Hosting a Party: What I’ve Learned

Hey there, friends!  I hope you all had a great first week of 2013.  My husband and I hosted a little party on New Year’s Eve and invited our friends to come by whenever — much like an open house.  Best. Decision. Ever.  Our apartment is lovely, but small, so having people come in waves was really beneficial to us and the amount of space we have to offer people!  ;-)  This was my very first time having a larger group of people over to our apartment at one time, and to say I was a tad nervous is a bit of an understatement.  I was so worried about so many things — would we have enough food? would we have enough space? would everyone have fun?  The answer to all of these questions was yes, which got me thinking that it might be nice to share some of the things that I learned for first-time party throwers or people who are always looking for some tips!  I am definitely a par-tay novice, so these tips are not necessarily ground-breaking, but they helped me immensely!

1. Figure out where your stations for food and drink make the most sense.

Because we have a long table in what *should* be our dining area (but what has turned into my crafting/office area) I knew that that would be a great place for the food to go.  There is space all around the table, so people could essentially grab food from both sides — which made the placement of the food a lot easier since it didn’t all have to be reachable from one particular side.  Right next to our dining area is the kitchen, which has what we like to call our little breakfast bar, and we thought that would be great for the drinks because it was a smaller space but still had ample room for all that we needed to place.

2. Decide upon your menu — are you going to cook?  Do you want to have heavy appetizers?  How about just some small bites?

We went with small bites.  Since our little get-together was going to be an open-house type of shin-dig, I didn’t want anything to have to be kept warm, served hot, or anything like that.  The only thing that was hot was a dip that my mom made and brought over, and I just popped that into the oven at 250-degrees and saved it until there was quite a few people at our place…then served it down at the coffee table with some chips.  Everything else was able to be left alone for the entirety of the night.  We had things like Italian meats, cheeses, marinated mushrooms and mozzarella, crispy bread that I brushed with olive oil and a little salt and left under the broiler for a few minutes, chips + salsa, hot peppers, olives, veggies + hummus, and a few other things.  See?  Small bites.  Enough to fill someone up, but not an inundation of heavy food.  Much easier on me!  As for the alcohol, we had some things readily available (wine, sangria…) but we asked that if people wanted beer or anything special, they brought it themselves.  We aren’t big alcohol people, and we didn’t want to be left with a ton, you know?  Our friends brought what they liked, and it worked out really well for us.

3. Shop at stores like A.J.’s for speciality items that you want to be really good and save the rest for Trader Joe’s or a regular grocery store.

There were some things that I knew I wanted to be really good…like some of the drinks, the fig jam (to go on top of the bread with some goat cheese), the olives, hummus, and marinated mozzarella.  Oh, and the bread!  Everything else I got at Trader Joe’s.  In all, our food costs were about $100, but that included the drinks that I bought (non-alcoholic).  I got a lot of sparkling water, a bottle of blood orange sparkling cider, and a bottle of French pomegranate soda.

4. Set up plates/platters/etc. the day before (or earlier!) and place small pieces of paper in each serving dish so that you know what goes where.

Party Tips  {Inspiration Affirmation}
(Sorry for the bad cell phone pictures — I was sending them to my mom!)  ;-)

Party Tips  {Inspiration Affirmation}

This is a trick that my mom taught me that my grandmother taught her!  It is definitely the tip that helped me the most the night before the party, and I am so glad that I remembered to use it.  Just write down the item that you’re serving on a small piece of scrap paper, find the serving implement that you are going to use, and then begin to arrange the bowls, platters, and plates on the table!  Easy as that!

5. Allow ample time to prepare the food the next day — and enlist help!

This is an important one for me to remember — the help part.  My bestest friend, Taylor, was sweet enough to come over early to help me get things ready, and I have no idea what I would have done without her!  If help is offered to you, take it!  And remember that you can delegate, too!

Party Tips {Inspiration Affirmation}

Party Tips {Inspiration Affirmation}

Party Tips  {Inspiration Affirmation}

Party Tips  {Inspiration Affirmation}

6. Enjoy the flow of your party!  Don’t stress the small stuff.

My biggest worry was that there would be someone (or everyone!) who wouldn’t have fun.  I totally stressed myself out about this, and I wondered what in the world I could do to keep everyone entertained for the entire party.  What I realized was that everyone was having a blast just talking to one another.  And in the event that the conversation started to dwindle, I knew I had a closet full of games to choose from that could have spiced things up.  Don’t worry about the little things — just have fun!

Thanks for reading through all of these tips.  :-)  I know for those of you who have hosted a ton of parties, there’s probably not a lot here that is new; but I wanted to write down what I’ve learned in the event that there is someone reading who has never hosted a larger group of people before and is feeling nervous like I was.  I hope you all had a wonderful and happy new year.  The next day, I took our Christmas decorations down.  It’s always bittersweet, isn’t it?

Putting Christmas Away  {Inspiration Affirmation}
Thanks again for reading!  :-)

Inspiration Affirmation




  1. Julia

    Great tips! Love the menu…simple and delicious! I always have to remind myself to just RELAX when we have a dinner party. It’s so easy to get stressed about the silly, small stuff. Happy New Year!

  2. Nancy Pratt

    You did such a great job, Maria!! Your tips are right on! I remember when I got old enough my mom let me write the slips. Do you remember writing the slips for me? Those were wonderful times!!!
    Love Mom

  3. Sarah {Lacquer & Linen}

    Great tips Maria! I got suckered into having a party for 6 about three hours prior to party time on New Years Eve. Needless to say, I was in full on PANIC MODE. (Let’s also ignore the fact that we moved into our new house a week ago!) I totally agree with you, preparation is key to any great party! Maybe I’ll stock up on some New Years party decor just in case that happens again!

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