You don’t have to live in a mansion to throw a decent dinner or party. We were hosting dinners before our flooring was fully installed and had a blast. All you need is a good attitude, yummy food, and fun people. Hosting runs in my blood. My parents are the ultimate hosts and have hosted more parties and events than I can remember. So many wonderful childhood memories come from their parties and dinners. When Alex and I started the search for house #2, having a space to host was very important to me (check out our crazy auction story here). To me, creating memories with loved ones is what life is all about, and hosting those memories in our home is a blessing. Let me help you with your next party, by sharing some of my best tips.
1. Digital Invites are Not Tacky
Start reaching out to your guests 3-4 weeks before your party. This can be via text, FB Group, E-Vite, physical invite, or a phone call. Some may consider it tacky (I truly don’t), but I prefer to utilize technology to save on postage! I get a better response when I do texts or FB invite anyhow. Is there a guest of honor? If so, make sure to work with them when creating the guest list and date.
2. Does Everyone Have a Seat?
When you begin working on your guest list, take note of how many people are on your list. You will want to make sure you have enough seating for everyone.
3. Start the Honey Do List Now
Once I decide to host a shindig at our house, I start writing down my todo list. I start with a list of EVERYTHING I would like to have done before the party, such as organizing the pantry, hanging our curtains, or deep cleaning the rugs. I then prioritize the list and begin chipping away at the projects or decluttering tasks. Prioritize the list by the rooms or areas you guests will frequent the most. I don’t need to make “organize the basement” #1 on my list if my guests won’t be down there. I then hang the list on the fridge just in case Alex decides to help ;).
4. Potlucks are My Love Language
I am a huge fan of potlucks when hosting. There is plenty for you to do when hosting, so let friends and family help by delegating the cooking responsibilities. If you are throwing a shower, see if the bridesmaids or a few aunts can help with food. It is a protocol with our group!
5. Grocery Shop Early
I start grocery shopping as early as possible. I add the supplies to my weekly grocery list and grab what I can. There is nothing more frustrating then having to go to several stores only because you procrastinated and didn’t pick up hotdogs until the day of your Fourth of July BBQ. This doesn’t apply to fresh produce, I will hold off until just a day or two before.
6. Appetizer 101
Be sure to go light on the appetizers or only serve one to prevent over-stuffing your guests before serving the rest of the meal. I prefer a fun charcuterie board or a hot dip. Unless you are hosting between meal times, then serve nothing but appetizers!
7. Let your Protein be the Sidekick
In our family, the host usually provides the meat or main dish and the guests will bring a side to accompany it. To help cut costs, take advice from Jordan Page at funcheaporfree.com, by “letting the meat be the sidekick, not the hero”. Protein is expensive so get creative by doing a taco bar, or shred your meat rather than serving each guest their own chicken breast or steak. This will stretch the meat further while reducing cost and waste.
8. Invest in Reusable Party Supplies
I recently split the cost of a few drink dispensers with my Mom and came to realize there is a lot less waste than when serving individual bottles or cans. They look a lot nicer too. Don’t forget about cups, straws, and drink tags! If the group is small enough, I usually serve the drinks out of mason jars with numbered drink tags. Straws are not a necessity but add a fun touch.
9. Grabbable Desserts
To make sure your guests go home SUPER happy, serve dessert! To avoid the hassle of serving a cake, go for cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, or individually served treats instead. I’ve learned the more “grabbable” they are, the less are leftover.
10. It will Take Longer than you Think
Do yourself a favor and do as much as you can ahead of time. Save your sanity! Everything takes longer than you think to set up. Be sure to have a good list of EVERYTHING that has to be done for the party, then mark what could be done before the big day. You don’t want to be running around the day of and end up being exhausted before the party starts. I like to add post-its wherever possible to communicate to others what needs to be done last minute.
11. Decorate the Common Areas
Decorating is a fun way to pull a party together and you don’t have to break the bank to do it. Not into party decorations? Put someone else in charge instead of having them bring a side dish. Start with centerpieces, and then work your way around the common spaces of the party. Lately, I have been focusing on centerpieces, a place to take photos, drink station, dessert station, entrance, and gift area. That may be too many for you and that is TOTALLY okay. Decorating is my favorite part, so I love all the tiny details. Another tip I learned is to not buy decorations unless you already have a plan of where it will go.
12. When to Clean
I like to clean my house two days before the party, and then just run the vacuum once more the day of (because of the never-ending dog hair). The week of the party I usually do my grocery shopping first, clean the house, cook my food, decorate, and then do some touch-up cleaning afterward.
13. Keep the Kiddos Occupied (or Dogs)
When prepping for a party, it’s hard to focus when kids are running around. So, have a fun activity planned or a new toy, movie, or game stashed away to give them while you focus on party prep. It’s also a good idea to have something for the kids to do during the party as well.
14. Bathroom Check
One of the last things I do before guests arrive is a bathroom check. Make sure the toilet is clean, toilet paper is stocked, the trashcan is empty, and a fresh towel is out for guests to dry their hands. Sometimes I light a candle too.
15. Empty Trash and Dishwasher
While you are taking the bathroom trash out, be sure to grab the kitchen trash too. It will make meal cleanup run quicker and smoother. I like having my dishwasher emptied too, that way no one feels as if they have to wash my dirty dishes.
16. Is Your Phone On?
Make sure to have your volume up for last-minute phone calls. You don’t want a guest getting lost and can’t get ahold of you.
17. Is Everyone’s Drink Full?
As guests arrive, be sure to grab everyone a drink. Ask “what would you like to drink?” rather than “do you want something to drink?” to encourage them to choose something. As the party goes on, keep an eye out for refills.
18. Don’t forget about the Music
I like having background music playing when people are over. Keep your guests in mind when selecting your playlist and avoid showing off your “cool card” by playing indie bands that no one else has heard of. It’s not the time to show off. Play something everything can enjoy.
19. Once Guests Arrive, Chill Out!
No matter if everything on your todo list got completed or not, chill out once your guests arrive. There is nothing that will ruin the vibe of a party more than a cranky or stressed-out host. Grab a drink, relax, and enjoy the party. You deserve to enjoy it too!
20. Store it all in One Place!
After each party, I save the unused supplies such as paper napkins, plastic utensils, and paper straws with the rest of our serving trays and party supplies. Having a storage tote dedicated to party supplies helps save us on cost and makes it easier to use for each gathering. Alex and I did a DIY donut and snack table at our wedding and I have reused most of the trays and dishes several times since then.
Thanks for Stopping By!
As always, thank you for following along with me on my creative journey. Be sure to tag me and use #meagannicholedotcom when sharing your own party hosting tips! Thanks for stopping by MeaganNichole.com
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