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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Burns

How do I host a pre-wedding house party?

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

There’s a saying that I have in my house: It’s not party day unless we’re using paint brushes, power tools, or both! I hate to say it, but it’s true. It’s not that the parties are elaborate with crazy decorations or outlandish food displays. It’s that I usually decide on party day that I need to finish a project that has been 98% complete for the past three months.

Don’t worry, I’ll say it. THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA! EVERY TIME!

My husband has gotten used to it by now, but it took some time for him to acclimate. One time I put up an entire gallery wall in our living room an hour before guests started arriving for a Super Bowl party. We had about 30 people over that day. He was less than thrilled to say the least. To say the absolute least.

Because I know exactly how frenetic it can get the moments before guests arrive, I’ve outlined some pointers to help you keep calm and party on without the overkill.

1. Clean your house way earlier than you think you should.

You don’t have to wait until party day to dust, vacuum, and clean the bathrooms. These are things that can easily be done a few days ahead of time. If you really need to, you can do a quick spot clean the morning of the party. But otherwise, they’re not day-of activities. Think of it this way - does a church clean the sanctuary the morning of a wedding? Of course not! They clean it the day before if not the week before. Same goes for a house party.

2. Potluck-it when you can.

The majority of the parties I’ve hosted have entailed lots and lots of cooking the day before and the day-of. It’s a lot of work. There’s a whole ritual I go through to plan out when I can make certain dishes, which dishes can be made in advance, which cannot, and a schedule for it all outlined on a whiteboard. Definitely overkill. Many guests actually enjoy bringing something to a house party. It makes them feel like they’re contributing and as an added bonus, it gets them out of buying a hostess gift. It’s a great way for everyone to share their favorite holiday dishes and experience new ones!

3. Plan out the menu and serving pieces ahead of time.

If you’re wise enough to do a potluck style party, make it easy for guests and outline a general structure. Ask people to bring specific types of dishes (e.g. side dish, dessert, appetizer, etc.). Then plan out if they need serving pieces or utensils and rinse/clean them the weekend ahead of the party. Map out where everything will go on your buffet table or your counter. Make sure you account for any crockpots that need to be plugged in! You can even set out post-it notes with names on it so people know where to put their dish when they arrive if you’re tied up.

4. Use decor that you already have in your house.

If you’re having a Thanksgiving party, use the fall decor already up. Same for a Holiday party in December. If it’s a 4th of July party, add some American Flags. Keep it simple. If you really feel like you want to try the cutest thing you saw on Pinterest, make sure it’s something you can re-use in the future. Also check the dollar store to see if you can buy supplies cheaper than you think.

5. Ask a friend to come early.

Don’t be afraid to ask your bestie to come a tad early to help make sure everything is done before other guests arrive. The worst is knowing that you still have to finish curling your hair AND there is laundry on the coffee table and you only have 10 minutes before guests arrive. Having an extra set of hands an hour or so before the event means you can get your locks and have your laundry moved to the bedroom. (Disclaimer: you should also not be doing laundry the day of an event. Again - learn from my mistakes!).

6. If someone offers to help clean up, take them up on it!

I can’t tell you how many arguments in my house start with, “Why didn’t you just let Laura load the dishwasher when she offered?!” I so love taking care of everything so guests can sit back, relax, and truly feel like they’re being served. But if someone is offering, it’s one less thing you’ll have to do in the middle of the night, or first thing the next morning. Even if you have to do a final scan through the dishwasher to rearrange or pull things that aren’t dishwasher safe, it still saves you time if all the guests want to put their own dishes in the dishwasher. Again, most people want to contribute and help out. It makes them feel more involved. Let them.

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