I threw a Provo Party the other night. I was talking to Turkish Delight about it beforehand, and she wanted to know what you do at a Mormon party. My answer: talk mostly.
I have in the past planned parties with elaborate activities. Costume contests, croquet tournaments etc. And I've found that people tend to enjoy the pre-activity and post-activity portions of the evening most. It's possible that all my activities have been bad, so the non-activity portion of the night is the highlight. But I suspect it's mostly that they activity is unnecessary. What people want is a time and a place where they know they'll see people they like. That is the essence of a good party.
So now when I throw a party, I plan relatively little. I need the following: time, place, theme, decorations, music, food, people. Generally I wouldn't say 7 ingredients makes a simple recipe, but these 7 get sorted out pretty quickly.
Time and place - Hard to have a party without these. But there are things to consider (central location, parking, space, lack of conflicts etc).
Theme - I am a strong believer in themes. It doesn't need to be a good one, eg Provo Party, but I don't just like Party.
Decorations - Ultimately, optional. But it is nice if there's some indication it's not a typical Thursday morning.
Music - Sometimes tricky. You want quality music, but also music people are familiar with. You should also match to your theme as much as possible. Music is really the main decoration for a party.
Food - Again, match to theme. For Mormon parties food also has to double as the replacement for alcohol, so don't ignore this category and don't skimp.
People - Pick the right number for your activity and venue. Dance parties need more than potlucks. Movie nights get crowded. Know who is likely to actually come versus just say they will.
For instance, the Provo Party was planned thusly:
Time and place - My place, as it's a reasonable space, centrally located, and generally I want people to know where it is. I purposely picked a time when little else was going on.
Theme - We have a lot of BYU grads in Arizona, so I thought it would be fun to reminisce a bit. It works equally well if you liked or disliked BYU.
Decorations - I printed out the dozen most recent Police Beats and layed them throughout the apartment as conversation pieces. I threw together a slide show of Provo landmarks to play on loop on the TV. I put up some BYU hats, ties etc around the apartment.
Music - Admittedly, people didn't really get the subtleties of my mix. 1/3 was corny BYU-centric material (Singles Ward soundtrack, Rise and Shout, swing music, a capella), 1/3 was ironic music about drinking and 1/3 was the least objectionable selections from the Top 40. But really once we had a couple dozen people in the apartment the music was drowned out so it didn't matter much.
Food - We made J-Dawgs, drank Apple Beer and Martinellis, had fries with fry sauce, had some jello shots, mint brownies, ice cream and M&Ms. It was very Provo.
People - We ended up with a good mix of people that had spent time in Provo and those that just wanted to get together on a Friday night. Kickoff for the party was a little later than anticipated, but we met critical mass quick enough and held it until the end.
So, that was by far the least fun way to describe a party ever. Point being, throwing a party is relatively easy and you should do it more often. Also, Provo Party was successful in my eyes, but I do have a lot of J-Dawg sauce to use up so you should come by and help deplete it.