Several weeks ago, I decided to get a few of my closest friends together to host a game night chez moi! I’ve always loved board games, and my friends & I seem to be playing more and more of them lately, so I thought, why not host an evening of fun, laughter and some good ol’ friendly competition!? The night was nothing fancy and took all of about an afternoon to put together, but it was a brilliant evening. If you didn’t know already, one of my favourite activities in the world is entertaining, yet I hadn’t actually hosted a gathering in a long while, so, even though I meant for this night to be totally casual, I ended up going a wee bit overboard on some details (hehe, oops!). However, as a host or a hostess, it’s kind of one’s duty to pay attention to the details and to make sure that everyone is having a good time, so in retrospect, I’d say it all worked out. 🙂
Naturally, being a photography-lover first, human second, I took some photos as I was prepping the room for the evening and as the night unfolded, and as soon as I started to flip through the photos, I knew I wanted to share them. Again, for a night that was supposed to be a casual get-together with some good friends, things didn’t turn out too bad, if I do say so myself! So, today, I’m going to do just that, as well as share some tips for you to use should you decide to host your very own game night, or any other kind of gathering, for that matter! I am by no means the authority in hosting, heck, I’m not even 25 years of age yet! I have hundreds of parties still on my list to host, but the following are some thoughts I have on making hosting as easy as counting 1,2,3!
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Do decorate your place with intention.
Personally, I like to pick a decor theme for entertaining, and I try my very best to incorporate it into bits and pieces of the entire get-together. The theme doesn’t have to be anything crazy or unattainable, just some form of a visual guideline to keep your place streamlined and looking great, no matter what. When I set out to host a game night, I originally planned to have a nautical theme (red, white, navy and stripes galore), but then decided against it in favour of something a little easier to envision in my mind and something a little more “me”, so I opted for a pink, grey and white colour scheme. However, when it comes to your own gathering, you do you! Do you love the colour blue and would like everything to be topped off with a little oceanic charm? Are you obsessed with the film The Sixth Sense and feel compelled to work a reference or two into each aspect of the evening? Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it, it is your party after all! If it’ll make things easier, play around a little bit; move things around and try different arrangements and colours. The only way any guest will feel comfortable at your gathering is if you feel comfortable, so let your inner Sarah Richardson free! Still struggling? Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a theme/colour scheme or decor plan for your next get-together:
- Can I envision myself putting everything together easily, no hassles?
- Is this a theme I’d enjoy if I were a guest?
- Does it look right?
- Is the theme appropriate for this crowd? (For those wondering, yes, there were males at my party but a) they were outnumbered by the females [♪who run the world…♫] and b) I don’t really think they noticed or cared what colour the plate they were eating from was. It was a plate with food, and that was/is all that matters. :P)
- Is the overall visual effect too stuffy?
- Is the overall visual effect too casual?
- Does this theme exude warmth, charm and fun?
- Does this theme reflect my and my guest’s personalities? Will everyone understand the meaning behind the theme?
OH! Something else worth noting here, never underestimate the power of a bouquet of fresh flowers. I’m serious, y’all, it doesn’t have to set you back more than $10…yes, they can be from your local grocery store if anything (mine were!), but a fresh floral arrangement can instantly transform a room and atmosphere from “blah” to “oh YAH!!” 🙂
Don’t be shy…
…ask for help where you need it! Especially on casual occasions, I don’t consider this taboo anymore. In fact, if you were to follow the rules of the late, great Emily Post, it is suggested that you bring a little gift for the host and/or hostess when you go to a party anyway! In the past, said gift could have been a fresh bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates; something for the host or hostess to thoroughly enjoy. However, in today’s age, that old trend has morphed into bringing something that the host or hostess needs. Now, this could be something for the hostess to use after the party, but nine times out of ten, it ends up being that special something that can be used at the party and takes it over the top.
In the case of my game night, I expressed myself pretty clearly in the invitation, that I would take care of food and that the only thing that guests had to bring was their own alcohol if they intended to drink that evening. I also mentioned casually that maybe we could all pitch in some money to buy a pizza as a supplementary food option, but because my friends are downright awesome, we didn’t need to. Why? Because they ALL BROUGHT FOOD!!! My friend Gabby brought an ice cream cake (!!) and bags of popcorn from Kernels, my friends Jerelie and Ryan brought salsa and chips (and some extra games, yippee!), and my friends Merlin and Krisa outdid themselves and brought the AMAZING game night-themed cupcakes pictured above! *tummy grumbles* Everything was delicious, and to my friends who are reading this, THANK YOU!!!
