I love having people over. Playing hostess is one of my all-time favorite things to do. The planning, the cooking, the organizing and, eventually, the fellowship all make my heart very happy.
I’m not exactly sure from where this love for hosting came. Maybe it came from Aunt Sandy. It used to be tradition that we would go to her house on Christmas Eve to have Christmas with my dad, my uncle, my aunt and my cousins. Each year, Aunt Sandy would put together a beautiful spread with perfectly decorated tables. Aunt Sandy had a way of making things seem fancy even if they really weren’t. When it became my turn to host Christmas Eve dinner, the first thing I thought was “I hope it is as nice as Aunt Sandy has it.” She has definitely helped influence my love of hosting.
This summer, we’ve played host at least 5 times including 3 times during the 4th of July holiday week. One dinner was to celebrate Independence Day, one to celebrate my dad’s birthday and the other to celebrate a bunch of old friends finding time to hang out with each other. Three hosting events in one week can be a lot of work. Especially with each event being for a different reason and somewhat different group of people.
As with most things in my life, I did not have a ton of time to plan each of these events. But I maximized my time and everything turned out perfectly. So if you find yourself hosting three dinners in one weeks, here are my tips for how to get it done.
Understand the people coming over.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your planning and preparing time is determining what kind of event your guests are expecting. Are they fancy and expecting a more classier meal? Or is it more of a drinking party with some light appetizers? To figure this out, I like to ask myself the following questions:
- Who is coming?
- How many are grownups and how many are kids?
- What’s the purpose of getting together?
- Are they more casual or fancy?
- How much prep time will I have that morning?
- Is it possible for folks to bring something to pitch in?
- Are they drinkers or non-drinkers?
Once I have these answers, I can begin real preparation. So for the three parties I had this week, here were each of the answers:
Fourth of July: My family was coming over and we have four kids under the age of 9 and four kids over the age of 13. It is definitely casual and I will have most the day to prepare. Because the purpose is to swim and hang out, I didn’t ask anyone to bring anything. There was alcohol made available, but people probably wouldn’t drink very much.
Birthday: This was my family again, but with my dad instead of my mom. So essentially the same group as Tuesday. The purpose was for celebrating my dad’s birthday. I did not have a ton of time to prep since I had to work that day. We provided the meat and the venue while my sisters provided the side dishes. Same alcohol situation as before.
Old Friends Get Together: We have a small group of friends that normally gets together and go out to eat. But since most of us have kids under the age of 9, it is just easier to get together at someone’s house. The party didn’t start until late afternoon so I had plenty of time to get everything done. I asked everyone to bring a small side dish or dessert while we provided the main course. Despite the kids, our group still enjoys a drink or two so we needed to have plenty available.
Choose easy foods.
To me, choosing what to have can be the hardest part. I have a hard time deciding what to make for dinner for my family, let alone bunch of people. Especially if I’m responsible for providing the main dish. But asking the questions above makes it easier to plan my menu.
One thing I like to do is choose a menu that allows for leftovers. By making something that can keep for a few days (or maybe even be frozen), I can get more than one meal out of it. For example, Saturday was the first time I hosted something with a taco bar. And let me tell you, best idea ever. One crock pot filled with fajita chicken peppers and onions. The other with ground beef cooked in taco seasoning. Put out some tortillas and toppings and BAM. Enough to feed a hungry crowd and plenty leftover to have for lunch this week. The taco bar might just be my go-to party hosting plan for now on.
If hosting multiple events in a relatively short period of time, prepare foods that can be used for each event. Watermelon is a great choice to serve at cookout because there is likely to be enough to last a few days. Corn is also a good choice. We had both on Tuesday for the 4th and then had the leftovers on Thursday for my dad’s birthday.
Look at what you already have in your house and see if you can make a meal out of it. I had a ton of hamburger patties and cheese slices from an event earlier in the month so we just cooked those up for the 4th. I also had some green tomatoes from the farmers’ market that I fried up to serve alongside of the hamburgers. Saved me time and money.
Write it down.
Man, I love lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, whatever. Lists are the way I function.
When preparing for a big events, I like to first write down everything that needs done. And I mean everything down, from the important things like cooking the meat to little things like what food is going in which dish. I also like to write down about the time of day I need to complete it. I do this first and then use this to create my ultimate schedule.This way, I can prioritize what needs to be done and when to maximize my time.
For this week’s events, I made one grocery list, but three to-do lists. Luckily, the first two events were not as task heavy as the one on Saturday.
Schedule it out.
Of course I’m going to tell you to schedule it out. Scheduling is my thing.
But seriously. Once the to-do list is made, I make the schedule. And just like my to-do list, I schedule everything. Even when I plan to take a shower. It just helps me make sure everything gets done and I don’t drop the ball on something. This is especially helpful if you are cooking foods that need a certain amount of time to cook.
Here is an example of what my schedule looked like for Saturday. I didn’t follow it to a T, but at least I knew how long it would take to get everything done.
- 7am: Grocery shop
- 8am: Make salsa and chop other vegetables for toppings.
- 9:30am: Water flowers and set up tables and chairs.
- 10am: Put chicken in crock pot.
- 11am: Begin browning taco meat.
- 12pm: Arrange plates and drink station.
- 1pm: Eat lunch and take a shower.
- 2pm: Finish up laundry.
- 2:30pm: Make guacamole and sweep kitchen floor
- 3pm: Open up pool.
- 4pm: Set out appetizers.
- 5pm: Set out all food and toppings. Start the party.
Don’t clean your house.
Seriously, don’t do it. It is a total waste of time. You are just going to have people over that will drop food or mess up the house anyway.
I’m not saying that your house shouldn’t be picked up or organized when folks come over. You should definitely make sure clutter is put up and the bathrooms have clean toilets and toilet paper. I’m just saying I wouldn’t bother with stressing yourself out about cleaning every nook and cranny (unless you are hosting judgy in-laws. Then you may want to dust those shelves).
If you follow the tips above, you should be good to go when folks arrive. Not rushing around at the last minute allows you to enjoy yourself once people start to arrive. Also, don’t stress about putting stuff away once everyone leaves. If it isn’t going to spoil or get ruined, just leave it out for tomorrow.
You’ve worked hard to make sure everyone else has a good time. So sit down, have a drink and congratulate yourself on another party well done.