Hosting 101: The House Party

Happy Memorial Day!! Better late than never, right? 🙂  Since today was a day of barbecues and cookouts and this weekend was a weekend of parties, I thought I would do a post on party hosting.

Now, by no means am I an expert at party planning and hosting. My friend asked me to do this several months ago, but I didn’t get around to it, until now.

Hosting a party can be stressful. It would be great if you could just add food, music great friends and stir.  But, getting there takes a little bit of work and worry. Will you invite the right ratio of men to women? Will people get along? Will they have fun? Will the food be good? These are all thoughts that have gone through my mind at one time or another when planning a party. The tips below are ones that have compiled as a result of trial and error. They have been helpful for me. Hopefully, you will find them helpful too. These tips primarily relate to house parties, but can be used (to some degree) for any event you are planning.



  • Decide what you are celebrating. In my book, a celebration of life is always in order. 🙂
  • Choose a date.  This is especially important if you are thinking about planning something on or near a holiday weekend.
  • Set a budget. And stick to it.  This will dictate the number on your guest list.
  • Plan your guest list.
  • Decide on Decoration. Choose a theme or choose a favorite color combination.  The small touches, make a big difference and set the tone and atmosphere for your party.
  • Send out invitations. Make sure they match your theme or color scheme – snail mail or electronic.  My personal preference is electronic for everything except formal occasions and milestone birthdays.  After all, you will want to put the invitation in a scrap book or album. If you will be serving alcohol, include a reminder about a designated driver and/or drinking responsibly.
  • Plan your menu. For a house party, 4 – 6 dishes is more than enough food. An assorted dessert tray with cheesecake square, brownies and cookies always works out well too. Choose a menu based on items that can be made ahead or go to Sam’s, Costco or your local grocer for party trays. If purchasing platters from your local grocer, order and pay for them as far in advance as possible and call 2 days before pickup to confirm.
  • Put in a leave request for the day of your party, if you aren’t your own boss.


  • Create a Playlist. This is usually a friend’s job. I don’t know the names of too many songs. Make sure your system is loud enough to amplify the music in the desired area.
  • Thoroughly clean your entire house. You never know when there will be spillover traffic in other areas you had not initially intended to be used.
  • Request help from friends. If you will need help on the day of your party, ask your friends to come a few hours early to assist.
  • Shop for non – perishable items (plates – dinner and dessert, cups, napkins, plastic ware, table cloths and beverages). I have found that purchasing 8 -10 oz sized beverages (the small bottles of water and the mini coke cans) is better because people are more likely to drink all of that size (read: less waste).
  • Purchase a pretty apron that fits the theme. my personal favorite 🙂
  • Purchase Thank You Notes, if this is a gift giving occasion.
  • Request parking passes. If you live in a community that requires them, make sure you request them.  Taking a guest to pick up a car that was towed would not be a fun way to end the night.


  • Moderately clean your house (if you thoroughly cleaned it the week before, as I suggested or if generally keep your house in order). Otherwise a deep cleaning might be in order. Make sure to clean all bathrooms and stock them with tissue, paper towels and hand soap so you don’t run out during the party. Save the heavy duty cleaning for after everyone leaves.
  • Arrange furniture. If you aren’t married, you will need to solicit the help of a man for this one.
  • Put up decoration. You can do this while the man or men are arranging the furniture.
  • Purchase a gift for the first person or couple to arrive. I am a FAN of punctual people. 🙂
  • Confirm any trays your ordered. Sometimes the deli or bakery staff get busy, which causes them to forget or misplace your order.
  • Make sure you have enough coasters. You wouldn’t want rings left on your wooden furniture.


  • Purchase other food items. I always have too much food, but I’d rather there be too much than not enough. I also like to have an appetizer or two to keep people busy until more people arrive.
  • Cook. Do as much of the cooking and preparation of the food as possible.
  • Set out serving bowls and utensils. Use a post – it and label each dish with the type of food it will hold. This way you can make sure you have a dish for everything.
  • Make any cocktails or punches that require several ingredients. Do not add the carbonated beverage until just before serving.


  • Don’t go to work (if you took the day off).
  • Pick up anything your ordered. I suggest doing this approximately 4 – 5 hours before your event is scheduled to begin.
  • Pick up dog and/or children’s toys scattered about the house.
  • Finish Last Minute cooking.
  • Empty Trash. This way, you won’t have to concern yourself with having to get someone to empty it mid party.
  • Set out recycling container.
  • Place food in serving containers. Put perishable food back in the refrigerator. Cover non – perishable items and arrange them on the serving table.

Must Haves & Things to Keep on Hand

The following list is comprised of items that I keep on hand just because I end up using any number of these things a great deal.

  • At least 2 platters and 2 bowls for serving food (more if you know you will always have more food options)
  • Beverage dispenser (w/ lid)
  • Ice Bucket
  • Tongues for picking up Ice
  • Beverage Tub(s) – it is nice to have one with alcoholic beverages and one with non – alcoholic beverages.
  • A set of matching serving utensils – metal or plastic is fine.
  • White tissue paper (and 1 or 2 other colors) for making decorations.
  • Paper Plates (I like Chinet because of their sturdiness and the white plastic ones with silver edges that look like real glass)
  • Plastic Cups (if you will be serving alcoholic beverages, I suggest 10oz cups so there is less waste)
  • Plastic Ware
  • Labels for beverages – so guests don’t set their cups down and get confused about whose cup is whose

I hope these tips were helpful. The more you host, the better you become and the less stressful it seems.

I may have left something out that you have learned along the way. If so, let me know what works for you.



P.S. Party City is a great place to get durable plastic serving dishes, if you prefer them to glass or if you just want some. If you go to their website, you can sign up for their e-mail list so that you get coupons!

P.P.S. I did not host anything today. But, I made a few things yesterday, so I wouldn’t have to cook this week.  I made strawberry banana almond and wheat flour pancakes Saturday, Sunday and today. I made 5 bean salad and corn salad last night. All the recipes were easy and quite tasty. You can see the recipes by clicking on the recipes tab.


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