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Hosting a party is hard work

My partner and I had a party last Saturday evening. It went fairly smoothly, but the amount of work involved was more than I had planned for. Between coming up with the guest list, planning the menu, cleaning the house, doing the shopping and preparing the food it was quite an endeavor.

And don't get me started on the guesswork in planning for anywhere from 5 to 35 guests, because people did not reply to the invite, or waited until the day before to let us know one way or the other. Fortunately, we figured about 20 people would show up, which is exactly what happened.

The day of the party we were so discombobulated that we forgot to put the white wine out, and considering it was a wine & cheese party it was a major goof on our part. We just plain forgot. We also forgot to get more than one kind of cheese. I don't know why. We were just overwhelmed with it all. Luckily a few people brought some cheese, and wine too.

I don't know how people manage to throw together parties on a regular basis. We made lists of things to do, and still managed to forget things.

The one thing I will remember for the next party is that if it doesn't get done before the first guest arrives, it doesn't get done at all. It was nearly impossible to work while the guests are needing your attention.

And why does everyone congregate in the kitchen! We have a big comfortable living room right next to it with two sofas and comfy chairs, but 15 out of the 20 people never left the kitchen the entire time they were there!

Ok. That's my vent for today.

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  1. They are indeed a ton of work. SO used to host regular holiday parties for friends - anywhere from 5 to 35 people. Between, the shopping (me), cleaning (SO), cooking (both of us), planning and keeping people supplied w/ food and drink we rarely actually enjoyed the festivities. The clean up was attended by both of us but I usually took the brunt of it because I wasn't willing to "let it wait until tomorrow".

    We rarely host anymore. Too expensive and too much work.

    Friends of ours host parties on a regular basis, throughout the year. Mostly it's family (35 - 50 people) but sometimes friends are invited as well (up to 100 people). Because we're considered family we get invited to almost all of their parties and I have to say I am truly in awe. They have it down to a science and truly enjoy themselves and the house is never trashed like ours always seemed to be.

    1. Parties are very hard. I've done some really complicated ones in the past, and as a result convinced myself not to entertain often.

      My method is to plan it to death and make detailed lists and schedules. I do fairly well with this.

      My failing? I am so exhausted and obsessed with the details by the time the party happens that I (in my own judgement) fail as a host!

      I tend to be running around so much that I forget to relax, enjoy myself, and make sure that others are having fun as well. I forget to make sure peoples' drink are full, for one; I have nightmares afterwards that everyone spent the party trying to decide whether they should die of thirst or get it themselves!

      Thanks for the vent opportunity.

      I hope you enjoyed your party? The kitchen is usually the best place to be at a party, anyway.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: sandylc

        Hosted a birthday BBQ for 20 over the weekend. Had shopping lists, prep lists, oven lists. Everything went as scheduled. Well, except for a tater tot that fell off the tray and scorched on the bottom of the oven.

        But, yes, planning and hosting is hard work. Does get easier once you've gotten the hang of it.

      2. Hi Reston,

        Consider it a compliment that people congregate in your kitchen! It means it was a welcome, homey space. My kitchen is tiny (I mean....really tiny)....but my aunts with ample kitchens would "move" people by giving them platters of food to carry out to the living room. Subtle hints! :-)

        The planning for, execution of, and clean up after a party is a big deal, no matter what, unless you have domestic staff (which most folks don't). Add to that the demands of daily life, work, etc, and it's a lot.

        The only thing I'd add is that what you think is a big deal, probably isn't....it sounds like your party was a great success, and you should be pleased indeed.

        1. It gets easier the more you do it.

          My #1 advice? Now that the party is over, but still fresh in your mind, write down all the lessons learned -- how much wine you drank - what cheese disappeared first - what cheese didn't get touched -- don't forget to put the white wine out -- who was invited -- who showed -- what you served -- what was too big a pain in the butt to do again -- what you wished you'd done -- what went really well -- everything that you think you need to know the next time you throw a party.

          Then the next time you want to have a party - pull that list up -- then all the need-to-know stuff is right there in black-and-white in front of you.

          I do this the morning after every big party -- I've even been know to go through the recycle bin and count how much of what beverages we drank -- and it really, really helps keep me on track for the next one.

          and a ps to sandylc's post -- accept before you even send the invitation that something will go straight to hell....so don't obsess, smooth it over the best you can, and enjoy your guests.

          9 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            You are SO right about the postmortem, which I regularly think of doing, don't do, and live to regret not doing. I have, however, observed that people are drinking a lot less than they used to but that you simply never know how much they will eat. Flexible systems are essential.

            I find that you do indeed have to have everything done before the first guest arrives. Even the ones who come early to "help" often require attention that distracts me and makes me forget simple things like putting out a dish for the olive pits. But having precise jobs ready for the helpers helps.

            Many people actually love to help during the party, especially guests who don't know many people. After years of telling them not to bother, I now understand and take advantage, but you have to have a system for the helping, such as designated places to put used silverware and dishes. People don't actually enjoy seeing their hostess looking/acting like the maid, so I do try to remove my apron at some point and sit down and talk to some guests.

            When I bought my dishwasher, my main concern was the noise level. It's quiet enough that I can run it during a dinner party, much less a big buffet thing, and it definitely helps cleanup to have one load already done by the time the guests leave.

