“The number one mistake I see when hosts are setting up parties is that they do not consider the flow of traffic,” says Rachel Sherwood, food stylist, culinary and entertaining expert, and author of The Pretty Plate.
Fix: Keep food and drink stations separate, which encourages guests to circulate around the party. “By separating them it forces guests to move and mingle,” says Sherwood. “They can’t just sit in one place with access to all the food and drink they want.”
“If you serve red wine, assume some will get spilled,” says Carla McDonald, founder of The Salonniere, a website for entertaining inspiration.
Fix: Either don’t serve red wine or use McDonald’s “fool-proof way” to get rid of red wine stains. She recommends dabbing up as much of the spilled wine as possible, covering the stain with a spray of hydrogen peroxide, and a generous amount of baking soda. Let the stain solution do its job for about five minutes. Then vacuum the area and rinse it with water.
Don’t use carpet cleaning solutions, says McDonald, who explains they can bleach out your carpet color and create a noticeable ring.
Greg Jenkins of Bravo Productions, who has over 25 years of party planning experience, says hosts need to know how much their guests drink and what kinds of beverages they prefer. “If you have a heavy beer drinking crowd, don’t buy a ton of wine,” he says.
Fix: The typical guest has two drinks in the first hour of the party, says Jenkin, noting that number tapers off after that. Still that’s just a guideline. He says younger guests may drink consistently throughout the party. Trim your party time from four hours to just two or three and you can prevent guests from overindulging in your booze.
Try a signature drink to control costs and keep guests happy. Don’t forget to offer non-alcoholic drunks too, like tea, waters and sodas.
Tired of throwing out half-empty cups because guests can’t figure out which drink is theirs?
Fix: Label all drinks. For a few bucks you can invest in reusable drink labels or reusable bottle tags. If your guests are drinking from water bottles or plastic cups, give them a permanent marker to write their name on the cup. Everyone will know which cup is theirs and you’ll save money by not having so many wasted drinks.
If you feel like the waiter at your own party, it’s time to rethink your strategy so you can spend more time with your guests.
Fix: Plan ahead and make sure your menu requires only a few steps to be done at the start of the party with minimal upkeep.
“As a host you will most likely know most of the guests attending so it is easy to be pulled in many directions,” says Sherwood. “Make a point to have focus on just your guests at the beginning and end of the event.”
If you can afford it, hiring someone to prepare and serve food and drinks can be a great help for the host.
Fix: Label foods and ingredients when possible. If you can’t avoid foods that could be allergy triggers, at least provide separate serving spoons and forks for these items so guests don’t mix and match utensils in different dishes. Also try to serve a variety of foods that are suitable for guests with allergies including peanut free and gluten free dishes.
Feeling overwhelmed by a stack of empty plates, cups, utensils and napkins? You’re not alone. This is a big party pitfall.
Fix: Make sure you have easy to find and use trash and recycling bins.
“If a guest sees a trash they are more likely to use it, if not clutter can easily collect on tables,” says Sherwood, who also suggests designating one or two people to do quick trash pickups once in a while during your get together.
It’s a gross-out moment when you realize how many hands have grabbed chips from communal snack bowls.
Fix: Use serving spoons for main dishes and sides. When possible give guests pre-portioned servings, especially for foods that are likely to otherwise be touched by bare and potentially dirty hands. That means giving partygoers small bags of chips or individual packs of cookies. If possible, hire help to serve foods either tray-passed or at food stations.
Don’t forget to have hand sanitizers at various places throughout the party.
Think twice before hosting all of your family, friends and co-workers at the same event. Do you really want your boss mingling with your Friday-night poker buddies?
Fix: Review your “audience demographics,” says Jenkins, who suggests hosting, “a casual barbecue for your family, a summer cocktail reception for your colleagues and a game night for your friends.”
Fix: Stock up on frozen appetizers purchased from club stores or the grocery store. If you don’t use them for the party, save the frozen snacks for the next get-together.
“If you’ve planned ahead and still run out of food, raid your refrigerator or have someone run out and get fast food and then place the food on the most beautiful serving pieces you have,” says McDonald, noting fast food French fries “presented in silver mint julep glasses can go a long way at a party.”