Does entertaining upwards of 40 people at your house sound intimidating to you? Do you want to have family and friends over your house but you lack confidence in your ability to host and plan accordingly? Well, look no further because I am here to tell you, that with a little bit of planning, you can pull this off with no problem. Here’s how I was able to plan and organize my most recent gathering for my husband Patrick’s birthday. Learn how to throw a party for someone special stress-free!
I’m not sure how much you follow boxing or UFC but there was a HUGE fight last Saturday night between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. The fight was much anticipated because there has never been a crossover between boxing and UFC in the past. McGregor is the UFC Lightweight Champion and Mayweather, who came out of retirement just for the fight (or for the hundreds of millions of dollars he made), was 49-0 and hoping to pull out the win for the big 50! It just so happened that this major event was scheduled for the day after Patrick’s birthday. It sounded like the perfect way to celebrate his special day and spend time with family and friends.
When it comes to entertaining, I would consider myself to be a pro. I feel like I have things down to a science when it comes to organizing an event. Have I always felt this way? Absolutely not! Everyone needs to start somewhere, right? You only get better with practice or at least that’s what they say. At this point, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have entertained in my home. I definitely have the experience and there’s credibility to my tips and tricks that I’m going to share with you here on my blog.
So as promised, here is how you can throw a party for someone special stress-free.
- Pick a date: In my case, the date was chosen for me because I was conjoining Patrick’s birthday with the fight. I usually have the date planned for a month in advance if I am throwing a larger gathering, or 2 – 3 weeks if it’s smaller. I will start letting my family and friends know the date and tell them to be on the look-out for an invitation coming soon. Letting family and friends know before the invitation going out is something I have found to be very beneficial. I have had to change dates for my gatherings several times because the date I chose turned out to have too many schedule conflicts for my guests. Picking a date is extremely important for you as the host because it allows you time to organize and plan your event without feeling overwhelmed.
- Send out invitations: Sending out an invitation for larger gatherings is a must! If you are throwing a little get together with a few people I wouldn’t worry about it since the smaller event will be easier to plan for and you usually know exactly who will be attending without needing to send an invitation. I’m usually really good at doing this. I say usually because I don’t always do this, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t send out invitations for this event. THAT WAS A HUGE MISTAKE! I’ll tell you why in just a few.
- You’ll want to send your invitations out 2 – 3 weeks prior to the event. I always want to make sure that I gave people an ample amount of time to RSVP for the event. Many of my friends have younger children, and though I always tell them they can bring them, sometimes the parents want time for themselves and would like to get a sitter. It’s harder to secure one with short notice. I also recommend setting the RSVP date at least one week before the party so you can gauge how much food and party supplies you’ll need to buy.
- I prefer to send my invitations digitally because I find that nowadays most people have their lives on their phones and it’s easier for them to respond “yes, no or maybe” from there. I always use the website, Evite.com, when sending out my digital invitations. The majority of their invitation templates are free and I love how I can manage my event using their website or by phone on their app. It’s as simple as picking out an invitation template, putting in your event information, adding your guests’ emails and clicking send. That’s it! From there you can keep track of your entire event. Evite.com has many great features which include being able to see when your guests have opened their invitation or even sending out reminders to those who haven’t RSVP’d yet. It’s also beneficial for your guests because it will send them a reminder once the event gets closer! It’s a win/win for everyone.
- So it’s confession time. As I said a little while ago, I didn’t send out invitations for this event. At first, Patrick’s birthday was going to be something “small and low key”. I only invited family and a few friends because Patrick didn’t want anything big. The next thing I knew he started inviting a few people here and there from work. Don’t get me wrong, the more the merrier, it’s just harder to plan for an event when you have no idea how many people you are planning for.
Me: “Hey babe, how many people are coming from work?”
Patrick: “Not sure. I told a bunch of people and they all said ok and they’d probably stop by.”
