Over the years I have been to lots of different types of parties. They have ranged from crazy beer pong keggers to very formal events with caviar-filled hors d’oeuvres. Along the way, I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t (for me anyway).
Being 35 years old, my tastes in parties has changed. The days of drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and sitting around on a dirty floor are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the grunge, but it’s not an every weekend thing. Those parties can be great as well, but for this post I am going to discuss ways to improve your grown-up party.
First, if you are hosting the party, act as though it’s your party. Don’t outright ask people to bring things. I feel as grown-ups, we should know by now that it is rude to show up to a party empty-handed. A good guest will ask if there is something specific that s/he could bring that would add value to your soiree. As a guest, if you don’t want to bring a bottle of wine or something that you’ve already
spoken to the host about, flowers in a vase are usually a nice touch (unless the host is allergic!). If you bring flowers without a vase, that’s just more hassle for the host. Sometimes it’s not just the thought; sometimes your thought blows 🙂
While preparing for the party, always make sure that you have enough drinks on hand – beer, wine, soda, punch, water. Hard liquor is optional – you should know your audience. A great thing to have is a specialty drink that either can be easily made with ingredients on hand or that you pre-make and have readily available for guests to enjoy. Also, I think the best thing to do with your drinks is to set up a little bar area that includes your glasses, ice, and all your liquids. If you want to add a bit of class, set up small bowls with cherries, olives and lime or lemon wedges in this area as well.
Next, I think appetizers are the best thing for most parties where you want people to mingle. Make sure your menu has a food theme (like Italian, Spanish, etc.) and that the apps are filling enough where people won’t be starving when they leave your home.
Try to make your menu flow…..If you are going to have cheese, make sure to have crackers; if you are going to have fancy apps, you might not want to also have pigs in a blanket (even though I love those piggies!).
Ideally your food will be able to be eaten as a grab-n-go item. Once you start having to deal with anything more than finger foods that adds another level of complication to the event. If you do choose to have food that needs utensils, pick up a package of those silver throwaway utensils from your local party store. No need to have your good silverware accidentally thrown out! On that note, make sure your paper plates are strong enough to hold the food you are serving. It would not be good if someone walks with a plate and either the juice from your food leaks through or the plate folds and all the food lands on the floor!
Assuming that you are throwing this party for people to network and get to know one another, a tip to keep people mingling is to set up the food
table against a wall instead of having it on a table surrounded by chairs. If you randomly set up chairs around the home, this will encourage people to keep on the move and not just to sit in front of the food all night.
Speaking of chairs…being in my 30s, I like to sit down for a bit every now and then. Be kind to your guests – have chairs or stools available for at least 75% of your expected guests – unless, of course, if you want your guests to not stay for very long – having nowhere to rest is a great way to keep the party small. Also, as the host, be sure you help keep the introductions and chatter flowing. As someone enters the party, introduce them to one or two people that they may have something in common with. Add a tidbit about the people you are introducing to each other so they have a way to start a conversation. Also, if you ever see anyone standing alone or if it sounds like a conversation is dying, step in and either introduce a new person to the group, pull someone away and introduce them to someone new or transition into a new topic that may be interesting to everyone involved.
Going back to food tips for a moment….it is a good idea to keep extra appetizers ready as back up if you see the food is disappearing fast. If you don’t want to cook or prepare a lot for your event, the warehouse stores or even Walmart or Target have large package appetizers that you can keep in your freezer to serve in a pinch.
Also, it is not something that we always think about but it is a good idea to have trash cans available in at least two spaces in the home for your event. People are more likely to clean up after themselves if they have an easy way to do so. If this doesn’t appeal to you, make sure to make a sweep of the space every once in a while to collect empty cups, plates, etc. just to keep the place looking neat. This will also save you a lot of clean-up after all the guests leave. It’s a good idea to empty the cans before they are completely full too so people don’t have to smash their garbage down or have things fall out onto the floor.
Eventually you will grow tired and want everyone to leave. At this point, you can start putting away most of the drinks and wrap up food for people to take him if you’d like. Giving doggie bags is a great way to hint to people that it’s time to go without looking like you are throwing anyone out. Although, do you ever find that there are guests that just don’t get the hint to leave? At this point, I think it’s time to break out your slippers and start sweeping…..hoping you can sweep them out the door too!
Let me know if you have any other tips in the comments 🙂