I love hosting events and parties, but I’ll admit that I didn’t always feel this way. Over the years I have learned how to stock my home for last minute gatherings, how to simplify food prep, and I have lowered my expectations for perfection. I think much of this comes with age and experience, but I would love to share a few things that have helped me host successful parties over the years.
Utilize an Online Invitation
People seem to be busier than ever, and I hate going to the trouble of hosting an event if there will be low attendance. Instead of planning an event while shooting blindly in the dark for a convenient date while also receiving and sorting a million responses, I utilize a simple scheduling tool Doodle to arrange gatherings. Simply plug in dates and times that will work for you, and send out the link to invitees. They can then vote for the days that work best for them. Once you receive responses, set the party date for the one that received the most positive responses.
Once you have a date, it’s easy to invite friends, especially since almost everyone is on Facebook. Make sure that you set the invite viewing privacy to, “invite only,” otherwise everyone who is a friend, including those not invited to the party, can see responses and activity on the invite.
Make it a Potluck Affair
Offer to supply the main dish for the event (Slow cooker recipes, lunch meat sub sandwiches or burgers on the grill are great options!), then ask that everyone bring a dish and favorite drink to share. To make sure all necessary food categories are represented, utilize a site called Jooners to create a simple sign-up sheet. Be sure to specify the most needed items in the “needed” section. This will ensure a well-rounded feast, and since everyone can fill in what they’re bringing, it helps cut down on repeat dishes.
Invest in Smart Party Supplies That You’ll Reuse
Over the years, we have accumulated quite an arsenal of party tools, which makes it convenient to pull a last-minute gathering together. Here are a few of my favorite items to keep on hand:
Plastic Buffet Table: I use it a lot during parties since it helps cut down on cluttered kitchen counters. Look for one that folds for easy storage, and cover it with a stain-resistant tablecloth.
Reusable Dishes: Elegance and plastic might not seem like they go together, but plastic dishes have come a long way. Find versions that mimic fine china, and use them for parties. I also find that for fancier gatherings, a set of basic white dishes goes a long way.
Drink Cart: This summer I transformed a tool cart into a drink cart, and it is truly one of my favorite entertaining tools. Since we live in a small home, there isn’t a lot of counter space. This is a great place to tuck the drinks along with serving tools so guests can serve themselves. Don’t forget to provide a marker so people can jot names on cups.
Inexpensive Silverware: I visit a local restaurant supply store to find inexpensive silverware that reminds me of my favorite old-fashioned diners. There is never a shortage of forks, spoons or knives in our home.
Burger Baskets: One wise investment I made in my party-tool arsenal was purchasing a set of burger baskets. I found some at a local restaurant supply store, and I also bought a package of delicatessen paper to line them. I dislike using heavy dishes during an outdoor party, so this is a great alternative. And I freely admit that it’s also a nod to my love of retro style. We use them all the time, and they’re always a hit.
Hopefully this information will help you plan your next party. The best advice I can give is to lower expectations of perfection, and remember that gatherings of friends and family are all about spending time together.