A big party doesn’t have to be a big headache

We hosted a potluck party over the weekend for about 40 people from the community chorus that I sing with. Though we intended to have the festivities in the back yard, it rained steadily all day long. Despite the deluge, everyone enjoyed catching up with friends and sharing good food, and the preparations were not that difficult or expensive. If you have the space at home, don’t be afraid to invite a crowd the next time you feel like celebrating!

Here are my top six tips for hosting a fuss-free party at home:

  • Keep it casual! If your budget won’t allow for a huge spread for 50+ people, plan a potluck. You can either assign groups of guests a category (side dish/appetizer/dessert), or just take your chances that you’ll have a good mix of dishes.
  • Borrow supplies from your friends and neighbors. We borrowed a tent and tables from a friend of the chorus, more tables and chairs from a neighbor, two beverage coolers from another neighbor, and buffet plates and flatware from yet another friend. My parents loaned us their slow cooker and chafing dish.
  • You don’t need to spend money or time on decorations (unless you really enjoy it!). We cut flowers and greenery from the garden and put them in glass jars for centerpieces. We used our regular, mismatched tablecloths to cover the folding tables–it looks homier than color-coordinated plastic table covers.
  • Choose a main dish that you can prepare ahead. Some people like to grill, but I think it’s difficult to coordinate for a large crowd. I made pulled pork a couple days ahead of time and kept it warm in several slow cookers during the party. Buns, cole slaw, pickles, and some homemade macaroni and cheese were my contributions. The slaw and mac-n-cheese were also easy to make ahead of time, so the day of the party I could focus on setting out all the supplies, and guests didn’t need to wait long for the food to be served.
  • Have separate stations for plates and utensils, food, and drinks. Don’t try to fit everything on one table–you’ll have a traffic jam when people try to serve themselves.
  • Designate areas for dirty dishes. Clearly label garbage and recycling containers, or bins for dishes and glasses. If you invite the right people, they may even load the dishwasher for you!

Have you hosted a large party at your house? What was the occasion?

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