Good party staging can mean the difference between enjoying your own party and being stuck in the kitchen/pantry/garage all night long. Decorations are nice. Plenty of ice is key. Keeping the party playlist going and the drinks flowing are integral. But good staging is what separates the men from the boys, the pros from the amateurs.
Get This Party Started
The last few minutes before guests arrive are always the most nerve-wracking and anticipatory. I always HATE it when guests show up early (note to guests of Katie). One thing I do in order to make sure that the food stays fresh until the guests arrive is stage everything, either in bowls on the table, or in the fridge. I go ahead and stick serving spoons in things that are covered in the fridge, and place bags of chips, boxes of crackers, etc. on their plates on the table. That way, just as guests are arriving, I can open the packages, pull things out of the refrigerator, and everything will stay fresh.
Make Yourself at Home. . . Sort of
After hosting numerous parties, I finally clued into this little secret: only put out what you want people to consume. Sounds simple, yes? You’d be surprised. If the wine runs out, or the crackers, or anything, people WILL root around in the cabinets for more. For the most part, that’s not a problem. But, my husband has a few bottles of wine he’s been saving for a long time. And, my cabinets are generally less than organized, and things are likely to fall out when people open them during a party. (Because I’ve stuffed a bunch of stuff in them that isn’t normally in there, on TOP of general disorganization.)
The more you can have OUT, the less you have to find if you run out. I always put all of the wine I want people to freely access on the counter. Ditto with sodas, liquor, mixers, etc. Everything else, I try to keep an eye on, and refill as needed. The LAST thing I need anyone doing is opening a cabinet and having a cascade of ceramic casserole dishes falling onto the tile floor.
Refills Within Easy Reach
I put my refills for chips, crackers, paper plates, plastic cups, silverware, and other misc. stuff in the cabinet right UNDER where I’m using everything. That way, if I run out of something, I can just reach down, grab it, refill, and move on. It makes life easier.
When in Doubt, Put it Out
Put everything you can out before the party starts. Extra serving spoons on the table. Knives, bottle openers, forks, etc., near the bar. The more you put out, the less that you and your guests have to dig during the party.
Stock up on Ice
And, lastly, my single MOST useful/important party stocking tip that’s applicable to every kind of party: always, ALWAYS have extra ice on hand. People go through a LOT of ice. At the 2010 Derby party, we went through at least THIRTEEN 10 lb bags of ice. That is a lot of ice. You need iced to cool drinks. Ice to put in drinks. Ice to cool off people. Ice to cool off food. Ice that has to stay “clean” and ice that can go into buckets with the beer.
Ice is cheap. And, if you have extra ice, you can just use it up over the next few months. There is almost nothing worse than going to a party and being served warm beverages that aren’t hot chocolate, coffee or tea. If you have enough drinks and enough ice, your party will be a success, no matter what else you do or do not do.
Take it from me: the party queen!