This year’s Super Bowl competitors have finally been announced: Denver Broncos face off against the Carolina Panthers. Regardless of whom you’re rooting for, we’re willing to bet you’ll be engaging in a Super Bowl party. Even if you’re not hosting, keep reading anyways (specifically, tip #4) because your services may still be required.
While geared towards the great American pseudo-holiday that is the Super Bowl, these tips can still be tailored to any party you may find yourself struggling to plan. Mixed in with the daily chaos of work, social life, carting the kids to and from practice, making dinner, catching up on your favorite show, etcetera, we understand that trying to get the details worked out for a proper shindig can be a bit of a challenge. No matter the occasion, we want to ensure that you’ll be the host(ess) with the most(est), without losing your sanity.
1— Planning ahead: A brief timeline.
A week before: Be sure to invite your guests ahead of time, and ask them to bring a dish to pass to make it easier on you! Don’t invite more people than your home can hold, and make sure there are enough places for your guests to sit where they’ll be able to watch the game comfortably. We’ve all experienced that time where one or two guests have to stand awkwardly in the corner or sit on the floor while the rest cheer on from the cushy comfort of the living room couch. No bueno.
The night before: Be sure to set up the gathering areas before your guests arrive. Use plastic tablecloths and set out serving bowls, utensils, cups—anything your guests may need in order to enjoy themselves between plays. We recommend plastic utensils and paper plates to make your life easier (and trust us, it will). If having less dishes to wash means one more bag in the trash can or that your recycling bin is a little bit fuller than usual, it’s definitely worth it— unless you’re one of those people who enjoys washing dishes… then, by all means.
If you have decorations you’d like to put up, we highly recommend getting this out of the way the night beforehand as well. Streamers, banners, team paraphernalia, or a life-sized Peyton Manning inflatable— just make sure they’re relatively tasteful and won’t fall down/deflate into a sad mushy blob throughout the course of the party.
The hours before: Finish up your cooking prior to your guests arriving so that you can enjoy their company without the added stress. Your focus should be on the people you invited into your home (and on the game/great commercials). If it’s absolutely necessary, use halftime as a break to get more food into the oven and replenish the tables. Just make sure you’re still able to enjoy the halftime show (because for many, that’s the most important part).
2— Clean house. Enlist the services of every vacuum, mop, duster and child, both before AND after the party. The more the merrier, and the less stress for you the better (and if one of your guests offers to help you clean up afterwards, let them help! Just be sure to thank them). Wipe down the counters, dust the corners of every room, clean the bathrooms (make sure an air freshener is readily available just in case) vacuum each room and let the smells of the food you’re cooking take over the house. After the party, make sure any sticky spill is cleaned up as soon as possible so that it doesn’t fester until the next day when elbow grease will truly be required. Get any leftovers that might have found their way into your Tupperware, into the fridge, and cans and bottles into bags to take to the recycling center. Make sure the bags tie, and put them outside or in the garage so that your home doesn’t become infused with the unforgiving scent of stale beer.
3— Use a self-serve system. Set up a table or two where food and drink can be placed and your guests can easily serve themselves while they enjoy the game. Don’t stress out over using fancy serving bowls or platters, because that’s not what your guests will be focusing on. The food is what matters, and while little details are great, nobody will be upset if you save the energy from that for a different gathering.
For a Super Bowl party, finger foods are fine and divine. There’s no need for anything intricate; so you can keep it simple and encourage your guests to do the same. Place the foods where they’ll be easy to reach and won’t get messy. Use serving spoons and tongs to the fullest advantage. Be sure to place ketchup, mustard and relish (plus any other fan-favorites) in a centralized location. Some of your guests may be bringing small crockpots, so find a place to set the table near an outlet or in easy reach of an extension cord.
You might want a separate table for beverages. If there are minors at your gathering, you might want to consider keeping the alcohol in the kitchen where those of age can easily access it. Regardless, using plastic cups is one must, and making sure your guests mark their cups with their names is another. To make this more fun, put out Sharpies in the colors of the teams playing, and have each guest mark their cup with the Sharpies in the color of the team they’re cheering on. Every time their team scores, they can do a “cheers” or take a sip.
4— Get your guests involved. When you’re handing out the invitations, whether they’re through Facebook, on paper or verbally, make sure your guests feel welcome from beginning to end. Be sure they RSVP by a reasonable date, so that you know how many people to expect. Ask them to bring a dish to pass— this will make it easier on you, because you won’t have to spend countless hours laboring over the stove cooking every delicious little finger food that the party will have to offer. Just make sure they know to bring a dish that goes with the theme (i.e. Super Bowl foods are typically finger foods, but a holiday party might require something a little more intricate). Whatever your guests have to offer, be sure to thank them for bringing it.
If your guests offer to help you with anything when they arrive, let them help. It will make them feel more welcome- even if it’s something as simple as setting a bowl on the serving table; and you get the added bonus of one less thing to worry about. Win-win.
Be sure they know that whatever they take will be going home with them. Of course, there’s always that one dish that you can’t get enough of, so if you want to say yes to keeping leftovers, it really is your unspoken right as a host(ess). However, we all know how big of a pain it is to be stuck washing and re-distributing the serving dishes your guests brought their offerings in. Just like any national park, the beauty and integrity of your home must be preserved, so if you want to spare yourself from this hassle, make it clear to your guests that this will be a carry-in, carry-out ordeal.
5— Enjoy the party. You’ve done everything you could have possibly done to prepare for this party— the house is clean, the food is out, your guests each have a cup with their name firmly established in Sharpies in the color of their favorite team… This is your time now. Have a few glasses of your beverage of choice, make a plate (ensuring to try each one of your guests’ dishes) and relax. Enjoy the company of your guests and bask in the glory that is a successful party. As your guests stagger out, you’ll be left with the satisfaction of knowing they’ll all want to come back next year, and you’ve gained the title of Master Party Planner. Your home will echo with the energy of wonderful, happy people for days (maybe even weeks) to come, and the best part? Now that you’re a seasoned party-thrower, the next one will be even better.