Monday, April 30, 2018

If You're Hosting A Graduation Or Summer Season Party, Keep These 13 Things In Mind...

On May 5th, Lisa and I are hosting a graduation party for our dear friend, Kim, to commemorate the completion of her college associates degree. It's our gift to her. She was instructed to do 2 things. Hand out invitations to those she wanted to invite up. That's it. We're handling the rest. Appetizers. The meal. Desserts.

This isn't the first big party that we've hosted since moving into our home in 2012. It certainly won't be the last. Although we've cut down on the number of gatherings we host, we have a couple planned for this year. The first is Kim's graduation party. The second is Lisa's 50th Birthday Backyard Bash in August.

Backyard party season is right around the corner. Graduations. Birthdays. Family cookouts. Whatever the occasion may be, here are a few things I've learned over the years to make things a little easier and less expensive.

1. BYOB. I include this on all invitations. I even go the extra step and include what that means in parentheses. In my book, and maybe this is a generational thing, BYOB translates to Bring Your Own Beverages. Trust me, this takes a lot of pressure off when you're hosting a party. Let the guests bring their personal coolers stocked with their favorite beverages whether it's alcoholic beverages or non-alcoholic.

2. Include what's being served on the invitations. One of the biggest things I've learned over the past couple of decades of hosting parties is that people genuinely want to contribute. To make this easy for everyone, I like to include a list of what will be served the day of the event. This gives people an idea of the theme. For the graduation party, someone offered to make a vegetable platter, a fruit salad, and an array of chips, crackers, pretzels, and an assortment of dips. All of those offerings accompanied our menu perfectly.

3. Spend lots of extra time with the kids. Our kids always know when we're prepping for a big party. They'll be glued to our sides and restless. During those times, we make sure to give them lots of extra indoor and outdoor playtime and snacks. Because. The day of the party, we keep them secured in various rooms so guests do not have access to them and they can't bolt out open doors. Safety first with the kids. They're our priority. Always.

4. Keep it simple. From as far back as I can remember, any gathering we had, especially during the Summer season, included simple fare. No one cares how long it took to make a dish. No one cares how much money was spent on a dish. What matters is how it tastes. Simple is better.

5. Plan ahead. We've been planning this graduation party for well over a month and we knew what the menu would include. During that time, we picked up items that were on sale including a honey baked spiral ham, boneless chicken breasts, and Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise.

6. Do all of the prep work the day before. When planning your menu, make sure it's stuff you can prep and make the day before. For the graduation party we're hosting, about 90% of what we're serving will be made the day before. Our menu includes an assortment of finger sandwiches, homestyle potato salad, a couple of Italian pasta salads, cookies, a homemade graduation cake, and additional items that guests are bringing.

7. Say yes. When someone asks, "What can I bring" or "Do you want me to bring something" leave that door open. Say yes. Offer a few suggestions. Like us, people don't like to show up empty-handed, but sometimes, they're unsure of what's needed. Or, they're not aware of what other guests are bringing. Two people asked Lisa what they could bring. She assigned one a vegetable platter and another a fruit salad.

8. Don't forget about the size of your refrigerator. Originally, we wanted to do a selection of pies for dessert. Unfortunately, between the many platters of finger sandwiches and salads we were making for the graduation party that needed to be refrigerated, we knew there wasn't enough room in our refrigerator to keep the pies chilled. A week before the party, we altered our dessert menu slightly. Cookies and a homemade graduation cake.

9. Hit up the dollar stores. This is our one-stop shop for sturdy platters and bowls. We discovered this back in 2012 when picking up supplies for our wedding. Most of the dollar stores have a large assortment of party supplies including, but not limited to, platters of all shapes and sizes, serving bowls ranging from dip sized to potato salad size. They have paper plates, plastic utensils, napkins, tablecloths, etc.

10. Extend gratitude and shoutouts. When the day of the party finally arrives and people proudly show up with their platters of appetizers, bowls of specialty salads, casserole dishes, etc., make a big deal about it. Especially when people are populating the buffet table of scrumptious foods. Point out the dishes that other people contributed. For example, one of dear neighbor friends always provides an assortment of homemade dips with crackers, chips, and pretzels. We have deemed her the Queen of dips. Another one of our neighbor friends is famous for her crockpot beef and beans. We have another neighbor friend who makes a killer potato salad. Compliment those people. Give them a shout out.

11. Allow people to participate. Last year when we hosted our Backyard Anniversary Party, I walked into our kitchen and discovered Lisa and our friend packaging up the food and cleaning up. At another party, I discovered one of our neighbor friends doing dishes. I did my best to intervene, but their attitude was, "No. This is how we were raised. To help with cleanup and other stuff." They gave me THE LOOK. I knew to back away. I couldn't argue with them because I do the same thing.

12. You are not required to send everyone home with leftovers. There was a time when I planned the menu around sending people home with leftovers and making sure I had enough to-go containers to do just that. In other words, I'd make a ton of extra food and spend about $50 on plastic containers. Those days ended about 15 years ago. Now, my priority is getting a head count, making extra just in case, and that's it. When you have people over for an event, it's up to them to get their fill while at the event. It's not your job to make sure people have a complete meal for the next day.

13. Enjoy yourself. At some point during the day of the event, you have to pull away for a few minutes and tell yourself, "I've done all that I can" and "This is it. Help yourselves. Feast. Enjoy." Then, grab yourself a plate, freshen up your drink, get out there, enjoy, and socialize.

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