The point is, it’s no longer 1948; it isn’t considered rude to ask for help. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily ask for it if I were hosting a more formal or special occasion like a wedding shower or a surprise birthday party or anything, but a casual get-together with friends?! Girl, please! 🙂 \
Do prepare in advance. Way in advance.
I’ve heard that the reason people choose not to entertain in today’s day and age is because of the associated stress level of it all. That’s why most of us go out to meet friends at a bar or a restaurant, because it’s so much easier. My question is, where’s the fun in that? Sure, there’s no stress in sitting at a table at Jack Astor’s, ordering a meal and chatting the night away, but there’s certainly no “home-grown” charm either. Sometimes, it’s nice to kick back in a home, with all of the special, personalized touches and what not.
The reality is, entertaining is a LOT less stressful if you’re prepared. I’m telling you, “be prepared” isn’t the Scouts’ motto for nothing. As you can see above, a few hours before my game night began, I set everything up, to see if what I’d envisioned would come to life as easily as I thought it would. I then proceeded to put towels over all of it, to prevent anything bad getting on one of the serving plates, and moved onto cleaning. By the time that the party rolled around, all I had to do was set up the food on the plates and vacuum (I always leave this to last because while you’re cooking and preparing, the crumbs can sometimes get the best of you!). I have to say, it might be because I’m now older and wiser, or I’m just more organized now than I was when I used to entertain frequently in high school, but I’ve never been less stressed and panicked than when my first guest rang the doorbell that evening. It was great to already have everything covered, with no rushing around the kitchen (or elsewhere) to brush and finish up the last details.
Here’s a timeline for when I did the key parts of prep for entertaining my friends that evening, and hopefully it will help you the next time you entertain! Keep in mind, the invitation said the starting time for this party was 7 PM. 🙂
The Night Before
Make sure you have everything you need! Cutlery, plates, serveware, etc. as well as ALL ingredients to prepare the food and set the scene.
Party Day! 🎉
Set out dishes. If you’re hosting a dinner party, clean and lay out the table where guests will be seated. As I opted for a buffet style set-up, I cleaned the counter and then set everything up. It took a little while to get everything just right in my mind, but this is the optimal time to fiddle and play until it looks right to you.
Cover everything and start prepping the food. To make things easier for me, I didn’t cook a lot of the food (details below), so I took this time to prep the salad and make the popcorn.
Make a list of areas guests will be in throughout the home and clean to your hearts content! For me, it was primarily the kitchen, living room and washroom, so I got to mopping, dusting, cleaning the toilet, etc.
I set aside this time to cook, because most hosts and hostesses aren’t like me (LOL) and put in hours of cooking into a party. In reality, I was photographing for this post, but hey, to each his own!
Shower time! A host/hostess has to do many things in order to host a party, but first and foremost, they’ve got to look and smell good! 🙂
Take this time to vacuum, make the finishing touches and get the ambience going! This is when I put my wings in the oven, set up my playlist so that all I had to later was press play, put the food that didn’t need to be warm into dishes and covered them, etc.
First guest arrives, because there will always be one early bird! With everything important already done, I could relax so my friend Gabby and I got to chatting as I put on my playlist and checked on the food in the oven.
The party’s well under way! This is your moment to shine, you got this girl (or guy!)! 😀
Don’t skimp on drinks or food!
