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🍰 The joy of hosting parties
A post about the importance of cake and meat and cheese platters
I have distant memories of our life in Moscow in the 80s when we lived in a communal apartment and our family of three shared one room - despite that every Wednesday was a pasta night with my parents’ friends eating, laughing, and singing.
Fast forward to today and I am so happy that Adam and I both love hosting people - planned and unplanned, in large and small groups. We do this for a few reasons:
For the joy of connection - spending time with people we love brings happiness and fills our cup
To model values to our daughters - We were both raised surrounded by a lot of warmness and openness, so by inviting people into our home, we are able to share with our children friendship, conversation, respect, and the art of eating meals and laughing together
Doing things as a family is fun - when we host a party, everyone pitches in and participates. It’s usually a mini sprint with a checklist - it’s great to see our 5-year-old walk around asking “what can I do to help.”
For cake! Drinking tea and sharing a sweet treat is one of my favorite pastimes and a party gives me an excuse to do even more of that
So here is a behind-the-scenes look at how we go about throwing a party:
🧐 We make a plan - determine the goal and the audience
Not every party requires a goal-setting and visioning exercise - there were plenty of nights when we have spontaneously invited neighbors over, however, the bigger gatherings are slightly different. For those, we try to answer questions like:
Is this a holiday party meant to bring together co-workers to foster a professional community?
Is this a neighborhood party?
Is this a milestone meant to give joy to the person being celebrated and/or their family?
Is this a casual Sunday watching football?
Depending on the size and audience, we figure out prep, food, and the flow of the event. For the really special ones (Adam’s 40th for example), we think about what would make a party be epic and what we want it to be remembered for.
⏱ We set expectations ahead of time - time, food, attire
I have found it helpful to tell our guests what to expect, what to wear, and what will be happening at the party. This takes the guesswork out of the situation for us and our friends. Is this a potluck or are we providing all the food? What should someone contribute and bring?
Since we have young kids, it’s hard for us to host parties that go late into the night so we actually set both a start time and an end time so people know what to expect.
For example, our annual holiday party which at this point is 50% adults and 50% kids starts at 5:30pm and ends at 8:30pm on a Sunday evening. We add that information into the invitation as well as information on food we are serving (especially with young kids, we have found it helpful to share the info ahead of time so families can plan).
🧹 Timebox preparations, divide and conquer
Planning a party can be like packing - it’ll fill the time you give it. So we make a shared checklist and intensely focus on it for a limited period of time. Kids are getting older and are also helping. My favorite part of the timeboxed prep is the clutter-clearing opportunity this provides. I throw away/recycle more things on the days of party prep than on many other ones.
A rule Adam and I have is to not micromanage each other’s tasks - we trust each other to do our own part and to know to focus on the most important job at hand.
🧀 Always be ready with a charcuterie plate and dessert
One of the 100% true facts of my life is that I can show up at my parent’s house at any time, day or night, with friends, my family or by myself, and there will always be food, dessert, and tea. Once my college friends and I dropped in after line dancing at 10pm on a Thursday and my mom had a full table of appetizers, tea and cookies on the table in 15 minutes.
To that end, Adam and I have carried this tradition - and anytime we have a gathering - planned or unplanned - there is food that is easy to throw together. My favorite is putting together a shmorgishborg from whatever is around - cheese, crackers, meats, fruit (fresh or dry), popcorn, etc. Some of my favorite ones are below:
Because I started baking during the pandemic, I also keep cake ingredients on hand - flour, sugar, butter and eggs but also a couple of cake mixes. So for the spontaneous get togethers, I am usually able to quickly throw a dessert together with about 30 minutes of total prep (that is faster than running to a store). I recently started a TikTok account for my baking so below is a recent compilation:
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🕹🍷 Having fun at the party
I remember when Adam and I started co-hosting parties, we’d scrutinize the list of guests to figure out how we’ll pass the time. If my MBA friends were coming, we needed some food and wine - the conversation and entertainment would take care of itself. If it was a heavy tech crowd, we thought through activities - board games or video games usually aided those gatherings. We learned early on that different people connect differently and therefore as hosts we optimized for our audience.
Now that we host a lot of families with kids - we create craft and activity tables for the quieter kids while putting away anything breakable for the boisterous crowd. We discuss ahead of time and set up our house accordingly. We love a house full of laughter and energy and in service of that, we prepare as well as accept a certain amount of chaos that is inevitable when you open your home.
🦄 Connection is magic
Lastly, throwing parties is a bunch of work, but as it turns out it’s at the core of who we are and what we love to do. Making memories with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family by spending time with them is what we have chosen to double down on and it’s worth every effort.