Keeping Your Party Flowing
Hiring a catering company to help with a soirée is always convenient for hosts. But if you’d like to do it yourself — minus the stress — take a look at the following tips and tricks for being a relaxed party host.
First rule of thumb: Plan ahead.
Get started early. It’s best to get a few lists on paper instead of counting on a mental checklist. Start a guest list with RSVPs, one for your food shopping, and a to-do list for the tasks you need to complete around the house. (Finding a soap refill for the bathroom doesn’t make for fun party activity.)
Set a theme. Whether you’re hosting a birthday party, or an apps-and-drinks night around the deck, deciding on a theme will steer the course for your food and entertainment for the night. You can keep it simple with a country theme: try hearty, homestyle foods and fresh lemonade-themed drinks. Or, research the Gatsby era and serve a signature blueberry gin fizz, a savory mousse spread and crudites.
Send out invites. Especially in the summer months, weekends fill up early with parties and vacations, so send your invites out early to get the best response. Use a service like evite.com, create custom invites by a local artist, or get crafty and compile them yourself. Handmade invites are so personal. Or, professionally printed cardstock can set the tone for an elegant night poolside.
Second rule: Keep it simple.
Designate pseudo-hosts. Everyone loves to help out the host. Ask one friend to take coats or bags, another to keep an eye out to refill drinks and one to be in charge of music. It’s much easier to relax if you’re not in charge of every single detail.
Self-service for all. A small table of drinks at the door sets the tone for a relaxing evening and will dispel nervous energy. Set out a punch bowl or pitcher with your drink of the night, and then a few liquors and mixers for your guests to play with. Whether you have a casual or more formal affair, serve your food buffet-style. Chafing dishes or mini crockpots can be your best friend here.
Keeping your cool. Ensure that your party guests relax and enjoy themselves by being a guest yourself. Give yourself about an hour ahead of party time to dress, eat something (we’ve all been too busy hosting to remember to eat!) and light a few candles to set the tone.
Third rule: let them play.
Push past awkward. Despite what everyone says, no one can resist a party game. And they really do break the ice. Create nametags of celebrities, stick on backs and ask questions to guess which famous (or infamous) moniker they have. Write down music requests and pull them from a bowl throughout the night. Leave a few crosswords framed with dry erase markers for friends to collaborate on. Label a basket near the entrance for everyone to drop their phones — and let’s bring back the art of meaningful conversation at our parties!
Hands-on fun. If your party’s in the winter, plan a station with Mason jars and all the fixings for a homemade hot chocolate mix to bring home. Leave recipe cards near the drink bar with your favorite libations, and encourage guests to write down their own to share. A fondue bar or deluxe s’more station is a tactile way to enjoy food and encourage interaction.
The flow of the night can be more structured if you want to serve meal courses or even wine and food pairings. Regardless, following the tips above will ensure you have all the little details complete long before your doorbell rings.