How to Prep for a Party
When inviting your guests, you might be tempted to pick from all of your social groups. Just be sure everyone knows someone (besides you), so they come feeling confident, rather than intimidated.
Party Guest Tip: Think ahead about what your guests might need. A bonfire might require sweaters, chunky socks, and s'more supplies. Serving red wine? Make sure you have a corkscrew and a detergent pen.
Even if it's subtle, we're all in favor of choosing a party theme. Whether you choose the roaring '20s or an elegant monogram motif (shown here), homing in on an era or style will make all of your decisions easier, especially if you're a new host. The theme helps you choose your party menu and decorations, and it can even act as a conversation starter.
Plan the menu and make your grocery list about two weeks before the party. That will give you time to order any specialty items. As for what to serve, start with what's in season. Buying seasonal produce is less expensive and offers the best flavor.
Before you enter a cleaning frenzy, stop and think. Figure out where guests will go most -- probably the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Wait to clean those high-traffic areas until a couple days before the party. For the rest of your house, enlist your family in a 15-minute pick-up session everyday, starting five days before the party. If your house looks orderly, it will read as clean, even if every set of blinds isn't dusted.
Party Prep Tip: Snooping in the medicine cabinet is not a myth! It's one spot we never skip when hosting.
Ensure you have enough serving dishes, utensils, and space by planning your food buffet ahead of time. Set up a spot for each dish including things like napkins, utensils, dishes, etc. This ensures you're not scrambling for a platter at the last minute.
Our best tip for party layout is to think in stations. Clear off a bookshelf or end table for drinks, use your dining table or countertops for food, and bring extra chairs into the living room for socializing. Even if guests end up hanging out in the hallway all night, you'll feel more calm and organized.
Decorate for your party as time allows. Remember, guests really just want to chow down and chit chat—decorations are the icing on the cake. When in doubt, go for fresh flowers and string lights—both are easy and make your party look gorgeous.
Break the ice with a simple game or group activity. If it's nice out, go on a group stroll before dinner or play lawn games. For chilly months, we see nothing wrong with a classic game of charades.
A little music is all it takes to get the party started. Create a playlist ahead of party time with a variety of music. Once it's time to celebrate, set up your music station and forget it! You've already done the hard work.
Go Grocery Shopping
Don't leaving your shopping to the last minute! A little planning ahead will save lots of time. Head to the grocery store early and grab frozen items and pantry staples. Prepare any dishes or drinks that can be made ahead and pick up necessary items like silverware, napkins, etc.
Stock the Bar
Ensure you have enough alcohol and drinks for your party guests. Keep the essentials like wine, beer, and liquor on hand with creative mixers like juice, soda water, and fruit. Set up a DIY bar and the drinks are done!
Make sure you've got enough room for all your guests. For a casual cocktail party, fewer chairs encourages mingling and isn't an issue. If you're hosting a sit down dinner, you'll want to make sure you've got enough room for everyone to sit together. Small space? Get creative and move things outside.