Hosting a birthday party, a festive gathering or even a simple get-together can be pretty hard work. Throw family into the mix, and it’s easy for things to get stressful – but they don’t have to be.
When you’re hosting everyone from young children to older relatives, extra consideration has to be given to food, activities, music, and even the clean-up, that you don’t normally dwell on too much when hosting friends. If you’ve been tasked with hosting your family’s next gathering, here are a few pointers that will help to make the whole process run as smoothly as possible.
Anything that can be done in advance, should be. This way you can break up the to-do list and have everything prepared in manageable portions, instead of finding yourself overloaded the day before the event. Or worse still, on the day itself when you want to be enjoying yourself.
Once it’s set in stone that you’ll be hosting a family event on a particular date, sit down and write out your checklist. If it’s a child’s birthday party, do you need to make time to find balloons and put together party bags? For a family dinner with adults and children in attendance, do you need to stock up on drinks as well as having distractions for the little ones?
Write out a comprehensive to-do and to-buy list, and note down any aspects where other family members can help. Perhaps jobs can be split between guests, with one relative bringing board games and another bringing dessert, or maybe someone can assist you with the food shopping.
Whatever the split, knowing what needs doing and who’s doing it well ahead of schedule is the first and most crucial step in keeping stress to a minimum.
Music is often forgotten about during event planning, but it’s an important detail that helps to set the mood and get everyone talking. There are lots of good pre-made playlists on sites like Spotify, but if you’re wary of playing something where you aren’t familiar with all the songs (particularly with younger or older relatives around) a good solution is to have all family members input on a family playlist for the event.
Get everyone to add in a couple of songs that they love, ahead of the event. You can give the list a quick double check before people arrive, and then leave it to play knowing it’s got something on it to please all of your guests.
Food that pleases everyone
Whatever the theme and length of your event, chances are you’re going to have to feed the masses. Whether it’s a sit-down dinner or a finger food buffet, part of your advance planning should involve clarifying any dietary restrictions and figuring out a couple of good crowd-pleasers.
A bring-and-share, or ‘pot luck’ arrangement, can be a good way to take jobs off of your own list and simultaneously ensure everyone has something to eat that they’ll enjoy. Nominating different people to bring mains, sides and nibbles creates variety, and allows everyone to feel involved in creating what’s sure to be a brilliant family gathering.
Of course, drinks are also important. Check whether children in attendance are allowed fizzy drinks, and stock up on beers or wines for the adults, depending on preference. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, pre-ordering a few bottles of prosecco for everyone to share is sure to be a good idea; and even if there’s nothing in particular being celebrated, offering sparkling wine can be a nice way to make proceedings feel special all the same.
Fun for all ages
You’ve got music for all ages, you’ve got food for all ages; now to keep everyone entertained. Though parents will generally bring something for their own kids and adults tend to police themselves, gatherings usually require a little guidance here and there to stop people getting bored.
It’s a fine line between lack of activity and overbearing ‘fun police’, but preparing a couple of features just in case there is a lull will ensure that your event keeps people occupied beyond dinner and conversation.
For birthday parties that might mean indoor games, while a summer BBQ can work better with friendly competition in the garden. As with other aspects of the day, take into account whether your ideas will be suited to all of your guests.
If there are babies and toddlers coming, designating a soft play area will be of more use than arranging board games. And if your guests are mainly adults then simple trivia to quiz each other with over drinks and nibbles may suffice.
Asking for assistance
As much as there’s pressure for the host or hostess to feel like they’re single-handedly running the show, asking for help when you need it on the day is just as important as asking for help during planning and preparation.
From having someone serve drinks while guests are arriving to nominating one person to be on coat-hanging duties, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a family event, after all – team work is just as much a part of the day as eating, drinking and having fun.
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