Me to myself: “Ahhhhh! I should’ve sent an invitation! Too late now…”
- We ended up with roughly 40 – 50 people! I am used to cooking for an army so I always have extra of everything but if this is your first go around at this “entertaining thing” you most likely would’ve gone over the edge. Please just avoid this and send out an invitation!
- Start putting together your menu: When creating a menu for an event, I always consider the following three things.
- What kind of event is this?
The type of event you are throwing is really going to impact the kind of food you want to serve. When I think about a baby shower, for example, I think of cute little tea sandwiches and pasta salads, not hot dogs and cheese fries. If you are going with a theme, let’s say Cinco De Mayo, you’re going to stick with Mexican inspired dishes. The time of day can also play a factor in what you serve as well. Patrick’s party was later in the evening, 9 pm, so I knew most people would have already eaten dinner. I planned on making a variety of appetizers and finger foods because most people would just be snacking and socializing until the fight came on. Plus, people were drinking and I wanted them to have things to nosh on along the way 🙂
- How many people are attending?
The number of people coming impacts the amount of food you should have at your event. People who have attended any of my gatherings know to expect tons of food and to never go home hungry. My philosophy when picking food for my gatherings is “variety is best”! Variety is good because not everyone is going to like everything you make. If I have a chicken, beef and seafood option available to my guests, I know I will be able to please everyone. Usually, for gatherings of 10 or more, I will have 2 – 3 different appetizers, 2 – 3 main courses, 3 – 4 side dishes, and 2 – 3 desserts. The amount of each menu item that I would make depends on the number of people attending. I am always worried that I won’t have enough food so I tend to overdo this. Honestly, I’d rather have more food then run out. An added bonus is we have leftovers for days so I don’t have to cook. Sometimes if I have too many extras I just use the ingredients in a completely different dish. Think Thanksgiving…..extra turkey can be turned into turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey pot pie 🙂
For Patrick’s birthday party I did only appetizers but I still tried to follow my philosophy of having variety in my dishes. I wanted to have some healthier/lighter dishes and some heartier ones. They all needed to be easy to walk around with and eat.
Here’s my menu:
*Click on the title for the recipe*
- Cranberry Orange Pinwheel Sandwiches
- Chicken and Broccoli Ring
- Reuben Stromboli
- Jalapeno Popper Dip
- Chicken Tender Platter
- Cubanito Platter
- Cocktail Meatballs
- Spinach Dip
- Vegetable Cups
- Italian Skewers
- Chips with French Onion Dip
- White Trash Snack Mix
- Drunken Cherries
- Cupcakes with ice cream
*My mom can never go anywhere empty handed (now you know where I get it from) so she made Italian party sandwiches, fiery chicken meatballs and an orange creamsicle poke cake.
Yes, this was a lot but I’m grateful I had all this food due to the number of people who showed up. I was prepared and there was plenty for everyone to eat with very little leftovers. I used the leftovers at home throughout the week and sent Patrick to work with the rest to share.
- What kind of menu items do I have time and space for?
When choosing what I am going to have in terms of food at any of my parties I always try to have a good mix of cold and hot items. I REALLY like items that can be made ahead of time at least a day or two before. Having items such as these allows me to get some of the cooking out of the way the day or night before so I have more time on the day of the event. I also like to find things that can cook in a crockpot or can be transferred to a crockpot to stay warm. I only have so much space in my oven and things become hard to manage if you have an abundance of foods that need to be heated before your party. In addition, try to limit “fancy” or time-consuming dishes to a minimum. As the host/hostess, you don’t want to be stuck cooking in your kitchen while your guests are over. I also cheat sometimes and buy platters from my local grocery store. This is definitely easier but you pay a premium for that and it could get very costly, very quickly! I bought two platters for Patrick’s birthday and spent $70…just for an example.
