Disclaimer #1: If you are great at throwing parties this post is not for you. ;)
Disclaimer #2: I apologize for the length of this post, if your eyes glaze over half way through I won’t blame you. :)
This weekend I hosted a little bridal lingerie shower for an friend.
Overall the planning and hosting the shower was stress free and chic cheap.
My definition of chic cheap: planning, preparing, making and buying with $$ in mind. Save on some things, spend a little extra on others.
That said I have hosted a lot of showers/parties (big and small) in my short 28 years ( I helped cater my first event when I was in high school), and I have gleaned some knowledge along the way that makes hosting a successful party as easy as possible.
I know that hosting guests in your home can be a daunting task, but in the end showing hospitality is always worth it…and it gives you a good reason to clean your house:)
#1. Create your invitations with the mood of your party in mind.
If your invitations look boring/slapped together people as less likely to attend; it’s a proven fact.
I have order oodles of invites from Vista Print. Cheap, cute and can be completely customized. (and there are always coupon codes to be found)
Or just get crafty (or Pinteresty) and make them yourself.
Mail out invites 2 1/2 weeks in advance.
#2. Know your guest list.
This is not always possible, but if you don’t know some of the people invited just ask the guest of honor.
Do a majority of the guests not drink alcohol?
Are a majority of the guests vegetarians?
Is the group of guests generally a reserved bunch or do they like games?
These may seem like petty things but when you have planned your party with a deli meat tray, sangria and lots of “wild” games + the guest list is mostly a group of conservative, non-alcoholic drinking ladies who don’t eat meat….well then you have got a problem. :)
Just for the record, I am NOT a fan of games at showers. :)
#3. Only plan to do what you are capable of.
If you aren’t good at centerpieces, hire a florist.
If you aren’t comfortable cooking, buy ready-made food.
If you over-commit yourself, you will just be a stress ball.
And usually stress balls are not the life of the party.
No one expects you to be Martha Stewart, unless of course you are Martha Stewart.
Example: I hosted a birthday party for my mom and niece at a park last spring. I was not comfortable making all the food for 75 people and also making the cakes and then transporting them.
So I had made all the food, but had a bakery make the cakes with a simple cream cheese icing. I decorated them once they were delivered to the park.
#4. Share the responsibilities of food, invitations, decorating etc. with someone else.
Not only does this relieve some of the last minute stress and make it easier on your budget, but it also gives you time to make sure your house is sparkly clean for guests.
#5. Make sure that the food you decide to serve covers a variety of food groups, colors and temperatures.
Example: Cake, sugary beverage and mints= sugar overload
Example: Baked cheddar dip, carrots, pumpkin muffins and orange juice punch= way too much orange
Example: A hot dip with crackers, colorful veggies, baked stuffed mushrooms, and cupcakes= variety of colors, temperatures, sweet and salty.
Not only is the variety in temperature of the food important, but if everything you serve needs to bake at the same time, you are going to run out of oven space.
If you do have items that need last minute preparation, make a time schedule. It will relieve the panicky feeling of, “What am I forgetting?”
Another tip is to select recipes that can be made well in advance or that require little or no preparation. Ina Garten has a lot of good ideas for “no prep appetizers.”
One of my favorite inexpensive items to use for parties is the Aldi Smoked Honey Ham. It’s $1.71 a pound year round. It makes for a great presentation with some croissants or yeast rolls, a nice Swiss cheese and spicy Dijon. Simple and inexpensive.
#6. Once you decide on the food, you will need to adjust your recipes to serve the appropriate quantity.
This can be tricky depending on the guest count. Doubling a recipe is usually fine, but when you making 3x or 4x a recipe it can get tricky. Stick with simple recipes and they will turn out great.
When I have to make and bake large quantities of recipes, I love buying disposable aluminum pans from the dollar store. It makes clean up oh so easy.
One tip to keeping food costs down while planning recipes is to use smaller serving spoons and provide smaller plates to guests. It is human nature to want to fill our plate. The smaller the plate the less people will serve themselves.
For beverages, I like to use 6 0r 8 oz cup. And I plan that each person will consume 12-16 oz of whatever beverage I am serving. And I always have a pitcher of iced water as an option. If the event is outside and it’s hot,you will probably want to to increase the ounces per guest.
#7. Choose your eatery carefully.
I love real linen napkins and proper serving-ware, but that is not realistic for everyone.
If you do have to buy disposable plates etc, make sure the paper products are sturdy enough for the food you are serving, unless you want to comb crab dip out of your rug afterwards.
#8. Plan your food layout in advance.
This may seem like a petty thing, but I have realized too late that the table I had decorated was not big enough for all the food I was serving. Or even worse that your table is way too big for the amount of food you are serving.
Planning the food layout also helps to know what platters, bowls etc you will need, and keeps you from forgetting important things….like serving utensils.
Depending on what I am serving, I even like to make cards identifying each food item. ie Buffalo Chicken Dip, Lemon-Lime Sugar Cookies.
And serving food in different shaped dishes and at different heights can make a simple foods look chic.
#9. Before the guests arrive, unload the dishwasher and clean out/wipe out your refrigerator.
This may seem like an odd tip, but at the last minute there are always random dirty dishes that you will probably want out of sight.
If you dishwasher is unloaded, you can hide them in there. :)
And before/after the shower there are usually guests who offer to help clean up and put away leftover food, etc.
A cleaned out refrigerator makes that process go much more smoothly. And you won’t be embarrassed about your three week old leftovers.
#10. Plan what you are going to wear in advance.
This may also seem petty, but it is so nice once all the pre-party duties are complete to run and change before guests arrive.
You will feel fresh and looking your best.
Follow these tips and you will definitely be crowned the hostess with the most-ess!