            The bathroom is important: I try to keep a nightlight on so the guests can find the switch. Guest towels are a must, but hide your used bath towels or some people will use them, not wanted to mess up the guest towels. I find this disconcerting on many levels, but experience has taught me simply to be ready. I am still creeped out, however, when I see the guest towels untouched.

            With age and experience, it does get easier, and I no longer ask myself why am I doing this. I'm really very happy I have a home that people want to visit and seem to have fun in.

            1. re: mbfant

              oh, the bottle count is for soda, juice, sparkling water, etc., too -- I grossly overbought on sodas a few years ago, so the count helped bring the count back in line with what people actually consume.

              1. re: mbfant

                <you simply never know how much they will eat. Flexible systems are essential>

                Ain't it the truth! One friend is -- maybe-- a size 4, and she can outeat a hearty trucker! I once made what I thought was plenty of food, thinking the Mr. and I would have leftovers the next night. After Size 4 ate her 3rd helping, I forevermore counted her as 3 guests for estimating portions!

                And the powder room towels: one friend uses those decorative paper guest towels. Part of me think they're more sanitary than a guest towel, other part thinks slightly tacky. Opinions?

                1. re: pine time

                  Lol pine time I am very petite, jeans size 23/0, and I can easily out eat most of my friends, because they are all "watching their figures."

                  I don't think paper guest towels are tacky and I certainly use them if available, but for my own gatherings they are a bit too fussy. I guess it comes down to knowing your guests. A lot of my friends would have more of a problem with the paper guest towels being unsustainable and wasteful, than with a nice hand towel being germy. Presumably, everyone who is using the towel needs to dry their hands because they've just carefully scrubbed them with hot soapy water (or so I'd like to believe)!

                  1. re: pine time

                    I refresh towels in the guest bath once or twice during the evening, depending on how many people and how long it lasts. I have learned to have two complete sets of replacement towels tucked away and go in and change when needed.

                    1. re: jlhinwa

                      I hang them in double layers, and check them when I go to the bathroom myself during the evening.

                  2. re: mbfant

                    I was just at a party where the bathrooms had only wet/used bath towels in them. I shook off my hands really hard and them wiped them on my pants legs.

                    1. re: sandylc

                      I started nodding my head, reading this! It was exactly this scenario that had me reconsidering using those decorative paper bathroom towels.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Were you at my SIL's? If those wet/used bath towels were circa 1970 and ratty beyond what we would even be using for shop rags....
                        Gag. It's one of my biggest pet peeves in the entertaining fails department. And what the heck do these people dry their hands on day to day? Or maybe they just never wash their hands after using the bathroom?

                  3. Here's my party timeline:
                    1-2 months out: HEY! Wouldn't it be GREAT to have some people over? I'll invite them and it will be SO FUN!!

                    3 weeks out: I don't even know if this is going to happen, I've only heard from a few people and things are getting busy. Wondering if I should just cancel?

                    1 week out: Now EVERYONE is suddenly coming, which is great, but.... I have to rethink the food! And if x is bringing y, she's vegetarian and he's lactose intolerant and everything I had thought of had meat and/or cheese so.... to Chowhound to beg for recipe ideas!

                    2 days out: UGH! This week got so busy, I'm so stressed, why are these people coming over and the house is a mess and now I have to go to 4 different markets to get everything and OH NO! I need chairs!

                    Day of: IHATETHISWHATWASITHINKINGNOTHINGISCLEANISTHATBOILINGWASTHISRUGALWAYSDIRTYWHEREISTHEICE?!!!!

                    During: Smiling! Chatting! [Internal monologue: get out of the kitchen! Is the music right? People ate all of the cheese and none of the crackers? DAMNIT still not enough ice! Seriously, get out of the kitchen. Did I start the desserts? Refill the nuts! How did I forget nuts?! Will everyone hate this because there are no nuts?! SMILE! LAUGH! Introduce people! Refill the drinks! Refill the dips! MAKE MORE DIP!]

                    After: How the hell did someone get a cocktail wiener behind the couch? Is that one of my flower vases with half of a martini in it?

                    Next day: Thank GD that's over! Oh, thanks for calling, you had fun? Oh good!

                    Next week: HEY! Wouldn't it be great to have some people over?!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                      Ha!

                      I once read an excerpt from an interview with a woman who had a reputation for always being a gracious host whom everyone loved and thought a lot of.

                      Her take? She felt that everyone always took advantage of here and that she never got what SHE wanted because she was always so busy pleasing others.

                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                        LOL! This sounds a bit like the party I had in high school where I threw out an "after the football game" invite to 4 people 1 week before the football game - and representatives of 4 colleges and 7 high schools showed up. Luckily, my Mom was very understanding. :-)

                          1. re: hyacinthgirl

                            Thanks hyacinthgirl! This post made my day. It's almost eerie how similar it is to my party timeline. Down to the menu adjustment scramble and the "people ate all of the cheese and none of the crackers?" dismay. I adore throwing parties but they can definitely be stressful crazy-making! It's nice to know I'm not the only one on the party roller coaster.

                            BTW- your parties sound like they are awesome.

                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                              Your day of statement hits the mark for me. Who are these people and whatever made me invite them?