- Organize your recipes and shopping list: Now that you know what you are going to cook it’s time to gather your recipes and start making your shopping list. I like to have all my recipes in one place before I start making my list. I go through each recipe one by one and write down all the items I need on a sheet of paper. I continue to do this for all my recipes. Once I have all my ingredients written down I start to make a shopping list. I like to break up my list into the different sections of my grocery store (produce, meat, dairy) so that it’s easier when I go shopping. I’m less likely to forget something this way. Like Santa Claus says, make a list and check it twice! I go through my list of ingredients a couple of times just to make sure I don’t forget something. If you forget something, no sweat, that’s what significant others are there for. “Babe, I need you to go to Publix for me.” 🙂
- Choose your theme or color combination and purchase your decor: I usually head over to Pinterest for party inspiration. Since this gathering was centered around Patrick’s birthday and the fight, I knew I wanted to do a boxing theme in terms of decor. The traditional colors I saw on Pinterest were black and red but I came across a classier option that showed black and gold that I fell in love with. I purchased all of the party supplies at Party City and the Dollar Store (Love that place!). Items that I always get for any party are: paper plates (small and large), plastic cutlery, napkins, plastic cups, and plastic table clothes.
- I usually pick one major focal point to decorate as well. In this case, I knew I wanted to decorate our dining room table to showcase my homemade cupcakes, white trash snack mix, and a place for people to put gifts. I bought miniature gold paper bags for the snack mix and a gold 3-tier cupcake stand for my Kahlua and Amaretto cupcakes. I also grabbed some confetti to spread around the table to make things a little more festive.
- Another tip I have learned over the years is to label your food so people know what they are eating. It saves you from having to tell people a million times what everything is! When I make my labels I try to incorporate my theme into them. I made food labels on Canva.com by writing the name of the food item on the label and then picking a boxing term that started with the same letter as the dish. For example “Sucker Punch” Spinach Dip. I purchased 10 black frames from the Dollar Store and placed the labels inside. I bought decorative stickers from Michaels and embellished the labels. They came out adorable!
- Create a list of everything you need done for your party and make your timeline. Once you have your menu secured and all your supplies purchased, you can now start making a list of everything you will need to get done for the party. When you are done with your list, you can start going through and making a timeline to get everything done. By taking your list and breaking it up into multiple days things become more manageable.
- You can start cleaning your house days in advance. I have learned to be okay with doing a good “surface cleaning” and nothing more prior to an event that I have at my house. As long as my floor is swept and my toilets are cleaned I’m good. We are very neat people and our house is never really dirty. It will be dirty after 40 people come over, however. You’ll have to do a thorough cleaning at that point so wait until after the event to go crazy. Presentable is what you are looking for!
- Technically you can start decorating days before your event as long as you don’t mind having party supplies around and you aren’t worried about little ones or pets getting at them.
- I always start cooking and prepping at least one day before the event. Things like pasta salads, pasta dishes (lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti) and dips can all be made the day before the event. An added bonus is they taste better sitting overnight! I will also try to do any of my prep work the day or night before. If I know I am going to need onion and garlic for a recipe I will chop it up and place it in Ziploc bags for the next day. It makes my life easier so I can just throw everything together the day of the party.
- Of course you will have things to do the day of the party. There are going to be dishes you can’t make until the day of or dishes that need to be heated right before your guests arrive. If you start a few days ahead of time though, you should have a manageable amount of things to get done the day of so you aren’t stressed out.
- Get help! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. My mom is always willing to come to the party early to help me get things organized. I give my husband and son jobs to do as well. You’d be surprised how much people are willing to do!
And viola! That’s all she wrote!
At first glance, this might seem overwhelming but I promise you with more practice you will get better and better. You’ll start enjoying having people over and begin looking for ways to get everyone together. It’s a gratifying feeling to be able to celebrate and relax with family and friends in your home. You too can throw a party for someone special, stress-free.
It truly was such a wonderful night for all of us and I know Patrick felt celebrated on his special day!