Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Host a Large Party

I love hosting parties. I love the last-minute scramble to clean the living areas (which often involves throwing huge piles of clutter into the spare room), the hustle and bustle of people in my house, and the games, conversations, and memories that result. This year for Easter, I was excited that neither my parents nor my in-laws had plans, and I invited them over to celebrate the day. So yesterday we had 13 people crammed around a cobbled-together group of tables in the dining room, eating and chatting. I was in heaven.

You don’t need a big house or a lot of money to host a large group of people. These are my best tips for hosting a big party.

If you have to take up drinking to host a party, you're doing it wrong.
1. Have a potluck. Potlucks are great for a number of reasons: a) They take a lot of pressure off you as the host because you can focus on making just one thing, b) the food will probably be better and more varied than you could afford because everyone brings their best dish, and c) at a casual party you don’t have to worry about a firm guest list and RSVPing because as long as every guest brings something to eat, there will always be enough food. For formal meals (like Easter) it is helpful to have a list of what each person will bring, but at informal parties, I generally just let it be random. It’s amazing how often everyone in the group brings complementary dishes without even planning it!

2. Keep a stash of party supplies. In my journey to a life filled with less waste, I realized that I didn’t want to use paper plates and plastic utensils anymore. We already have plenty of normal silverware, and then Zach and I visited a thrift store and bought a matching set of about 20 plates of various sizes for $7. We keep these stored away and bring them out for parties. I’ve also been using sturdy plastic cups (which we reuse), although at my next party I’m going to try to use jars and glasses instead (with colored rubber bands to identify them). (Note: this will mean a lot more dishwashing for you. But since most people have dishwashers, it’s not a big deal. Even though I wash everything by hand, it’s still worth it to me.) For smaller gatherings I use cloth napkins, while for larger parties I used paper since my stash of cloth napkins isn’t build up yet. Other helpful accessories include folding tables and folding chairs. 

3. Borrow stuff. For the gathering yesterday, I borrowed my parents’ card table so we could fit everyone around one table in the dining room. In the past I’ve borrowed chairs, pitchers, silverware, and serving spoons. 

I believe I yelled, "Look strategic!" before snapping this shot.
4. For really large groups, prepare two or three areas of the house. When you have more than, say, ten people coming over, it’s helpful to create two or three different conversation areas. When fitting 25-30 people in our small house, as we have before, I learned that it was best to put all the chairs in the living room, and no chairs but all the food in the dining room. That way, the people who wanted to grab a plate of food and sit down for conversation could sit in the living room, while the people who wanted to chat and graze on the potluck food could hang out in the dining room. If you have the room, it’s also helpful to prepare a place where the introverts of the group can escape into a quieter room with three or four people to play a board/video game or have quiet conversation.

Hosting large groups of people certainly isn’t for everyone, but I love it, and I’m grateful for the chance to open my home to groups of friends and family. If you love hosting too, the size of your home or budget shouldn’t hold you back!


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