With holiday gatherings possibly scaling down a bit this season, I wanted to share some of my best tips for hosting a small party at home. Since I’ve always lived in small apartments and town homes, I’ve learned the best ways to successfully entertain a small group of people from what to serve, where to serve it, and other must know tips.
When I host a party, a big goal of mine is to be able to enjoy the party and my guests. I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen working on food while my guests mix and mingle. With the right planning and preparation, you can not only host a great party but also enjoy it!
My tips for hosting a small party at home will hopefully help you plan, prep and enjoy your next gathering.
plan easy to make and eat appetizers
I’m starting off with one of my go to tips for any party I host. For a small party, I plan easy to prep and make appetizers. I plan three different types of snacks, (1) chips and dip (2) finger foods and (3) something sweet. You also want something easy to eat while possibly standing or also holding a beverage. Think small 1-2 bite snacks, no silverware required, and something that won’t fall apart when eaten.
Queso and tortilla chips are one of my favorites to serve. You can buy it ready made and just heat up. If you want to make a dip, opt for something you can make ahead of time and store in the fridge or quickly re-heat.
For finger foods, a cheese board is really easy to put together. I usually put mine out at least 30 minutes prior to the party start time, so the cheese has time to soften and little. Another easy finger food, yummy snacks in the frozen food aisle. Trader Joe’s is my go to place for this to pick up flatbread pizzas, mini tacos, and other assorted goodies. I try to pick ones that all have the same oven temperature cooking time, so I can cook all at once.
With all the salty snacks, I definitely love having something sweet. Pick something that is an individual serving like cookies, cupcakes, or brownies. This way guests can serve themselves. If you want to serve a cake or pie, I recommend pre-slicing so guests can grab a piece when they want one, unless it’s a birthday cake of course.
plan 2-3 refreshment options
While the drink choices may depend on your guest list, 2-3 options is a good range for a small gathering. When having my girlfriends over, I typically have a red and white wine option. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are my go to choices since they are popular types of wine and pair well with party snacks.
Also, be sure to have a non-alcoholic beverage option like iced tea, sparking water, or soda. I usually opt to have a flavored sparkling water option for my guests. If you are going to have drinks that need ice, start prepping the ice early! I will start creating bags from my ice maker a few days in advance and store in the freezer.
plan two gathering areas
Large or small, all parties need some kind of space plan. Think about where you want your guests to gather that will have enough space and seating. We bring extra chairs to our patio and add a few folding chairs to our living and dining area to accommodate more people during a small party. We also have a large kitchen island that can accommodate a large group of people all hanging out.
put the food where you want people to gather
People tend to gather near the food, so an easy way to ensure guests end up in your pre-planned gathering areas is to place the food there. If I want my guests to feel welcome to hang out both outside and in our dining area, I will place snacks in both places along with plates and napkins. For indoors, I typically place food on our kitchen island since our place is open concept. It allows guests to gather around the island or sit at the dining table and still feel part of the conversation. I will place a snack or two on the dining table too.
let guests help themselves
Set out all the serving tools necessary for guests to help themselves to the different food options. You can also place name cards in front of the dishes, so guests will know what each item is. If you have a guest with a food allergy or dietary restriction, you can use the name cards to let them know.
For drinks, I always offer and serve my guests a beverage upon arrival and then let them know to feel free to help themselves. I re-check throughout the party to make sure the main beverages are good and open wine bottles, refill pitchers or coolers as necessary. And even though, I let guests know they can help themselves. I will still offer refills when I see an empty glass. Some people will feel more at home at my house, and others may need a bit to relax and start serving themselves.
put on background music
Background music can help set the mood and ambiance of the party. A few of my favorites depending on the party – 80s Music Collection, Acoustic Covers, Piano or Jazz Music. For the Holiday season, I sometimes opt for a Christmas movie in the background. The Hallmark Christmas movies are great choice, or you can put on a dvd or stream a classic Christmas movie.
point out guest need to know items
Personally, I really like when someone lets me know where the bathroom is at their house when it’s my first visit. This way I don’t have to interrupt a conversation or wander around later looking for it. When a guest arrives, point out a few need to know things like bathroom locations or where they can store their coat or purse. Basically anything that they need to know to feel welcome and at home. Sometimes I have also been told of pets that may be walking around or stored in a locked bedroom.
I hope you find my tips for hosting a small party at home helpful. These tips can work for holiday parties, birthday parties, book club gatherings, or just having your gal pals over to catch up.
Looking to create an epic charcuterie board for your next party? Check out THIS POST where I break down how to build one step by step.
| a few of my party essentials |