Living out in the country means we don’t see most of our friends as often as we’d like, so we try to have at least one party per summer in order to catch up with everyone. As our friends get partners and have kids, and our kids invite their friends, the numbers coming to the parties grows constantly and we’ve had to learn how to deal with that. A few sausages and some potato salad just doesn’t cut it anymore. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to hopefully help all of you out there planning your birthday, communion, confirmation or whatever party.
1 Barbecuing is out for large groups. I mean more than say 25. Unless you have couple of barbies and a gang of willing barbecue gods that is. Its expensive to buy that much meat and then you have to fit in the fridge and to make sure its actually cooked and people have to wait around to long for their food. Go with something else. By all means have the barbecue going and cook a few things on it but don’t make it the main event. For example for Alex’s 13th birthday party we had pulled pork sandwiches as the main attraction (I’d made it the day before) and just cooked some hotdogs and fish on the barbie. (Oh and a Pigs head just for fun).
2 You will never have enough time. Pare down that grandiose list of food to a few items. Pick your theme or style for the party, pick a menu, cut half of the things off that list of food cos you don’t need 25 different items. Pick your costume and party decorations. Figure out a timetable to get everything done then double the time you allotted to each job – it always takes more time. Be prepared to just say to hell with it. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to do everything. Be flexible.
3 Accept help- anytime somebody says can I bring anything – your answer is a resounding ” Yes Please!”. Anything to take the pressure off. Conversely some will say they will help and then get sidetracked and not help- so have a contingency plan.
4 Precook everything you can. There are 2 reasons for this- salmonella and time. Nobody wants undercooked food but nobody wants to wait for the food to cook either. Precook anything you can and just heat it through on the day. You don’t want to be slaving at the stove when you have guests. We may cook things weeks beforehand and then bung it in the freezer.
5 Use small plates and glasses and bottles. This is a great tip that my friend Deirdre gave me (she has a party mom) years ago when we were catering my wedding. People fill their plates no matter what size they are. If the plate is big they won’t eat all the food and so much gets wasted, same with drinks -how often have you seen abandoned cups of coke or juice at parties.We also get the small stubby beer bottles for the same reason. Waste not want not.
6 Make a lightly alcoholic Punch. -something like Pimms or Sangria. Serve this to people when they arrive. We do this in the summer as when its warm people drink more – better that they are drinking something only vaguely boozy than they start on beer or liquor too early and end up squiffy by dinner.
7 People will arrive earlier than they say– be ready for that. Get dressed well before the party and slap on an apron if you still have to finish in the kitchen. However if they arrive too early have no qualms about making them help you finish everything -they should have read the time on the invite.
8 Make kids work. Whether your kids or somebody elses, get those little hands helping-set them to chopping, pouring crisps, handing out drinks whatever -it’ll keep them out from under your feet and they are so happy to help.
9 Nobody really wants to eat that green salad. Its always the last man standing on the party table, sitting there all wilted and forlorn when its fun pasta, rice and potato salad friends are long gone.The same goes for other healthy foods-its a party, nobody wants to eat rabbit food.
10 Buy Partyware At the end of the summer when the stores sell off the summer party ware buy it all. I’ve got boxes of heavy duty plastic wine and beer glasses that I picked up years ago. They are trotted out for every party and are so handy. I always know I have glassware and I don’t need to worry about broken glass through my house and garden. Grab serving platters and bowls and serving spoons too. Or take a trip to IKEA to pick up eveything. Apart from that I use paper plates and wooden spoons and forks-easy to get rid of and compostable.
11 Put Bins everywhere and boxes for recycling. People usually will dump stuff in a bin rather than just putting it down so that will save you a lot of clean up.
12 Chillax!. .Its a party- have fun .- only you care if everything is perfect, so what if you just dumped a cake on the floor or you forgot the icecream or that the sausage rolls are a tad overcooked. Next year nobody will remember what they ate- just that they had fun.
Party on Dude!