Usually when November hits, there is an abundance of magazine articles on how to survive holiday parties. Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or contending with unfavorable family members, there are helpful tidbits of information plastered on the pages. Once the holiday season is over with, you’re on your own. I’ve always found it a little silly that the people who write these columns think that the holiday season is the only time where sound advice (or peace of mind) is sought after.
Hosting family dinners, parties or special event gatherings happen all year. In fact, the 2nd most popular time of year for this to happen is here. Summer. There are kids birthday parties to contend with, family barbecues, 4th of July cookouts, and pool parties. Do you have a couple that are scheduled to happen at your house? Are you dreading the stress, chaos and (maybe…just maybe) a few people that might be attending? Keep your sanity intact with a few little words of advice…
1. Plan ahead. Make sure to have an estimate of how many people will be attending, what the menu is, and plan accordingly. Even the simplest of affairs can end up being stressful if there isn’t some type of planning.
2. Keep the menu simple. I’ve hosted a lot of summer cookouts. The first few that took place left me exhausted and I didn’t have fun. I spent most of the time in the kitchen. Live and learn. Now, when I’m the host, I plan a menu that does not involve the use of the oven or stove top on the day of the party. Everything is cooked out on the grill and the salads are already chilling in the fridge.
3. Say yes! When you extend invitations and people ask if they can bring something, don’t say no. Most people are more than happy to whip up a favorite summer recipe of theirs or a salad to bring. Not only will you have variety at the table, but it’s going to make less work for you.
4. You’re not a babysitter. Don’t do it. You will only run yourself ragged. If people choose to show up with their kids, make it clear that they are responsible for keeping an eye on them. It’s also for safety reasons as well. You have to think of things like the pool and hot grills. I’ve seen many parents arrive at a party and let their kids run loose expecting the hostess to keep tabs on the kids. One kid always gets hurt. It never fails. On a few occasions, I’ve returned stray kids to parents who had no idea where their kids were and what they were doing. You have every right to do this.
5. Skip the fancy dinnerware. Disposable flatware and dinnerware has fancied itself up over the years. You can find everything from semi-formal to super casual. Disposable equals less cleanup. Who wants to spend time doing dishes or loading the dishwasher when there is a party going on outside. Not me.
6. Keep your distance. Sometimes you don’t have a choice of who attends especially when it’s family. There are many reasons for this, but regardless, there they are. One of the great things about summer parties is there is more space. You’re not confined to the living area or dining room like you are during the holiday season. Take advantage of that.
7. Beer free zone. If you know that certain guests don’t respond well to an overabundance of booze in their system, keep your party alcohol free. There are hundreds of simple recipes out there for alchohol free summer drinks that are delicious. Whip up some smoothies or slushies made with real fruit.
8. Set time limits. If you’re hosting a birthday party, or just having everyone over for dinner, it’s okay to have an arrival and departure time. When you extend invitations, make sure to specify the time when people will be arriving, but also, the time it ends. This is another thing I learned early on when hosting a summer party. I had guests at my house that lingered until after midnight after most of the other guests left hours earlier.
9. Don’t stress about desserts. With holiday parties, desserts are a big deal and can often be time consuming, however, during the summer, not so much. You also have to remember that it’s hot outside. Putting a platter of cupcakes or frosted brownies outside can end up being quite messy. Instead, slice up a few watermelon, grill some fruit and top with ice cream or throw together a s’mores bar.
10. Have fun! Like with holiday parties, something will always go wrong. Keep in mind, most things will go right. Don’t stress trying to throw the perfect summer party. Perfection is not something that is often achieved. Go with the flow, try to relax and enjoy yourself!