How to host a stress-free party (without breaking the bank or going insane)

We are at that time of the year when we flitter from one party to the next. Life is busy and hurried, and inevitably your turn comes around to hosting. But hosting does not come naturally to all, and even if it does, being tired and busy can take its toll. So when you have to host your family or friends or colleagues or whoever, use this quick guide to ensure you take the stress out of impress, and enjoy the party as much as the guests.

1. Simplify

The main purpose of this website – simplify your life. When hosting, make everything simple. Invite only as many people as you can comfortably host. The more people you have over, the harder it becomes to keep everyone happy. Work out the menu with dishes that you can prepare in advance, or that need minimal fuss before service. Use shortcuts if there are any – buy pastry instead of making, order in a cake if you don’t have time (or skills) to bake, etc. Even better, get caterers in to do it for you…

2. Have a budget

Have a budget and stick to it. Decide how you want to divide the budget – how much are you spending on food, on drinks, on flowers, etc.

3. Pick a suitable date and invite your guests well in advance

Pick a date that that will give you enough time to plan. If you normally only get off from work very late on a Friday, then rather opt for a Saturday. If Saturdays are just crazy, then go for a Sunday lunch. Long weekends, weekends with major sporting events, school exam times; all of these events can limit the number of guests who would be able to attend. Avoid conflicting dates and times.

4. Do as much as you can before the guests arrive (even the day before)

Clean the house, set the table, make the punch, chill the wine, prep the veggies. Do anything that will not spoil or go bad overnight. Try and get as much of the running around work done as possible.

5. Enlist help

We are not all great at everything. If you cannot cook to save your life, order in. If your taste in music makes people want to sleep instead of boogie, ask a friend. Delegating a few tasks to friends or family who offered is key – ask them to pick up the ice, for instance.

6. Decide on the bar menu

Decide what you will be offering, and what you want guests to bring themselves. If you are giving wine, make sure that it is chilled. Have a signature cocktail in mind? Plan it out and ensure all the ingredients are available and ready. Bonus tip: pick a cocktail that can be made in bulk, and served in a jug, e.g. margarita, mojitos, pina coladas, etc. Steer clear of drinks that must be made and served immediately such as martinis, sex on the beach and so forth. You do not have to offer a full bar, usually, juice, water, and wine are sufficient. Set up the bar area the day before. On the day, bring out the ice and cold drinks and voila! Done. Bonus bonus tip: don’t have enough fridge space to chill the drinks or enough freezer space for all the ice? Use your washing machine! Fill your washing machine with ice and chill the drinks in there. As the ice melts the machine will drain the water leaving you with no mess and no water to empty the next day.

7. Create a playlist

Music is essential to set the tone and mood of a party and is also a key way of getting your guests to relax and interact. If you do not own enough music to make a sufficient playlist, make use of a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music – often these services give you a period of use at no charge.

8. If kids are going to be attending, set up a dedicated area for them to play in

If you can keep the kids happy, you can keep the parents happy, and then you are another step closer to a no-stress event. The adults will be able to enjoy the party a lot more if they know their kids are occupied, fed, and taken care of. Have a plan B for when the kids become restless and bored, for example, have a movie ready to be played or some other activity.

9. Let the guests serve themselves

Have a bar area set up with all of the things your guests might need to help themselves. This way you do not have to play bartender all night. Same with the food – set up buffet-style so that guests can informally help themselves.

Planning a party can seem like a daunting task, but having a clear idea of what you need to do and when you have to do it by will keep you organized. If you are organized, you are calm and stress-free. And if you are stress-free then you can enjoy your party. When working out your own timeline, double the time that you think something will take, and add extra time in for those unexpected surprises. And remember to schedule enough time to get ready yourself. Some of the items that you need to keep track of:

• Planning and inviting

• Following up on RSVPs

• Shopping

• Prepping and cleaning

• Decorating