Top 5 tips for family parties
Not only do I come from a big family, I also married a guy from a big family. Then we had a big family of our own. So when it comes to family get-togethers they’re never small affairs. Over the years we have hosted plenty of family occasions at home and these are the five top tips to ensure it all goes to plan.
Keep the menu simple. Think about your resources. Always have a vegetarian option. Always have a dessert option. Don’t have too many items that require an oven or you’ll be spending your whole day trying to make your domestic oven deal with the industrial-sized party in your back yard. Try and make everything as self-serve as possible so you can spend quality time catching up with people.
My menu is usually: a beautiful grazing table with cheeses, dips and chacuterie, platters of gorgeous homemade poached chicken dinner rolls and warm spinach and cheese pies. I then make one huge cake and pikelets with jam and cream and everyone is happy.
Allow easy access. Set all your glassware out. Have all the options. There’s nothing worse than going to a party and following the host around trying to find a clean glass. And sometimes you’ll be at a party and everyone’s on the champagne cocktails and all you want is a cup of tea. Have a few big punch bowls set up around the space for drinks and a beverage station for glassware and drink dispensers.
My beverage must haves are: One large glass drink dispenser with non-alcoholic punch. One large drinks dispenser with Pimms punch. A tea station – I set up a kettle with high quality tea bags, china tea cups and sugar and milk so people can make their own. Lots of sparkling (there’s always something to celebrate!)
Create cosy corners. Make separate spaces. Have somewhere for people to rest their drinks. At family gatherings people want to move around and chat to everyone.
My set up is: I make our back yard and our dining room into two lounge rooms. I set up a couple of coffee tables and move a couch into the backyard. Wooden pallets are great for turning into quick bench seats when you stack them and toss over throw rugs and cushions.
If your family is anything like mine, you will have people arriving from all over the place. This is where you need to think of the attendee experience – if you want people to come to your party you need to make it on a day and time that suits everyone. At our last family gathering we had guests that ranged between 6 months and 85 and when people are travelling long distances – timing is everything.
My ideal time: I admit I have tried everything from lunch to supper but the winner seems to be morning tea on a Sunday. I invite everyone for 11am. We serve a morning tea that is substantial enough for lunch but doesn’t require a table and chairs. People can come to the party but not lose the whole day in travel time.
Most people like to help out so give people something to do. Ask your music-loving brother to make a music playlist, ask Aunty Eileen to make her world-famous sponge cake and get the kids serving all the food. I’ll often ask someone to be in charge of the bar – it’s a pretty popular job.
My top tips: before all the manual labour goes home get them to help put the furniture back where it belongs.
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