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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hosting an Awesome Party

We entertain on a regular basis by rotating weekly dinners with a group of close friends.  But there's nothing like having a party, and you can pick whatever occasion you like.  We've had two housewarming parties (one at our current house, and one at our old apartment), a New Year's celebration, an engagement party, a bridal shower, a few birthday parties, a fish fry, and even a pumpkin carving party.  And trust me when I say we'll be throwing many more parties in our lives.  So here are a few of my tips for throwing a good one.

Invite some people!
I've tried a few different forms of inviting, and I've found that the handiest is Evite.  Such cute invitations and incredibly customizable.  You can have people RSVP online (either by sending them an email or a Facebook message) and even sign up to bring things!

One of my favorite Evite invitations.  You can find the template here.

Organize and think logistics as much as you can before the day of the party
When planning an event, I like to draw out a diagram of our house to think through traffic flow, making sure to include things that might be easy to forget like trash cans, recycling, and ice.  Imagine the entire party from beginning to end, thinking about what you might need.  Tablecloths?  Wet naps for messy food?  One container of ice for cooling drinks and another for cups?  Do you have enough chairs for your guests or should people bring their own?

 The diagram for our Fish Fry -- it definitely changed a bit when we set it up for the party

Pretend you're a guest who's never been to your house.
  • What is the best way to give directions and where are people going to park?  Are your neighbors okay with your guests parking in their yard?  
  • Where will guests enter the house?  That entry point should be well-marked and should be where you should set up name tags.  I'm a firm believer in name tags, by the way.  Our parties inevitably include friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, and even if people have met each other before, there's no telling if they'll actually remember Neighbor Bob's name.  It just cuts down on some of the awkwardness when you can look at someone's name plastered on their shirt.
  • How are you going to set up the food?  Try to keep the drinks closer to the entrance, since that's what most people will want immediately when they arrive.  If you are using plastic cups, figure out a way to differentiate them so people aren't swapping cooties.  Because no one wants cooties.
  • What about your pets?  If you have a guest who is allergic to cats, maybe keep Mittens in your bedroom until the guests have left.  Or if you have a brand new puppy who only eats dog food, make sure guests know not to feed him scraps.
"I know I'm cute, but please no people food."  Yep, it's a baby onesie.

That said, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't be ready to switch things up before the party.  Sometimes it turns out that set ups work better in your head than in real life.  :-)

Be ready to mingle
Trust me, people are not just going to come, eat, and leave (or eat, shoot, and leave).  They want to mingle and they want to have a good time, but you need to help them.  Figure out some things for people to do to get to know each other.

"The Nearly Wed" game we played at our friends' engagement party.  Guests had to write a question for the newly engaged couple to ask each other (a la The Newlywed Game), then we asked the questions of the couple later in the afternoon.

One of my favorite party games of all time is this one that we had guests play at our housewarming party.  It's similar to the celebrity game that we've all heard of, with a housewarming spin: using painter's tape, we wrote down items you'd find around a house (like a door bell, linen closet, or blinds) and stuck them on guests' backs.  When they correctly guessed the item, each person got to move the painter's tape to their front.  By the end of the party, we had a lot of blue-wearing folks!

Do you have a lot of kids coming?  Maybe there should be a "kids only" section of your yard that has fun, kid friendly stuff like a water slide or a bubble station.  If you're having a housewarming party, give folks free reign of your house so they can see your new digs.  You don't have to open every door and closet, but it's fun for guests to see what you're calling home. 
Playing corn hole on our homemade boards

Also important is ambiance.  Have some music playing in the background so there aren't any awkward silences in conversation.  And unless you're having a Super Bowl party, turn off that @#$%# TV.  It's rotting your brain out.

Concentrating on carving pumpkins
I'm a big fan of cute, easy, and cheap decorations.  Like Martha's poofs that I've used a million times in the past few years, and I love to use fresh flowers throughout the house.  You don't have to have a theme, but it's nice to have some inspiration from Pinterest or magazines like Real Simple.

Bridal shower luncheon

Don't be afraid to ask for help!  The first big party I ever threw (a work related shindig for 80+ people), I tried to do everything by myself.  From that I learned:  never plan to be in charge of anything during your own party because you'll have to be free to do other things.  Ask for help refilling food trays, pouring drinks, and manning the name tag table.  That way maybe there's a chance you can mingle with people at your own party!

Make more food than you think you'll need because people will gobble it up.  Tailor your menu to what people are doing.  If there'll be a lot of milling around, make finger foods that are easy to nibble from the table.  This is another part where you can ask for help from guests.

They gobbled it up!

And, most importantly, HAVE FUN!!  The reason you have a party is so you and your guests can enjoy each other!

Don't be afraid to knock each other around a bit.

Make sure you get some pictures of the fun, and participate in it yourself!

What sort of parties have you hosted?  Any gems to share from your experiences?  What's the best party you've ever been to?

P.S.  Thanks to my friends for allowing me to publish embarrassing photos of them on the interwebs.   :-D


  1. This is great advice for party planning! I especially like the layout tips- it makes perfect sense once you break the party down and think about how everything should be arranged. Genius!

    I love that pic, btw. Gotcha, Heather!

  2. Thanks, Erin! I love this. I have entertaining anxiety, and having it broken down like this is awesome.

    Found you through the Pinterest Challenge, and I am reading straight through from the beginning!

    1. Thanks for reading, Lori! Hope the post comes in handy! I'd love to hear about the next party you throw and if you have any extra tips. :-)


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