*Thank you to Pine Mountain for sponsoring this post!*
This spring Adam and I decided that it was time to start using our home for entertaining. It’s something we had always wanted to do, and once our house was safe and functional enough to invite people over we put our plan into motion. The goal was large monthly parties, every single month. That was six months ago now, and we have since successfully hosted six parties. Also? We’ve learned a lot. So here is my list of my top ten recommendations if you are looking to do something similar.
Decide to throw the party even though the timing isn’t right and everything isn’t perfect
I think this is the biggest obstacle to overcome when planning something like this. We all want our homes to be super clean and perfectly decorated before we invite people over, or we want to serve them only the most delicious food at a beautiful table. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with that, life just doesn’t work that way. Adam and I are living in a home that is constantly in a state of disarray. It’s under construction and everything is unfinished…for the last few parties there has been scaffolding in our living room, if that tells you anything. We eat on paper plates wherever people can find a place..in the (unfinished) dining room, outside on the porch, on a blanket in the grass, etc. None of it is ideal, and no one has complained. Life is busy and the timing is never perfect….make time for each other anyway.
Finished and perfect? Nope. Clean and functional? Heck yes.
Make it a Potluck
We have always planned on making our parties potlucks, but the first month I felt like Adam and I should provide the main dish/majority of the food since we were the hosts. That resulted in us completely busting our grocery budget for the month, plus the whole thing was more stressful than I could handle for a party we planned on doing monthly. So now what we do is just provide one simple dish, just like everyone else, and the party is easy and fun.
Totally a stock food photo - ours never looks that good and we eat on paper plates.
Decide how you want the guest list to work
This is how Adam and I decided to do the guest list – each month we invite all the people in our immediate family, which is 25 people right off the bat. Then we invite a few extra friends, usually ones that already know each other (but not always). Our parties end up being between 30 and 50 people, and each month is different but also has also some consistency. Doing it this way does have some downsides though, the first being that even after six months of parties we still have a lot of friends we haven’t invited yet. We plan to get around to everyone, it’s just going to take some time. Secondly, I also hate having some of our closest friends be invited one month but not the next. I don’t really see around this though….this is what happens when you have a large family that all likes each other.
One month we attempted to take a group picture… we gave up after that.
Set aside a few days for cleaning
This goes without saying I’m sure, but there is a lot of prep work to be done before 50 people come over to your house. Adam and I spend a solid two days cleaning the house before each party. We scrub toilets, mop floors, pressure wash all the chicken poop off the breezeway and porches, and do all the things that normally keep getting pushed down the to-do list. It’s not the most fun thing ever…but I kinda love that having the party makes us get these things done. Each month is a fresh start for our house, and I love that.
Use an app like Funnster
You can send out invites via snail mail, e-mail, group texts, create a facebook group or a multitude of other ways, but we use an app called Funnster. We like it because in addition to sending out the invites and reminders automatically, it also lets you set the menu and has people sign up to bring a food when they RSVP. This is super helpful in that guests aren’t guessing what to bring and you (as the host) know you are going to have all your bases covered.
Have a food theme
This isn’t necessary, but each month Adam and I sit down and brainstorm a theme before we set up the next party on Funnster. So far we’ve had a baked potato bar, comfort food, fajitas, soup salad and breadsticks, cold food (when it was August and crazy hot), Italian, and Octoberfest. We usually try to come up with an adult drink of the month too, something fun and different (in addition to wine and beer).
Have it on a Friday
We tried having the parties on both Fridays and Saturdays, and really prefer Friday. We usually start around six and people just come over after work, and everyone trickles out between about nine and midnight. Fridays are better for two reasons – 1) if you have the party on Friday then you still get a weekend. The prep work gets finished during the week and Saturday morning is a quick clean up and then you are free for two days. If you have it on Saturday then you spend all Friday pre-cleaning and Sunday post cleaning and thinking that isn’t almost Monday already. 2) People stay later on Fridays. It might be kinda of a pain to come out to our house after work, but most of our family and friends are churchgoers, and we all have to be up and looking decent Sunday morning.
Make it kid-friendly
Adam and I are in the throes of parenting our four little boys, so you can imagine how many adult-only social functions we get to attend (it’s zero, if you were wondering). For us, making the party kid friendly wasn’t even a question…I want you to come, I want it to be easy, and I want you to bring your minivan full of kids. Sometimes we end up with only a handful of kids and other months we’ll have 25, and each month we try to have a simple activity that is fun for the kids. During the summer we did water balloons, a slip-n-slide and baby pools on the kid heavy month. Sometimes my Father-in-law brings out his “50’s” (tiny motorcycles) and all the kids get rides. One month a friend even brought a bounce house. Our parties so far have been almost entirely outdoors, but this month a cold front blew in and no one wanted to venture outside. Instead, we lit a fire using a Java Log from Pine Mountain (made from recycled coffee grounds!) and had a cozy indoor party. Pine Mountain also makes the ExtremeStart firestarter that is perfect for grilling, camping, tailgating, or any other party fires.
Have a person set aside to pick up last minute things
It took us a few months to figure this one out, but have a person set aside that doesn’t sign up for anything and just picks up things last-minute. This may not be such a big deal for people in the city, but we are out in the country and running to the store takes about an hour. Usually, we will have forgotten to add something to the list or someone canceled last-minute, so having someone stop by the store on their way to our house is really helpful.
Be okay with things getting broken
When you invite a bunch of people (and kids) over to your house, things are going to get broken, it’s unavoidable. During our parties we have had multiple people run over our rock wall, broken kitchen odds and ends, broken the water dispenser on the fridge, a giant yard rut from the slip and slide, etc. This just comes with the territory, and I can honestly say I don’t mind one bit. Houses are for living…what is the fun in having a picture perfect home if it’s not full of family, friends, and memories?
So there it is, my top ten tips for throwing a party! We have really loved having these monthly parties, and I think everyone else has as well (since they keep showing up and all). Hopefully this is just the start of a longstanding tradition!
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