Seriously, don’t. It’s not wise. Be the host or hostess with an abundance of food and plenty of options, so that if you’re guests bring anything to eat with them, it’s a nice topper, not necessity. Here’s another little tip about food: go pre-cooked when you can, for at least one of the dishes you plan to serve! It really cuts down on stress and reduces the time you spend in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up, a lot! Here’s what was on my menu that evening:
✓ 4 lbs of pre-cooked chicken wings from my favourite grocery store’s prepared food section in Honey Garlic, BBQ & Spicy Buffalo
✓ Caesar salad with bacon, cheese and dressing on the side so that guest’s could customize their own
✓ 2 bags of my favourite cake batter flavoured popcorn
✓ Drinks: Diet Coke, Diet Sprite, Juice, and Water
✓ The food that my friend’s brought along! 🙂
In actuality, I learned something that night: I didn’t have enough food. Though I kept talking about how shocked I was that everyone brought food, in reflection, I’m happy they did, because I didn’t have enough. I thought I did, and even thought at one point that we wouldn’t need to order the pizza I mentioned earlier, but one rule of thumb that I forgot in preparation for that evening: the extra guests rule! You should always have some extra food in case an extra guest or two come by, no matter what. Odds are, you won’t need it and you’ll end up putting it in the fridge as leftovers that night, but it never hurts to have more. In my case, I wasn’t prepared (enough), and two unexpected guests arrived! My menu for six definitely didn’t stretch to eight, especially when one of my guests is about 6’2″ (Hi, TJ!)!!! When hosting a party, be Latin for a day, and think to yourself, in omnia paratus, or, for any of you who aren’t obsessed with the Gilmore Girls (or Gilmore Guys, for that matter), be ready for anything! I promise, you won’t regret it.
Do set the mood.
There is pretty much nothing worse than getting all excited for an event or to hang out with your friends and when you get there, the atmosphere kills your buzz. At games night, or any gathering for that matter, it’s always nice to have a little light mood music playing. You’ll have to choose this based on what you and your guests like, but for me, I simply went onto Spotify, searched Game Night, and bam! A playlist called, ironically enough, Game Night, appeared and that was that! I connected Spotify to the TV through my Chromecast (God bless that thing), and when I did, an instant light, cheerful & melodic back-track was born.
Another crucial thing to remember when hosting an evening at yours is that guests are wild. Well, not actually wild, hopefully (for your sake), but they hardly ever stay in the room that they’re supposed to be in, so it’s always nice to have some light snacks and something fun in another room, just in case anyone gets peckish! My female guests are quite feminine and are intrigued by fashion and beauty (ha! I wonder how we all connect! ;)), so having some great magazines out for their reading pleasure was a welcomed little touch. Sometimes, it’s about the little things, you know!?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
When entertaining, you’re a host/hostess, first and foremost, and a friend, peer, etc., second. Though it may not seem like a big or intimidating title, a certain amount of stress and/or pressure comes along with the hosting territory. Speaking as an overthinking, overplanning, slight control freak, it can be difficult to make it through a self-hosted evening without being let down in some shape or form. Maybe your guests show up late (or don’t show up at all, even though they said they would). Perhaps, some of your guests forgot to tell you about a dietary restriction they have, or, maybe, your guests end up changing the agenda that you perfectly planned out for the evening. Though it’s hard, believe me, I know, try not to sweat it. Life is full of unexpected moments, good and bad, and what are you hosting for if not to make memories and socialize the night away!? Sure, maybe things didn’t go to plan. Heck, maybe the plan was thrown out the window the second your guests arrived an hour after your lobster thermidor came out of the oven perfect. That’s okay. Sure, you might be annoyed, heck, you may even be downright pissed, but at the end of the day, you know you did your part, and that’s all that matters. If nothing else, just remember this: a host/hostess should always be two things, gracious and attentive. As long as you’ve noticed what’s going on in the room, paid attention to your guest’s needs, and looked after them the very best you can, without being impolite, or anything, anything else that can (and probably will) happen can be chalked up to a good experience. Plus, unexpected things usually make for some great stories after the fact, so don’t worry about it!
Do remember to have fun!!
As an addendum to my previous point, I think something that hosts and hostesses seem to forget is that their having a party for a reason. Anyone can sit in a room, stress themselves out beyond the point of no return, and then call it a night. Instead of being that host/hostess, please do one thing for me: have some fun!!!! Let loose a little, and enjoy the time you spend with your guests during your get-together! Remember that everything you’ve done leading up to your party or get-together was for you and your guests to enjoy, so do just that! After all, where’s the pleasure in following all of these tips if you don’t have some fun along the way!? 😉 ♥
So, there you have it, folks! A rather lenghty recap of my little game night and some tips and tricks that I use for entertaining that will hopefully help you the next time you entertain! Though I know this was a long one (it might even be my longest feature on the bylaws yet, oops!), I sincerely hope that you learned a thing or two, or at the very least, were entertained a little while you read!
All in all, I had a great night with my friends and quite honestly, cannot WAIT until I can do it all over again! 🙂 Game night 2.0, anyone!? 😉
Until next time,