Throwing a party is, for me, one of life’s big joys. I love coming up with a menu, decorating and having a house full of people. I read somewhere that cooking and having friends over is a way of expressing love. That’s exactly how I feel about it.
That said, the day before a big party, there’s always that same feeling “What am I doing? Am I totally crazy?” And yes, no matter how much you love to entertain, I think that’s a perfectly normal reaction.
This fall’s big party: Oktoberfest. The menu was what you’d expect. We had soft pretzels from Philly, Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale bratwurst and authentic German potato salad and sauerkraut. We had a German-ish chocolate cake. And a keg of Haufbrau Oktoberfest from Munich.
I also got into party favor mode for this one. I ordered Bavarian hats, pretzel-shaped glasses, blue beer beads and pulled out (and borrowed) German beer steins to hold utensils. I even bought a Bavarian flag. Some people even dressed up, including me!
The theme may have been Oktoberfest, but it was also the celebration of our back yard patio, fireplace and landscaping finally being DONE! Yes, the never-ending project had come to an end. My Dad refers to it as my “bridge over the River Kwai.”
Eddie worked tirelessly beforehand, making everything Eddie-perfect and the weather cooperated. Ann, in true Ann-form, dropped off a perfect hostess gift, just in case the weather didn’t cooperate!
What’s the best part about having a party? When you get the feeling that everyone is having a good time. I think everyone had fun at this one. The good news is that there are some pretty simple ways to ensure that your next party is one where not only your guest will have fun, but you will too! And since the holidays are coming up, here are my top 10 party-throwing tips:
10 GREAT PARTY TIPS
1. Invite an eclectic mix of people.
While it’s always great to have your trusty friends at any gathering, it’s fun to mix it up and invite some new blood too. Just be sure to circulate and introduce people to each other. I take my hostessing pretty seriously and this is really really important. Have some of your more talkative friends help out.
2. Assess if it’s better (and cheaper) to make it or buy it.
When I first started entertaining, I made absolutely everything from scratch. And while many times I still do, there are times that it just doesn’t make much sense.
Take Oktoberfest for example. Obviously, I couldn’t make the bratwurst, so that was a no-brainer. When I calculated exactly how many potatoes I’d have to buy and peel, it just didn’t make sense. So much cheaper and easier to buy it! Just do your homework and get the best possible things at the best possible price. Always order things beforehand.
3. Organize all your serving dishes, bowls and utensils the night before.
Avoid the stress of getting ready to serve something and realizing that the bowl isn’t quite big enough or you haven’t got the right utensils.
Ina Garten, the fabulous Barefoot Contessa, suggests putting post-it’s in each piece so when you’re running around the day of the party you remember what goes where.
4. Curate a good playlist.
Bill wanted to do an Oktoberfest-themed playlist for the party. No way! Nothing against German-style music, but no one is familiar with it and it just doesn’t say “party” to me. The best way to get a party going is to create a playlist that just says “fun.” You know, a mix of songs that everyone knows the words to….I’m not sure that anyone really heard the music at Oktoberfest, but it made for good background noise.
5. Stock up on toilet paper. And napkins. And paper towel.
6. Hire some help (any help) if at all possible.
Whether it’s a professional or your friend’s kid, this is a real game changer. Let me repeat this: If you can swing it, it makes all the difference in the world. You can actually enjoy your own party. Having some help is especially important if you are having a lot of people and serving many different things that need to be brought out separately. That means lots of dishes to clean up! I met Monica at our friend’s annual night-before-Thanksgiving party and she is a lifesaver.
7. Chill wine and beer beforehand. Makes sense, right? I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to do this. Couple addendums to this tip: #1: Delegate ice-bringers. You need more than you know, especially if you are using big wine buckets. Pretty ice is also great for ice buckets. If you don’t go through all those bags of ice, oh well. Not a costly mistake. #2: Speaking of drinks and chilling, pour yourself one before the first guests arrive. When your guests do arrive and find you enjoying yourself, it sets the tone for the party.
8. Make sure you have enough food
Duh, right? This is the Mediterranean in me, but I always prefer to err on the side of having too much food versus too little Plus, leftovers are delicious and doggy bags are always appreciated.
9. As the party is winding down, blow out your candles.
Have someone double check that every one has been extinguished. Be sure to blow out the ones in the bathroom. Not only is it safer to do this before you’re over-over exhausted (of course you’re exhausted!!), it signals that the party is coming to an end in a nice, subtle way.
Stop stressing out about the little things! No one cares. Clock ticking down and the mail is still on the kitchen island? When push comes to shove, I’m all about shoving things in closets.