Legal forms and toilet police: How to organise an 18th birthday in 2015.

This is what it takes to organise a teenager’s birthday party in 2015.

Jen Cole was nervous about throwing her son an 18th birthday party. She’d heard terrible stories about gate crashers, paralytic passing out and teenage sex, but that’s not what truly bothered her. After all, she’d had an 18th herself, 30-odd years ago that involved all those elements. She was more concerned about kids turning up preloaded, about frozen vodka secreted in bras and bottles of spirits disguised as wrapped-up presents.

But what worried her the most was families suing her if their 17-year-old came home drunk.

“In some ways it’s not that different to what we did but it’s definitely more litigious now. We didn’t want to be legally at risk”.

So Jen and her husband got organised.

First they drafted a letter for all the kids invited who weren’t legal drinking age. They sent it to the police, asked their advice regarding the letter and security and registered the party with the local cop shop.

The Coles sent out the letter and asked parents to sign acknowledging there would be alcohol at the party and while it would only be served to those with proof of age, she and her husband held no responsibility if they indulged illegally.

Her son thought it was a bit embarrassing and delightfully old fashioned that she sent the legal letter with an invitation – he’d assumed it would just be a private event on Facebook.

Jen’s letter to the parents

The day before the party they did a massive shop at Aldi for water bottles and 10 buckets.

On the day of the event the Coles gathered a posse of 20 parents to work over the night. All were assigned jobs and positions. Two big blokes were on the door searching bags and stopping any who left from coming back in and there was a “door bitch” at the bedroom doors that were out of bounds. There had dads walking around handing out the water and positioning the buckets to catch flying vomit. Jen even had one on garden duty who would later return from a sweep with an abandoned pair of underpants.

Have a listen to THIS:

At the end of the night the Coles assigned adults to ask each guest how they were getting home, to check they weren’t weaving off into the darkness alone and to organise them lifts. Two others were asked to play traffic cop so no staggering teens ended up on car bonnets.

And buckets used to be for sandpits.

The only thing the Coles hadn’t prepared for was the early arrivals. The party was due to start at seven and the first friends rocked up before the caterers. By 6.30pm there were 40 boys sculling on the balcony, by 7pm there were 10 girls trying on Jen’s make-up in her bathroom. So she got the caterers to cook fast, put a friend on bathroom door duty demanding duos only and a bottle of water for entry, she even ran around saying to teenage boys “hey, before you suck face with that girl have a sandwich”. They brought the speeches forward before the guests got too messy.

It was an extremely successful night. The 100 young revellers said it was the best party ever and no one has sued her yet.

Welcome to the machinations of throwing a modern-day 18th birthday party that is safe, well-organised and covers contingencies. It sounds like a nightmare – but it’s just what has to be done.


Fran Wilson has thrown a number of parties for her son over the years. She also is meticulous about registering each party with the local police. She is now so organised she prepares months ahead by washing out and keeping old beer bottles. At the party, the Wilsons fill them with water and offer them up to boys looking worse for wear – the lads can drink water while still looking like they’re sucking on a coldie and not lose face. Genius.

Corey Worthington
We all remember the infamous Corey Worthington. Image via YouTube.

I have many friends who are entering the vortex that is the party scene. Many are far too scared to consider throwing their child a party. I must admit I look upon it with some fear. My own parents had to deal with vomit down walls, crashers smashing their rare records and pashing in the bedrooms. But in the days before social media sharing and instant crowd formation, things were less likely to get out of control. None of my mate’s parents would have considered suing for a Tia Maria tanking.

But while the parties of today sound hideous they have to be taken in context. They are a right of passage. A passage to Australian near-alcoholism and adulthood. A passage to growing up and a path to letting go.

One friend said she watched her son at his party knowing that he’d soon be heading off to schoolies, and then the world, without her. She said when her son passed out at 10.30pm after drinking a yard glass of ale she was glad others stripped him off and put him in the shower. She also noticed which friends slept in the room with him, woke him at five in the morning to check on him and give him water. She learnt which of his friends are the happy drunks, the aggro drunks, the violent drunks and the responsible wing men. Knowledge is power. Even for parents.

So be prepared parents … and please tell us your tips to throwing an 18th or a teenage party.

You can hear the complete episode of This Glorious Mess, hosted by Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo, here:

Or you can Listen on iTunes or, Listen on Soundcloud.

What do you think about the lengths these parents are going to for their kids’ party safety?

Want more like this? Try…

Why the best way to handle a grown-up party is to pretend you’re a kid.

There’s one way to take all the stress out of your kids’ birthday party. And here it is.

6 lessons every parent learns from hosting a kid’s birthday party.