Party Shortcuts

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Birthdays. Graduations. Special Events. Oh. My! Party shortcuts and planning are the only way I survive hosting events over the years.Party Shortcuts – Episode 466

Birthdays. Graduations. Special Events. Oh. My! Party shortcuts and planning are the only way I survive hosting events, and in the many years of motherhood, grandmotherhood (yes, that is a thing), and having the largest house so of course family comes here. Join me as I share my best secrets for hosting with you.

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The latest and greatest party I finished hosting was the Easter Sunday meal. We had 24 people, then 28, and then 29, and we ended with 32 people in all. We had sixteen children, sixteen and under, and seventeen adults. Truthfully, the numbers this year threw me because we typically have a sit-down meal – buffet style, but still, everyone has a seat and the odd number at one big table with extensions and additional tables added was a bit of a juggle. But, we did it and everything went beautifully down to the previously prepared casseroles and dishes and the last-minute baked ham and tenderloin roast.

My short-cuts have taken me years to perfect and it has taken years of slowly buying one new thing to add to my party arsenal, but it has been money-saving in the long run. I tried many different things. One year I used disposable plates. The next year I added disposable utensils, cups, and napkins, but I didn’t like how they looked and they were expensive especially if I wanted party store variety rather than bargain-basement styrofoam.

The first thing I did was gather tablecloths. Not super expensive or linen, but cotton. Something that would hold up to years of washing and continue to look good. Also, it had to be something that could handle the invariable stains and spills. I ended up with two color schemes that also went with the colors of my accent walls. One was a deep burgundy table cloth that I paired with matching cloth napkins, and the next was a golden color that I paired with blue napkins. I made napkin rings after the ones I wanted were five dollars each! I used shower curtain plastic circles as well as wood dowels – each had different colors of ribbon wrapped around and glued in place. For the wood, I used a light, glimmery (not glittery – I do not like glitter!) and those were translucent and so pretty.

So with tables done, I searched for decorations that could be used for birthdays as well as holidays and found sales on candles after the summer bridal season in white and off-white. I purchased these back in 2005 when my daughter married and I still use them on special occasions – I don’t light them, although I have them they don’t look as great placed out as decorations.

My biggest expense was cut flowers that I purchased. I stretched bouquets with baby’s breath and smaller vases to place on the tables. It stretches your flower budget remarkably well!

Next was food – what do I serve that will again not break the bank? First off appetizers help tremendously in cutting down the food cost. It can be as easy as a cheese platter and crackers, veggies, and dip. This year I assigned appetizers to the guests and it was remarkable in that they arrived on time or early (then you have free help if you need last-minute things) and it took the early prep work off my list.

Baked ham is relatively inexpensive if you do not buy the already sliced and prepared. I know many people like the honey-baked ham, but a large pre-cooked ham roast you get at the grocery store can feed an army. Potatoes are another way to fill people up and of course, there are rolls. Round it off with a salad and chips (if you have kids) and you are ready to go.

I bake or prep casseroles ahead of time so they need to be taken out to warm up slightly before baking or it take way too long. Our family is a fan of lasagna and at any given time I have no less than three prepared in the freezer ready to go. All it takes is a salad and bread to round off that easy meal. (Well, easy once it’s prepared.)

So last minute and party shortcuts in a nutshell:

  1. Collect reusable table cloths, napkins, and serving trays.
  2. Use plastic wear and disposable items when there is a large crowd, or want less clean up.
  3. Assign a dish for others to bring.
  4. Plan out the menu at least three weeks in advance and shop sales.
  5. Bake and freeze whenever possible.
  6. Set out tables and chairs the day before with assigned seating. Guest appreciate this and of course, people can change or move, but it gives everyone a place to sit and put their stuff.
  7. Use name cards for place settings (I keep mine year after year).
  8. Use fresh flowers for a splash of color.
  9. Take out the trash the day before (don’t forget to clean the bathroom guests will use.)
  10. Make a time chart of when dishes need to be baked or reheated as well as when to take things out of the refrigerator or oven (once items go in!).
  11. Use juice boxes for the little kids – so much easier and less spilled.
  12. Have water, lemonade and tea for everyone else – if people want special drinks they can bring them.
  13. Use plastic cups with a sharpy to keep everyone’s drinks straight.
  14. Have one or two people in charge to help you.
  15. Assign clean-up!

As much as I try to prepare ahead of time there is always last-minute things that need my attention, and truthfully the hostess rarely gets to mingle with the guests until the meal is served! In our home we have the oldest go through the line first, and when it is the parent’s turn with the little ones, they can get their children’s meals. Usually, everyone has snacked on appetizers that no one is starving and it works out well.



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