charcoal briquettes

photo by booleansplit
Hosting a party can be stressful. It's easy to get caught up in the mile-long to-do list of preparations. If you're not well organized, you'll be exhausted and won't get a chance to enjoy your guests. With a few pointers, you can make it look like you slaved over every detail when, in fact, you simply planned better and smarter.

Here are a few planning and hosting tips to make your next party run more smoothly.

ORGANIZE WITH A COUNTDOWN LIST: Two weeks before your party, split necessary tasks into days. For example, day seven before the party can include borrowing any folding tables or chairs you need. Day three can include grocery shopping for your food and supplies, and selecting what you're going to wear. Day two before the party can be your cleaning day. The day before the party can include tasks such as setting the table, buying perishables and preparing cut vegetables.

CONFIRM GUEST COUNT: Send your invitations two weeks before your party. Request replies. Follow up to finalize your guest list if you have to. Don't take on too many guests on your own. Eight to 10 guests is reasonable, whereas 50 is too many for one person to manage without help. If you're planning for a larger group, consider an outdoor party. You can plan activities or games to keep the party rolling along, but have a backup plan in case of rain.

Your menu plan should be simple and include recipes you feel comfortable making and serving. It's not the time to rely on new or complicated recipes. Choose some food that can be prepared in advance so you're not trapped in the kitchen. Serving multiple appetizers and finger foods cuts down on your work. It cuts down on the amount of cutlery needed and allows guests something to eat while standing up and mingling. Choosing a party theme or style can help you with not only your food plan but decorations and music, too. Imagine how much easier a dessert party could be than a dinner party. A casual backyard barbecue is going to be much less stressful than a more formal sit-down meal. The easiest way to decide is based on the guests you plan to have attend, your style, your budget and available space.

Ask your guests whether they have any food allergies or dislikes. For example, if you have guests that don't drink alcohol, provide enough soft drinks or "mocktails" for them so they don't feel uncomfortable. While sit-down meals are wonderful, some food can be served buffet-style. It's much easier to use slow cookers to keep some foods hot and let guests serve themselves. Plan on sending guests home with leftovers. Have containers ready and offer food. Some guests will be happy to bring some home. This ensures none of the party food goes to waste.

RECRUIT HELP: Don't try to do everything by yourself. Have family or friends help. Often, guests who arrive early want to help. Accept their aid graciously, and delegate simple tasks such as setting up the music or helping with the ice. This gives you the space to get things done. If guests call ahead and offer to bring a dish, let them. If they ask what to bring, suggest foods that don't require heating or extra work. If they offer to help clean up, why say no? Don't try to do it all. Food and organization add to the success of a party, but it's the host(ess) who sets the tone. Enjoy so your guests can, too.