An efficient host and a mindful guest.
Rules — The most dreaded word associated with a party. In my 20s, there was only ONE rule of partying- Keep the noise down, which no one obeyed. After all, one can’t help but dance on 90s music along with the involuntary sing-a-longs. Every memorable party I hosted had three elements, friends, plenty of food, and my safe and clean home.
The latter two elements were made possible by my talented cook, budget food delivery service, and the cleaning lady. The plan was simple, I would make starters, my cook made a main dish, and rest I would order-in. There was no set time to end the party, so friends would arrive at an hourly interval and leave whenever they liked. The next morning, I remember managing the leftovers and seeing the horror on the face of the cleaning lady.
Five years later
In my 30s, living in an individualistic culture, I realized that people follow unsaid rules while attending a party. They offer to bring food, respect the time of the host, and leave on time. In a new country, I don’t have the support of my cleaning lady or the cook. The morning after the house party, I endure the horrific sight of the living room all by myself. All the post-party cleaning, pre-party cooking, etc. can get overwhelming. Through observation and trial-and-error, I have figured out tactics of efficient party planning.
As a host
- Instead of asking your guests about what they like, check their dislikes and allergies. It is easier to cook with this list; otherwise, there is no end to catering to every individual’s choice.
- Clean the kitchen approximately half-an-hour before the guests’ arrival.
- Keep colored garbage bags (to differentiate between recycling and landfill) at different places in the house.
- If you have an early morning the next day, inform the guests about the end-time of the party.
- Give your guests an idea of items on the food and drinks menu. For example, if you tell them that you are serving wine and vodka only, they might bring a bottle of their favorite drink. Oh, and keep soft drinks or sparkling water for teetotallers.
- Spread your guests across different parties. Invite a few friends for a casual potluck and then invite a separate group for a board game night. The success lies in knowing their preferences.
- Create the party invites on a social platform or a group message so that everyone knows the guest list. Don’t worry about, “who will get along with whom?” Adults know how to navigate their way around people they like/dislike.
As a guest
- Let your host know if you are running late. It is polite and gives them an idea about how to serve food. They might hold on to an extra dessert plate just for you if they know you will join them post-dinner.
- Catering alcohol for a large group is expensive. Carry a bottle of wine or beers to share. If you don’t know what the host prefers, take something you like to drink.
- Don’t go crazy on the good alcohol offered by the host.
- Based on your comfort level with the host, either stay a bit longer after the party to help them clean or offer to arrive early and set the table. If the host prefers doing everything by themselves, don’t force your way. Assisting with small stuff goes a long way.
- If you are going for a potluck and don’t have time to cook at home, take some ingredients, and make a snack at the host’s kitchen. There is no shame in using their space if they are happy to share it.
- If your food choices (meat-eater, vegan, gluten-free) don’t align with what the guest offers, politely tell them about it and carry your food.