In a perfect world, every party would be worthy of a "best night ever" title. In reality, we've all spent the evening forcing a smile and wishing we were partying with our DVR instead.
You may have limited sway over a shindig that isn't yours, but you needn't resign yourself to watching the clock. Try these nonintrusive tricks to save a party that's losing steam. After all, the best gift a host could ask for is a wonderful time for her guests -- and a bottle of bubbly, of course.
Most of us don't carry board games around, but we bet you've got some pennies rattling in your purse. Turn loose change into a conversation starter: Pull out a coin and have nearby partygoers share a memorable event from the year it was minted. Sure beats another round of "So, how do you know Susan?"
Pass It On
For midsize groups, try this Telephone-Pictionary fusion game from a Martha Stewart staff member: One guest writes a phrase or TV show on a notepad and passes it to the right. The next person draws what the first person wrote, and then the third person writes what the second person drew. By the time the notepad gets around the circle, the message will have completely warped, and you can laugh at how it's evolved -- and your "artistry" skills.
Hijack the Jams
Your host's ego may ride on her indie cred, but when things get static, familiar favorites can do wonders to loosen a stiff crowd. If you brought your iPod or have music loaded on your phone, casually ask if you can take a turn as DJ. If the host says no, don't push it -- but at least you (and Britney) will know you tried.
Dance It Out
If your musical coup is successful, opt for with tunes with well-known dance routines and see if you can get the room engaged. You might be shocked to find out that your friend's well-coiffed great aunt knows all the moves to "Thriller." Bonus: At the next party, you'll have a talking point ready to go.
Reinvent the Buffet
Imagine being the brave soul to discover the PB&J. If the party is lagging, why not have a go at playing mad (food) scientist? Boldly couple snack foods with desserts, but be sure to enlist a friend as sous chef. You'll look silly stuffing brownies full of pretzel rods alone.
Beer Me Some Trivia
A sure way to become the toast of the party? Know what's up with the booze. If there's more than one option to choose from, chat with fellow partygoers and suggest beer and food pairings that are sure to please. Even if others disagree, your picks could spark a spirited debate -- and a beautiful beer-fueled friendship.
Raise Your Spirits
On a similar note, why not give the host a hand and whip up a signature cocktail for the evening? A knowledge of bartending basics is useful, but you can't underestimate a generous pouring hand and a creative (if amateur) mixologist's mind.
Catch a Cootie
Remember the fortune-telling "cootie catchers" of your youth? Well, this grown-up party game spells your fate a bit more clearly. No need to come prepared -- you can make one out of any scrap of square paper, or even a cocktail napkin. A sly matchmaking move if we ever saw one. Next up: Truth or Dare.
Cootie catcher template
Letter-size sheet of paper
1. Download and print the template onto a letter-size sheet of paper and cut out the 8 1/2-inch square.
2. With design facing down, fold in half diagonally, then release the fold. Next, fold in half lengthwise and crease. Rotate square for another lengthwise crease.
3. With printed side down, fold corners up and inward so that the points meet at the center crease.
4. Flip square over and fold one corner inward so that it touches the center crease.
5. Fold remaining corners inward so that they meet at the center.
6. Flip square over so the words face upward. Fold in half, words facing out, to form rectangle. Insert thumbs and index fingers under flaps and lift to open.
7. Pinch to form peak. To play, pick a word (kiss in four languages), and spell it as you move flaps in and out and side to side in time with the letters.
8. Then pick a number and move the flaps as you count. Finally, pick a number and open the fortune-teller to reveal whom you should kiss.
Check Your Ego
If you're amongst good-natured friends, a roast can be a humorous bonding experience. Wouldn't we all like a chance to (lovingly) call each other out? Take turns on the spit, or "honor" your host. Just keep it lighthearted and jovial -- no successful roast should end in hurt feelings.
Conversely, propose a round of "perform the egotist" -- drink to your own health, and then make an over-the-top speech about your finer points. If your speech is deemed insufficiently egotistical, your friends can demand an even more ridiculous one. Better make sure that horn is in tune.
Share Your Exit Strategy
If a party is fading -- and the host is aware -- sometimes the kindest move is to move things along. Turn the lights up and the music down, and help pack away the libations. If stragglers don't get the hint, spin a few subtle winding-down songs. You knew your secret love of "Closing Time" would come in handy.
Alone in your pronunciation of party death? Pull an "Irish good-bye" and slip out unnoticed. DVR, here you come.
More from Martha Stewart Living:
19 Tips for Perfect Laundry Every Time
24 Bathroom Organizing Tips You Haven't Thought Of
10 Clever Ways to Save Space in Your Kitchen
12 Secrets for a Cleaning the Bathroom in Less Time
Ensure that guests never have to make their own fun with a perfect party space.