. Easy – they were both damn fine drops. Well, I guess that’s why everyone was smiling

Juliana and Jack

Juliana and Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitch, Kate and Andrew

Mitch, Kate and Andrew

The view from the restaurant, over the grand Murray River, was mighty impressive so after lunch, we took a stroll to take in the sights.

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

A platform area, usually popular with wedding parties, seemed the best spot for a group photo…

Usually used for wedding pics, this was a great spot for a group photo

Fergus, Sam, Nick, Amy, Alex (Stan), Dean, Kate, Andrew, Juliana, Mitch and Jack

At which point, looking at our group, it suddenly dawned on me what a bloody fine looking bunch of people we’d put together. I mean, really, with big strong Aussie men like these, who needs Mr Big???

Who needs Mr Big?

Who needs Mr Big?

After all that exercise, it was time for a very SPECIAL tasting session – this time down in the depths of the Mitchelton cellars.

A special tasting in the cellar - Nick, Jack, John and

A special tasting in the cellar – Nick, Jack, John and Sam

Raiding the tokay barrels...

Raiding the tokay barrels…

 

The most popular drop from the whole day proved to be a rare Tokay from these barrels – liquid gold… but at 20% alcohol, a tad lethal…

 

 

 

 

 

Focusing the camera was a challenge..

Focusing the camera was a challenge…

 

 

As a result, my subsequent photos lost a bit of clarity…

 

 

 

Plenty of goodies to buy in the Gift Shop...

Plenty of goodies to buy in the Gift Shop…

 

A sensible person suggested it was time to get going, so we did the usual exit – through the Gift Store! Wow – a treasure trove of gourmet treats and fabulous wine…

 

 

 

The final treat before we stumbled into the mini-bus for a rowdy drive home (via McDonalds) was the view from the Michelton Tower at dusk. Truly superb. A fitting end to a beautiful day. I mean, really, who needs Mr Big???

The view from the tower at dusk

The view from the tower at dusk