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Friday, May 18, 2012

Hosting a Large Gathering? Party Tips!

We're having a big party this weekend to celebrate our daughter's confirmation, and--get this--the weather forecast is 81 degrees and zero percent chance of rain! Woo-hoo!

Party Decorations
Photo by n8photoblog

I've learned many things from my extended family over the years, and because my aunts and mom are so good at hosting large gatherings, I know I'll be able to handle this one too.

Here are some of my tips:

- About 6 weeks before, prepare your guest list.

-  4-6 weeks before, purchase invitations and thank you notes. Send the invitations 3-4 weeks in advance.

- Write down a sample menu. Avoid the urge to go overboard on variety. If you're comfortable asking family or friends to bring a dish, call them a few weeks prior to verify what they're bringing.

- Plan easy, hearty food. Our menu consists of ham, baked beans, macaroni & cheese, a few cold salads, corn bread, and a sheet cake for dessert (my talented niece is creating the cake for us!). We'll be cooking most of the food on Saturday and warming it up on Sunday.

- Spread out the preparations. I shopped for beverages two weeks ahead. I purchased non-perishables the week before. Fresher foods are bought a day or two before the party.

- Your refrigerator will be stuffed with food, so rely on coolers for beverages. Fill the coolers with sodas, water, and beer (if you're serving alcohol), and place the coolers close to the main party area. Since the weather forecast is calling for a gorgeous day, we're keeping most of the party outdoors. The coolers will be on our deck.

- Your close loved ones want to help during the party. There's no reason you have to do it all! Ask them to keep an eye on the food so you can mingle. Also, ask your spouse, an older child, a nephew, or friend to take plenty of pictures. You'll probably be too busy to take pictures and you're going to want photos.

- If the party is an open house style where people can drop in at any time and no RSVP is required, keep the time short. Two to three hours is plenty. Or if you're having a graduation party where the fun will continue well into the night, start the party later.

- If at all possible, do not plan anything for the next day. Reserve it for yourself. Throwing a big party is tons of fun, but it's also a lot of work. Go ahead and spend the following day in your pajamas. You deserve it!

What are your party tips for hosting a large gathering?

Enjoy your weekend!

25 comments:

  1. My tip? No do it. :D

    Other than our wedding, I've never hosted a party for a large group. And I'm okay with that. lol

    Good luck with yours. And thanks for the great advice!

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    1. Ha, ha! I hear you, Stina! I'm not much of an entertainer myself, but I love sharing special celebrations with our family. :)

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  2. Wish I could party with you. Yeah for your DD!

    I like to break it all into small tasks over a week or two. Lots of lists happenin' at a time like this for moi.

    ~ Wendy

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    1. I wish you could party with us too! We would love to have you!

      Breaking it up into small tasks is sooo smart. Makes the whole thing less daunting. :) Tonight--we clean. I'm just so excited to clean. Gag!

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  3. Thanks for the great tips, Jill. We're going to have a summer gathering, and I'll be sure to check this list. Congrats on DD's graduation and the great weather!

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    1. Thanks, Stacy! Having a big party is a lot of fun!!

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  4. Great tips! I'm hosting my first-ever kid's birthday party next weekend (all previous birthdays have been just grandparents and aunts/uncles), and hoo boy is there a lot of pressure to get everything just so! And I thought planning a wedding reception was work ...

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    1. Kids' birthday parties are intimidating. :)

      My husband and I always had a few extra tricks up our sleeves for parties when our kids were young.

      1. Fill a jar with gumballs and have the kids guess the number. At the end of the party, the one who guesses closest wins it.

      2. If the natives are restless and you're not quite ready for your next game/cake/etc.. have them play freeze dancing. Just throw some music on and stop it periodically. When the music stops, they have to freeze in their position. Kids love this! Why? Who cares!

      3. You can always throw a stack of printer paper, sticker sheets, markers, and other craft things on a table and let them have at it. Again, kids gravitate to this! Even boys!

      Have a great time! I want to hear all about it!

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  5. These are great tips, Jill! Although I'm an anxious hostess. I'm not too fond of parties....I'd be a wreck if I were hosting a lot of people!

    Good luck with your party!

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    1. I'm not that great a hostess, but it helps that it's for good cause and I'm friends with all the guests!

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  6. Great tips, Jill! I'm from a large extended family, so most of our gatherings are huge. My daughters' birthdays are a month apart, so we have one large summer gathering to celebrate both of them, there are usually close to 50-60 people who come. One thing we started doing is having our family come first for the meal, between 5:00 and 6:00 and then we invite all our friends with their children for cupcakes at 6:30, this way we aren't feeding everyone and the chaos is limited to a shorter amount of time.

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    1. Oh, wow, what a smart idea! I'm stealing that one!! :)

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  7. These are such great tips, Jill. I'm such a bad planner. It's just not in my genes. So it's really helpful to read tips from someone who does it well and explains it even better!

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations to your daughter. I hope you have a lovely day and a spectacular party!

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    1. Thanks so much, Mary! I understand about the "not in your genes." If I didn't have the examples of my huge extended family, it wouldn't be in mine either! :)

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  8. How fun! I love hosting parties! We did my graduation party last August...and didn't start lowering the AC in time. So if you live somewhere where it's hot, be sure to start lowering it a day or two before. It takes awhile to cool down the whole house. Just my experience! (It did turn out OK, but was warmer than I would have liked.)

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    1. Such a good point. We're in iffy-weather-land here, where one day it's high fifties, the next is high seventies. I might have to pop the AC on early! (Congrats about graduating last year!)

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  9. I love parties!! I live in too small of a place right now to host my own, but that's okay...that means I get to go to parties without the pressures of hosting. Hehehe...I wonder how long I can keep up this excuse?!

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    1. Why do I get the impression you'll be a fabulous party thrower when you get a bigger place? :) Ha!

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  10. My tips on having a big family gathering at my house.
    Don't. Go somewhere else or have it at a location where they'll clean up the mess!
    LOL

    Great tips, Jill! I know you're so proud! :)

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  11. I host a huge holiday party every year and the tip I learned this year was to let my ten year old daughter help out instead of shipping her off to grandparents. She loved carrying around appetizers and taking people's coats and now she's old enough to put herself to bed. She felt like such a BIG GIRL!

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    1. Aw, so sweet! You're already teaching her to be a lovely hostess. Yay, you! Good mom award to you!! :)

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  12. I enjoy parties large and small, and I even like planning it (surprise parties are a real challenge, though - I was tearing out my hair with my hubby's surprise 50th, LOL. My tip: kids make great minions, bwahaha...

    Good luck, Jill, and have FUN!

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  13. Family parties I like to potluck where everybody brings a dish. I come from a long line of potluck-ers. A formal party I'd probably have it semi-catered. Great ideas, Jill, and your commenters. I'm going to steal some of them.

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  14. I just finished a big party. Boy am I glad that's over. I agree with all of your suggestions, especially taking the next day off.

    Hope your party turns out great. Have fun.

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