I have a fairly large extended family and I grew up with a lot of relatives nearby, so family get-togethers and large family holiday meals (I’m talking 50 -90 people) were totally normal to me as a kid. In fact, until I hit junior high, I thought pretty much everyone had family meals which required moving the furniture against the walls and setting up long tables to accommodate the crowd.
I was so excited when my husband and I bought our first home and were able to host Thanksgiving for the family. However, I never really understood, until that day, what a production it is to make sure the event comes off smoothly with a minimal amount of yelling, last-minute runs to the grocery store, and the inevitable extra guest or forgotten potluck dish which throws the entire production out of balance.
That first Thanksgiving went well, thanks to both my wonderful mother and my mother-in-law showing up early in the morning to ensure the turkey was properly cooked, the tables set, and all the sides ready to go at the right time.
Today, I’ve hosted many get-togethers, large and small, with lots of advance notice and sometimes, just a few hours. Impromptu gatherings have become part of the fabric of our lives and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
It can be stressful – coordinating food, cleaning and prepping the house, making sure everyone has what they need – it is a lot of work. So, let me share what I’ve learned along the way which will make your next event easier.
First, I am a list maker. If you have a husband, kids, or other helpers, a list is your guide and everyone’s roadmap to a successful party plan.
The list is always posted on the fridge, with big blocks to check off, including times that items must be completed, and any other general instructions. The list avoids fighting, not knowing what to do next, and playing the blame game when things go south. So, now you are asking, what is on that list? Grab my free printable list here to get started on your own plan.
Putting the Plan to Paper
- First, plan out the pre-party activities – these are the things you can do a few days before or the day before. If it is impromptu party – these are the rush items you do first (quick clean of bathrooms, pick up food from grocery store, bring tables and chairs from storage, etc).
- Next, walk through what must be done for you to feel ready for company. List out what needs to be done first, second, and so on- include times and when the task must be completed. These are tasks that need to occur the day of or possibly the night before, but should be finished one hour before guests arrive.
- Then, list out what needs to be done in the hour before the party begins – last minute prep work on food, setting tables, and putting out drinks and appetizers.
- Make another list of what needs to be put out with the main entrees – side dishes, condiments, plates, napkins, cutlery. List it all out so you don’t have to remember it when guests are asking questions, kids are running about, and general chaos is overtaking the group.
- Finally, make an after the party list. This one is for you and your family either after everyone leaves or the following day. List all the clean up to be done, what needs to be returned if you borrowed anything, and what household tasks have to be done.
Now, armed with your lists, know that you are ready to host anything. If you do a lot of impromptu parties, I have a list of grocery items to keep in stock – paper plates, napkins, cups, cutlery, bags of chips for the pantry, and of course, some quick bake cookies or frozen dough in the freezer. My mom taught me this trick and it really comes in handy and lets me relax when friends and family come over on a beautiful day.
I will confess, as much as I enjoy company, I am a little obsessed with order in my home and I have trouble sleeping when I know there is a mess. So, I tend to do all the tasks on the after party list immediately after everyone leaves. It is just so much nicer to wake up to a clean and orderly home, but that is just me. No judgment if you leave everything but putting away the food until the next day! I’m just weird that way.
Join the Conversation
What tricks do you have to help you create a fun family gathering? Share them in the comments section – I would love to learn about how you manage your family gatherings.