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Friends over for BBQ planning questions

I'm planning to have some friends over for an informal BBQ (just moved to San Francisco and would like to bring together different groups of friends). I'm thinking like 10-12 people or something like that. (all 20-something professionals)

I'm not really much of an entertainer myself (ex-wife would have been better at this) so hopefully the chowhounds out there can help me get by on my own...

Anyway, I've got a few questions...

(1) Planning on hosting on Oct. 10. I was going to put up a facebook event invite... when is the right time to do that? Now since I already know that that date works for some people?

(2) I live in a three-story flat (share backyard with two other apartments). Would it be okay to put notes on their doors (or something) requesting they don't also plan a party for the same day?

(3) I really can't afford (time or $) to get everything together myself for this... what (if anything) can I ask others to bring? I was thinking I should say that I'll buy the drinks (beer/wine) and/or meat and buns for grilling and then suggest that others could bring a side or dessert. Does that work?

(4) I'm definitely thinking informal... buffet style and eat when food is ready, rather than a sit-down type of affair. Any tips on how to make that work well?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. In the invite I would make it clear that its potluck and clearly state what you are providing. You can also make the invitations more personal and give everyone a category (appetizers, side dish, dessert) so you don't get 5 desserts and no side dishes. Or you can leave it up to the invitee and hope they ask or just go with the flow since it is going to be informal.

    Sending out invitations 2-3 weeks in advance is normal. And how bout inviting the other folks in your building rather than just leaving a note telling them not to use their back yard. I would never crash someone else's party but I might be a bit put off if someone told me I couldn't use my back yard. By inviting them to stop by you avoid that problem.

    And as far as having a buffet work well, just make sure you have a table or space large enough for what you are providing and what people are bringing and enough space for people to get to the food and then back to their table or place to sit and eat. Nothing like finally making it through the buffet line only to be trapped with no way to get back to your seat. Also have serving utensils ready to go.

    And if its just you, you might want to have someone help you organize things that day. If perhaps one of your earlier guests offers to help, say yes and then give them something to do like, "it would be great if you could make sure that all the food ends up on that table", or "you can be in charge of getting the first round of drinks going" or would you mind putting the paper goods out on the table. People are usually more than happy to help if you give them some basic direction.

    If its as informal as you say then everything should be fine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jesoda

      I agree about helping. I find most friends/family are willing to put out the tables, gather napkins, condiments etc.. A simple please and thank you, go a long way...it's not like you are having people over you don't like!

      I would think a note on the door would be great. Maybe a little info about it, and your number if they have questions or concerns.

      I was at a recent BBQ where everyone brought something but we needed all the pieces to complete the meal. IE, someone brought buns, someone brought potatoes, someone brought soda pop etc... It was a brilliant idea, and worked perfectly. But if you go pot luck, I would suggest making a few food groups - 3 people in the appetizer department, 3 people in chips/pretzels/pop, 1-2 dessert people..and then figure out the mains.. Hope that makes sense.

      As jesoda said - If its as informal as you say then everything should be fine.

    2. Providing the meats & buns and some starter drinks is a good idea. I might add a bag or two of chips as well (or have them in reserve, just in case). Maybe have an inexpensive sweet (bag of cookies or something) as a back up in case no desserts show up.

      I wouldn't do the category assigning thing unless people really want a definite assignment. Besides, it's the first time, right? See how it turns out. If all your friends turn out to be bag of chips/six-pack of beer types or all desserts all the time, you may need more explicit instructions in the future. But odds are it'll work out fine.

      I second the idea of inviting your neighbors. For all you know, they may already be planning a party for that day, so you need to check with them anyhow. Then while you're at it, you can invite them to stop by.

      Set out bins or containers for trash & recycling. Make it easy for people. Are there some chairs to sit in? If they reside outside, are they clean enough? If that chilly fog rolls in, can the party move inside? (I remember freezing my butt off at an outdoor concert in October in Golden Gate park once.)

      Have a good time!

      1. 1. I will echo that you need to be clear up front in the invitation this is a potluck if you are expecting to feel entitled to ask guests to bring anything. It's the Saturday of a minor holiday weekend, so be prepared for people to blow off the invite (fail to RSVP) and for no-shows. People (especially younger people, it seems) are far more casual about replies and social obligations than they used to be.

        2. I would ask other apartments first if they've planned anything for that day (they may have, it's a holiday weekend). I shudder at a cold note post to my door. You only have two other neighbors; you can deal personally with them.

        3. See 1 above.

        4. At a buffet that people have to eat on their lap, all food should be of a type that does not require cutting with a knife, nor should it have to be kept over heat. That should inform your menu choices and those of your potluck guests. Don't use the cheapest grade of plastic utensils, btw.

        1. It sounds like you are new to the area and this is the first potluck event, so I would avoid assigning specific categories until you can get an idea of what people's strengths are and whether they're the type who actually show up. Just put in the invite what you're providing and suggest others bring whatever they feel appropriate for a BBQ. If it ends up you get 5 potato salads and 3 chips but no dessert, then next time you may want to consider giving people a category of food.

          I'd also recommend using an invite other than just Facebook. Within my twentysomething group of friends, I have a few who don't use it at all, others who check once a month, and still others who are on 5x a day. Within the latter group, you'll probably have a few who put "maybe" as the answer and wait to see who else is going before deciding. I'd send out the invite two to three weeks in advance and invite the neighbors as well.

          1. How about Evite instead of facebook and as others have said, specify up front it's potluck and then ask in their reply that they let you know what they might want to bring based on you providing the meat and buns (I would provide that - people will bring their own drinks usually). You could jokingly say, "so we don't end up with just beer and meat" or something, so it's clear that people need to bring side dishes.

            I also agree with the others. MUST invite the 2 other neighbors. If you are not friendly, they likely won't attend, but it's rude to just put up a note suggesting they not use a common area. And if they do attend and grab food and leave, try not to get upset. They're not your friends.

            people need a table to eat at as much as possible. It's really irritating for women to eat food on their lap because you usually end up slopping it on your nice dress, and there's nowhere to set your drink. Do not be above putting out non-lawn furtniture on the lawn just for this occasion so that people have a place to sit where there's a table. That's JMO but I *hate* eating in my lap.

            Buffet is totally fine. Be sure to keep cold foods cold and don't leave the lid on hot foods so as to avoid any food poisoning.