I wanted to share some of the wins from the last party we hosted for our little guy Asher, because it was an overall big win for me personally. I really enjoy hosting gatherings with people that I love, and sometimes hosting can feel stressful but I’m learning slowly how to simplify what I do so I can truly enjoy the fruits of my labor. What’s the point of doing it otherwise, right? If you’re a scroller, then scroll just past the family pictures and you’ll see the top tips I’ve learned so far for big backyard gatherings! The rest of you, feel free to read on 🙂
Let’s just start off by saying that I’m not trying to be Martha Stewart here. At one point in my life, I think that may have been a tiny dream of mine to aspire to be like her, and she still is a creative genius, but what she does is just not what I do. I like things a little more simple. Over the past few years, as I’ve really started to pay attention to what makes me happy, things like food, wine, entertaining, fundraising, and gardening are just a few of the things that hit the top of the list (yes of course family and friends are at the very top). They always have been but I was trying to do it all the wrong way. I wanted to do it all at levels above what I was capable; either I was lacking finances, skills, or even just the natural knack for something. Go figure, I overthought everything and put the pressure on myself to make it perfect, and none of it was very fun.
I am still not always the best at dialing it back but I’m getting better and it’s allowing me to enjoy the things I love. I’m doing the everyday and average Martha Stewart, and I love it and am SO proud of it. I get excited after every new recipe share, party plan, or new plant that I keep alive. My willingness to just be average in this world but AMAZING for me, let’s me gain all the good out of everything that I do. If anyone else out there finds hosting overwhelming or trying new wines daunting because you don’t know how to make the perfect souffle or you don’t detect tobacco notes (yes there are tobacco notes in some wines!), then please take a page from my book. Simplify your life to your level and you’ll find when your comparing your accomplishments to your last, you’re almost always succeeding and progressing. It seriously makes all the difference in life for me.
I used to work on events and coaching at my last position with Northwestern Mutual, and I wish I would have realized this all then. The freedom from trying to be the best, really allows you to actually do your best – Hey! That’s actually great coaching advice 😉 This all leads me to my sons last birthday party. It was the best one yet! They are all great because seeing him run around and have the time of his life is really the only success factor I need. That said, the last two parties, I sat down afterward and felt so drained, as if I had ran two marathons while answering Jeopardy level math questions the entire way. It was awful, and because of all of that stress, my anxiety was on high, so of course I spent at least a week worrying about the people and how they felt while they were over. This last party was SO different! Before the party, we had time to sit around and after the party it was relaxed and a welcome break, not a sudden need for bedtime. Why? I’ve put together some tips that will hopefully help others at their next party! What are your biggest party struggles? Do the struggles stop you from hosting? I sincerely hope not but I know it has for me in the past. Letting go of some of my expectations, allowed me to do MORE which is really what I needed to get better and grow bigger anyway so it’s a win win. I hope you’ll try the same!
Here’s the spread – We had about 40 people and 15 at least were kids. We do a bouncy house every year, and in June, something water related is very necessary. We have yard games for adults and seating for those that like to just gather. Food for everyone was buffet style and we had beer and wine if some wanted it, because it’s a family BBQ and why not.
- Minimize day of food preparation unless you plan on getting help or have the time to do it (be realistic) – We have lots of family and friends but everyone is so busy. To make the day happen for us, we skipped the help and focused on the home smoked meat and let the rest of the menu be store bought. Even with the smoked pork, Joe prepped it the night before and just had to throw it on the smoker at around 5am. We, of course, had a vegetarian option, but we just did premade, black bean burgers that we could freeze! The only thing we had to do that day was set the buffet table, smoke the meat and cut up fruit!
- Same idea for house prep. If you need to clean, do it the day before. The bouncy house was delivered the night prior and set up by the company. Our yard was prepped all week and planters all made pretty and most kept alive by me prior to the day of ha ha. Just don’t wait until the day of the event to get all that done. There will always be a last minute “oh shoot we forgot x,y,z” so you need buffer time.
- Start off with what you already have and know, and build on as years go by. Remember less is more. Borrow games, tables, seating, and more from friends until you can get them yourself. Starting off hosting big parties can be expensive if you supply everything from the get go. Use what you have and lean on others to help fill in the blanks. No ones going to remember if everything matched but the more you host the more you’ll add to your supply closet and you’ll soon be “the one with it all”. Just be patient. Also, big parties are not the time to try brand new and complicated recipes, unless you plan on doing a test run. For this party, I originally had three homemade items that I wanted to serve but I had to let two of them go. I had never tried them before, their prep time was ridiculous and had to be done on the day of, and honestly staying at home with the kids just did not allow me the time I needed to get it done. Unless of course, I wanted to be a huge stress ball like I have been in the past at this party. I had to LET IT GO!
- We use to stress about having seating for everyone (I say we but it was mostly Joe ha ha) – most people won’t sit! When you have activities, good weather, and lots of people you have less than a 70% usage rate of chairs. Trust me, from my past experience with events. Unless you are doing a sit down dinner, where everyone is expected to eat together, casual get-togethers do not need a seat for everyone. Plus people come and go, so likely you will not have your full guest list there all at one time. It will save you a lot of money and holes in the grass to not accommodate for it.
- Make sure there is enough for people to do so YOU are not the entertainment too. Use your friends and family… in the nicest way possible. You’ll see in the pics below, we had an awesome pool with slide. That was my soon to be sister in laws. She also brought us a bags/darts game for outdoors. We had another regular bag game too that we’ve accumulated over the years. The thing is, if people don’t have enough to do, you’ll feel the need to occupy their time. Especially with big groups where everyone doesn’t always know somebody. ACTIVITIES, ACTIVITIES, ACTIVITIES!
- Make sure the invite list makes sense. This year, I really only invited people with children that Asher played with and family. I left out people that we absolutely love and adore because of this. You may be thinking this is a no brainer but for us, we just think everyone we love needs to be invited. That’s just not the case and those are the people that you end up feeling you need to entertain. Trust me, there is another party for you to invite them to and they will appreciate you for picking and choosing all the things you include them in… this way they never have to say no 😉
- Let go of the finest details. If the biggest things are there, you don’t have to worry about the rest. Like making sure there are enough activities, allowed me to quit worrying about whether or not everyone had a long meaningful conversation with me. Or forget about spending the extra dough on themed plates and balloons, because truly the fun is what Asher is going to remember. You’re creating memories and some of that smaller stuff really plays no part other than aesthetics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about decor usually but depending on what it is, if you have to let it go, let it go. Remember, people usually remember experience over fancy and fancy doesn’t always create experience!
XOXO – Jess