The first party that I ever hosted was a game night, and it was barely a party. I had no idea how to host a party, so I just brought out some games, chips and dip, and wine. We had fun, but it was not my best entertaining — I didn’t know how to entertain guests at a party other than making sure they were fed, maybe dancing, and seemed to be having a good time. But over time, I’ve picked up tips for entertaining and throw lively bashes a few times a year, whether at my home or out at a karaoke bar in New York City.
I’ve figured out how to host a good party with a checklist of what to do before, during, and after. You should by no means walk around with a notepad checking off when you put out a meat and cheese platter or when the ice needs refilling, but these entertaining tips will help you keep on track and stay organized so everything runs smoothly.
❏ Get RSVPs at least two weeks in advance.
❏ Shop for ingredients for recipes at least three days ahead in case you forget something.
❏ Make any food that can be prepared in advance a day or two ahead, like putting together Make-Ahead Spinach Phyllo Roll-Ups or prepping vegetables for a fajita bar.
❏ Ask your most-trusted friends to bring anything you need the day before, like bags of ice or a dessert from a local bakery.
❏ Set the table the night before if having a traditional dinner party.
❏ Have garbage bags ready for trash at the party, or make sure people know where garbage cans and recycling bins are.
❏ Put away anything breakable if kids are coming to the party.
❏ If a seated dinner party, seat people next to those they don’t know for more lively and interesting conversation.
❏ If it is more casual and you are serving wine and beer, set up a cooler the morning of the party to keep everything cold and easy to find.
❏ Put out a pitcher of water next to cocktails to encourage people to hydrate.
❏ Set up buffet-style food so people can serve themselves whenever possible.
❏ Mingle among different groups of people throughout the party, but don’t feel obligated to talk to absolutely everyone there.
❏ Keep an eye on food that needs to be refilled or reheated, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends to get more chips or make a cocktail for someone.
❏ Clean as you go, but don’t get bogged down by it.
❏ Have fun!
❏ Any stragglers at the end of the party can help take out the trash or assist with cleaning.
❏ Send thank-you notes to anyone who went above and beyond to help — even just a text.
❏ Take a deep breath because you hosted a great party! And then start thinking up your next party idea.