On the heels of our 5th Annual New Year’s Eve Gathering, party planning is on my mind. So, I thought I would take a some time to explain how I prepare for a party that I can enjoy as much as our guests do. It is no surprise that hosting a large gathering takes time and organization. It is also no surprise to those who know me that I am a planner and I like to start early. Here is what the week of a large gathering looks like in our home. Even though there is a lot of detail listed, because it is spread over a week, it only requires a small amount of time each day.
Plan your Menu – think through every detail. This becomes your “guide” to smooth gatherings. By preparing ahead, you can consider what is missing and avoid multiple shopping trips.
Our party was an “Open House”. We invited 60 families and though we knew not everyone could make it, if they all came, there could have been up to 200 guests. When planning of this size, the food prep could be daunting, so this is how we keep it simple. We serve 2 or 3 soups, my husband smokes a turkey for sandwiches, we have ham for sandwiches, all the fixin’s, and some chips, crackers and dips and a variety of desserts. Our friends often bring some side dishes, desserts, and snacks to contribute. When planning the menu, I consider these things:
1. What can be made ahead?
2. What can be simmering that day and is easy to keep warm? (soup!)
3. What can be kept for future use if not eaten?
4. What uses normal ingredients that I will use throughout the month?
Create your shopping list – Use your menu to list everything you need to purchase, including paper goods, tablecloths, flowers, and favors.
Create your “to do” list - Think through your week and plan all that is needed to make this happen. Consider from start to finish in detail.
Assign Jobs - Determine who in your family can help and with what task.
6 Days Before:
Schedule your “to do” list – Take some time to schedule each item on your list, assign it to yourself or a family member/friend, and place it on a day that week where it can be completed. The list in your household will not look exactly like mine because you and I will both have different things we want to complete around our home to prepare. One year, that included landscaping for us. This year, we didn’t do anything major, except a deep cleaning. Two of our children are in their teen years so we let them choose items they would do and we paid them to do them. This saved me from doing them, and provided a bit of spending cash for them. We don’t often pay them for chores .
5 Days Before:
Gather Decor – Decide on tablecloths, napkins, vases, table arranging, seating, etc. Gather what you will be using.
Shop for “Non-Perishables” – Purchase paper goods, household supplies (ever ran out of trash bags or dish detergent at a party? I have… ), flour, sugar, crackers, etc.
3 Days Before:
Tackle “Long-term” Cleaning Jobs – (ceiling fans, windows, stove hood, etc)
Thaw Meat if Frozen
2 Days Before:
Grocery Shop - bring it all home and get it organized.
1 Day Before:
Do “Short-term” cleaning
Wash & Chop Produce for Recipes
Set Table or Buffet/Snack Stations
Get Punch Bowl/Drink Dispenser in place
Get Ice Bucket in place
Find and set aside serving utensils
Assemble any “casserole” or “cold salad” type food (Lasagna, pasta salad, potato salad)
Make any “cook ahead” soup (Chili, Chicken Soup)
Make anything else you can make ahead (Applesauce, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes etc.)
Bake Rolls or Bread (right before guests arrive…smells GREAT!)
Relax and Enjoy…ok, relax, enjoy, refill, clean, refill, empty trash, relax, enjoy
What do you do to make your party preparations a breeze?