Ok. We’re only one day away from seeing all our friends! Now that we’re this close to the shindig, I better think about the decor and handle any food I can prep in advance. Stat. Since this is a super low-key kind of thing, I’ll be using what I have around the house to decorate a little. Flowers from the garden, wood trays from my shelves and a variety of neutral vases I’ve collected. Luckily I have two different flowering plants in bloom right now, otherwise I would simply use greens and branches. I also have some kraft paper rolls that I’ll use to cover the table outside, and blankets for the kids picnic on the ground. If we were going to be going later in the evening I’d put some stringed lights up over the patio, but people will be out of here before then, I think. I might just do it anyway as I anticipate another party or two before winter comes.
Below are a few of the big things to remember to set out today so you know what you’re working with. When party time comes you can always put anything you’re not using away, but I find it’s hard to remember what you have to work with if it’s not in front of you!
serving/dishes: I have collected several white platters and bowls over the years, and it makes it easy to serve because I never really have to choose what I want to use. I pull out several sizes and then match them to the menu – just make sure you’d pulled out enough to accommodate the food you plan to serve. You can even label all the platters with post-its, if you want to be sure you don’t forget what you wanted to use them for. Do the same with dinner dishes. Pull out what adults and kids might need for the menu you’ve planned.
utensils: forks, spoons, knives, napkins and serving utensils. It’s easy just to put the eating utensils in separate mason jars, and set them out on the table for people to access on their own. Place serving utensils next to the serving dishes to make sure you’ve got what you need there. If not, you can easily use a couple of forks for most things.
glasses: wine, tumblers, plastic if needed (for the kids!). Just make sure there’s enough for the whole group. I’m always breaking wine glasses and have often run out when I have friends over. It’s not the end of the world because I don’t mind wine out of a tumbler at all, but nice to be prepared.
pitchers: if you’re serving any sort of infused water, mixed drink or juice, it’s nice to have the pitchers out and ready to be filled. Just saves time on the day of if they’re already clean and set out so you can’t forget them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten something like sangria in the fridge halfway through a party. Having a little reminder of an empty pitcher sitting in front of you can help. It can still happen, but at least you tried!
Try not to use kitchen counter space for this set-up. You’ll need that for cooking tomorrow and the last thing you want to do is spend time just moving it from one place to another. Use a hutch, table, island or something you can spare for the next 24 hours. You can even set the whole table if it’s a sit-down type of thing. Since we’re having this outside I’ll just move everything out there tomorrow afternoon. Don’t need birds taking a nap on our dinner plates. I’ve used the dining table a few times and just had the kids eat their meals at their play table until I could clear it off. They loved it of course, and I got a staging area.
The benefit of doing all this the day before is that tomorrow you can focus on making the food and final set-up. Then of course there’s enjoying your friends instead of running around. However, if you don’t do it the day before, don’t worry about it. Once friends get there put some of them to work! If it’s a casual affair your friends will totally love to hang out in the kitchen and help with things. Bonus is that you get to boss them around a little!
One thing that I’ve left out is food prep. Now is also the time to get a jump start on any food that you can prep in advance. Even if it’s not a full dish, can you chop ingredients? Can you throw something together that you’ll bake tomorrow? I kind of chose simple and fresh ingredients that would be better to do the day of. Not sure that was wise, but it lets me off the hook today! Plenty to do as it is, the boys have an art and talent show this afternoon. I’ve got priorities, people.