We all love a party! There’s something especially great about a house party. I love being invited into someone’s home and seeing the details and work that gets put into throwing a good ol’ fashion mixer.

Since “the big game” is this weekend and many a house party to be had we thought it would be fun to share some of our tips for hosting a shin dig.

Here are a few things we learned along the way in planning and executing a great gathering at home.

Organization is key!

Whatever you can prep in advance, do it. This makes the day of the event less stressful. Earlier this month we had a celebration for Sean’s birthday. We started decorating a week ahead and most of the food was made a day or two in advance.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

According to my copy of Practical Etiquette, written in 1899, “the table looks best when not overdecorated”. I like to keep things simple when decorating and just add a few elements throughout the house to add a festive feel.

Of course, the book also says that “a man should not ask a girl, to whom he has been introduced for the purpose of dancing with her, for more than two dances the same evening.” So, now you know.

A menu was planned that would work well with our theme and again, we kept it simple. I don’t want to be working at my own party so it’s important that the majority of the work be been done in advance and the only effort required during the event is simply refilling a tray.

Create areas away from the main action of party.

Every party ends up with people in the kitchen congregating around the food. Our house was set up with two distinct areas. While the kitchen had the majority of the food and was “standing room only”, the living room had seating along with various snacks. Music was played in the background in both rooms. While not excessively loud, it provided the right amount of white noise and ambiance.

A kitchen full of guests

Bite size appetizers work best.

It’s always a challenge trying to manage a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other, so make it easy for your guests. Have your favourite foods in a mini format that doesn’t require cutlery.


Depending on the size of your party, this one can go either way. With over 30 people attending at our event, providing drinks for everyone would have busted our budget. On the invites we asked that guest bring their favourite beverage. We provided coolers to keep their beverages cold and supplemented by having our favourite local wines on hand. For those that wanted a coffee, we set up a coffee station where guests could help themselves to a cup o’ joe.

Self serve coffee station

Offer a mocktail.

Not everyone likes to drink alcohol so we created a drink that would taste just as great with or without alcohol. Mix 1 can of frozen fruit punch, 1 can cranberry juice, 8 cans of water and a bottle of ginger ale. Add fresh or frozen cranberries and a few lime slices.

Cranberry punch

Make cleanup easy.

Have plenty of places to collect trash. Put unopened bags at the bottom of the trash can under the bag in use. This avoids having to search around for a bag.

It’s okay if it doesn’t go exactly to plan.

This is a tough one for me. I’m the kind of person that has a “to do” list and a schedule. But nothing ever really goes to plan so you need to roll with the punches.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! Planning ahead ensures you have the ability to mix and mingle with your guests and be the hostess with the mostest.