A couple weekends ago, I had the honor of co-hosting a baby shower for my sister in law who is expecting identical twin boys. Our family is so excited to welcome these two little additions to the clan!
Though life on this end is starting to settle down with the wedding season drawing to a close, the shower happened to fall on a weekend that I needed to travel to Portland to wrap up some final details for an upcoming wedding. I was able to arrange for just a day trip to Portland to be back in time for the shower on Sunday.
It might have been a lot to take on in one weekend, but it was actually manageable and zero stress. It's partly due to some tricks I've picked up through planning weddings and applying them on a smaller scale. Other tips come from lessons learned through hosting humble gatherings in my 20's (mainly "catered" by Trader Joes).
I've talked about it before on the blog, but I wanted to spend a couple moments revisiting the topic. Here's a refresh of some of my favorite hosting tips, along with a few new ones:
Before the event
Hire help! It's ok to bring on a couple extra hands to tackle the busy work. Hiring a cleaning service to deep clean my home a day or two before the event is a MUST. Before I started doing this, the cleaning element of hosting took me the most time of all planning tasks to finish. I'd be rushing to get the bare minimum done before people started arriving. Even before the party began, I'd be tired and dirty and usually too distracted over missing a messy spot to enjoy myself.
This is singlehandedly the best change I've made over the years. It's worth every penny of the investment to have someone help tackle the cleaning piece of hosting.
Keep it simple: Decor and Menu.
My first step before I even start to decorate for an event is to declutter my home. Putting decorations on top of my already decorated home creates an overwhelming room.
For the shower, I cleared everything off the countertops except the coffee maker (which we used). I cleared every surface in the living room of books, remotes, laptops, and mail.
All of my fall decor except for the silver pumpkins retired for the day. I wanted to make sure I had a clean slate to start adding shower decor.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received for designing weddings is to choose texture over patterns. Meaning, forego printed patterns (florals, characters, paisleys, stripes, etc) all together and instead focus on the different textures of the materials used in design. Hearing this has been a total game changer in how I approached both designing for weddings and events as well as everyday decor in my own home.
This, along with keeping the anchor points of a room neutral, have now been my decorating foundation for years. When your room is based on neutral elements, it makes it easy to shift seasonal or event decor with small details.
For the shower, I decided to forego any theme and focus mainly on shades of blue and grey for the decor.
Last, I set up as much of the event decor ahead of time. I decorated for the shower on Friday night! I knew that I would be coming home late on Saturday and busy finalizing a bunch of last minute food and beverage details on Sunday morning, so I did almost all the set up on Friday night.
Split your menu between things that can be made a day or two ahead of time and things that need to be made that day. Easy make ahead menu items include most all desserts, dips, pasta salads, casseroles, dry salads, and egg dishes (for brunch gatherings).
For the shower, I was lucky to have a co-host who is a baker by trade. Even she pre-baked quiches, personal sized sweet potato pies, and brought artisan bread from a bakery. The day of the shower, all we had to do was assemble some fresh salads.
For beverages we kept the options to coffee, orange juice, champagne and sparkling cider.
Finally, tempting as it may be, avoid trying a recipe or dish for the first time at a party. I'm always intrigued by a new pinterest find, but the stress of whether it will work out (or the unfortunate failure) aren't worth it. Instead I hold "recipe practice nights" where my family is well aware that they're in for a treat or an adventure.
(And don't be afraid to look at catering options. You'd be surprised at how affordable some options are, and the time saved can be priceless!)
Use real dishes. Just like with a wedding, I prefer using the real deal. This also applies to the serving dishes, flatware, glassware, linens, etc. My everyday dishes are intentionally simple and white so that they can pair with any look I'm going for.
Though party places sell cute and tempting paper ware and the clean up is certainly simpler, using your real dishes is the easiest way to elevate the gathering.
(Admission - we used simple white and gold paper plates for the baby shower and paired them with our real glassware and serving ware. Sometimes you just need to find a middle ground for the sake of convenience!)
Plan to have everything done one hour before start time.
If you're like me, preparations will inevitably run behind and there are always guests who arrive early. To fix this, I count backwards when figuring out my prep schedule and average the time needed to complete each task.
For example - 1 hour to run to the store for last minute forgotten items and ice, 30 minutes to clean and rewrite the chalkboard welcome sign, 20 minutes to wrap my shower gift, 1 hour to get myself ready for the party... etc.
This gives me an exact time of when I need to get up or start the party's preparations and eliminates the guesswork and last minute rushing.
Be completely done in the kitchen well before your first guest arrives.
You know how people say that everyone congregates in the kitchen? There's a reason. It's because, you, the host, are there! If you're running around finishing last minute food and beverage things, people will naturally follow you and offer help.
If you're out of the prep area, your guests will be too! It's so simple, yet took me YEARS to figure this out (and I'm still perfecting the concept). Plus this means that you get to enjoy the party from minute one instead of rushing to get everything completed.
As we roll into holiday season, I hope some of these tips will help your hosting efforts.
Here's more from the shower over the weekend.