Having a house full of friends is one of the sweeter things in life. Unfortunately, it had been a while since I hosted a gathering of any size. Living in Mexico made it kinda hard to have our regular group of friends over for burgers. We did have family over a few times while we were in Ensenada, but for the most part, it was quiet down there. I absolutely love having friends over, so it made me sad that we were too far to have a house full of people over. Although it can be a wee bit stressful to host a party, however large or small, it's always worth the effort when friends walk in the door.
Over the years, I've learned a few things when it comes to hosting parties. I picked up a few tricks from working in hotels and some tricks simply by finding out what works and doesn't work for me. Here are some bits of advice to keep in mind when hosting a party.
Be Yourself: The main thing I've learned is not to try to host a party like anyone else. Just as in life, if you try to play a part that you were not meant to play, you're going to be uncomfortable. And if the host is uncomfortable, the guests will always feel it. So, like me, my parties tend to be more on the casual side. You may not find my parties on Pinterest, but you'll always hear that my guests had a good time. And to me, that's the more important than oohs and aaahs over the decor.
Timing is Everything: Because of my casual nature, other than the start time, I try not to keep things on a tight schedule. I have activities planned, and we usually get to everything, but I try to take a pulse of the crowd to keep things moving in a way that works for all of us. If something isn't working, we wrap it up. If people are having fun doing something else, let the fun continue. Someone else might be uncomfortable with that loosey goosey schedule, so for them, a set time for every activity would make them a happy host. Go with what works for you, but always make sure your guests are having fun.
Zone Out: Without setting up any ropes or cones (because really... that would be obnoxious) I have several areas, or zones, set aside for different purposes. There's usually an area or two for the kids to hang out, complete with toys that they can keep themselves busy with. That zone is just close enough for safety, but far enough from the big people to give us some space to enjoy our adult conversations. I put plenty of seating out in the areas that I want people to mingle and usually have music playing in that area as well. There's always a quieter seating area somewhere else to give people a place to sit an chill for a bit. Food is always set out on a main table, with beverages in a separate area.
On Display: You don't have to buy expensive platters to put your food out on. Working in hotels, I learned that the most worn out shallow plastic tubs, when wrapped in a table cloth and filled with ice, make a beautiful receptacle in which to chill bottles of wine and beer for a party. Those same tubs were turned over and draped to display trays of food at various levels. Most any practical item you have in your cupboards can be dressed up and used to serve food. It's also good to invest in some practical items that you can pull out for festive occasions. I have a set up of multilevel trays that I like to use to display foods in a tighter space, like a coffee table.
Serve Balanced and Easy Food: Unless I'm plating a gourmet meal, I like to put food out that all of my guests can graze at. And I like to make sure that I've hit all the food groups: fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy (cheese), and breads, including crackers and/or pastries. Remember... wherever the food is, that's where guests will hang, so make sure to place it wherever you want your guests to convene. For my recent coffee with friends, I put all of the yums on the coffee table to keep the conversation happening over in the living room.
Keep the Beverages Flowing: When it comes to beverages, I try to make sure to cover all my bases. The cups, mugs, and glasses I put out vary with every party, depending on how many people I'm having over. For example, I'll make sure to have plenty of stemware or mugs out for smaller dinner parties, brunches, and coffees, or I'll put out Solo cups and Sharpies for everyone to mark their sodas at a big barbecue or taco party. I like to have a variety of sodas, beers, white and red wine, sparkling wine on special occasions. And always have plenty of drinking water with bags of ice at the ready in the freezer.
Coffee and Tea: When it comes to coffees and teas, it's important to put out quality beans and leaves in all levels of robustness. We use a Keurig, so I always try to put out a nice variety of K-cups roasts and a small bowl nearby to discard the used K-cups. Also at a separate area near the Keurig, I'll have several flavored and unflavored creamers in a bowl of ice, as well as sweeteners (including low glycemic options) on the table next to the creamers.
For this party, I put out a variety of Marley Coffee. Marley Coffee is run by one of Bob Marley's sons, Rohan Marley. Naturally, the coffees have names that you might recognize: Lively Up, Buffalo Soldier, Stir It Up, and of course, One Love.
To stay in line with their core beliefs of sustainability, Marley Coffee is moving to a new EcoCup that is more environmentally friendly than traditional K-cups (pictured above). The new EcoCup features lids that are easy to remove, bringing out with it a pod of grounds that can be tossed into compost. The remaining cup is fully recyclable. Now the only thing that will go into the garbage will be the thin film of a label.
Personally, this makes me very happy. I don't like waste. We've tried the reusable K-cups, but too many of the fine grounds would end up in the bottom of my mug. Not good. When I use the regular K-cups, I try to make sure I don't completely waste them. I'll usually remove the coffee tops and scoop out the grounds for my garden beds. It's a tedious and messy process, but like I said, I don't like waste, and coffee grounds are so good for the garden! The EcoCup option is SO much better!
Now that we're back up in our old neighborhood, I plan to have more of these regular coffees and other parties for whatever random reason. Anything to have a houseful of friends again!
One last tip... this one from Marley Coffee:
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post and hosting the event.