What happened to the good old fashioned dinner party? We’re sharing a few new party tips and a checklist to inspire you to try a little at home entertaining once again.

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Would you be more likely to entertain in your home if doing so wasn’t such a stress and financial burden? It seems like, over the years, the good old fashioned house party has sadly become a thing of the past. So we decided to figure out why and then gather some tricks to help make at home entertaining a breeze.

We’re always hearing stories of our parent’s or grandparent’s generation when the neighbors would casually take turns gathering at each other’s homes. Everyone made a dish, enjoyed each other’s company and there were no “Pinterest worthy” expectations to meet when setting the table.

Why do you think the number of American’s who entertain in their home has dropped so dramatically (from 40% to 20% since the 1980’s to be exact). Maybe it’s the rise of social media and electronics. Maybe in today’s digital age, people would rather iChat than regular chat.

Whatever the reason, there seems to be a huge decline in people entertaining in their homes. And we’re not talking the annual Christmas Party or Milestone Birthday. We mean the good old dinner party or cookout, just for the sake of having one.

The thing is, most of us want to entertain. We crave the social interaction and genuinely enjoy opening our homes to spending time with loved ones. Most of us even go as far as listing, “place to entertain and have family and friends over” as part of our criteria when house hunting. Yet how often do we actually do so? You might even have the perfect room or yard, but never even use it!

So why don’t we entertain more in our homes? One thing that may play a factor is that a new generation of “foodies” set higher expectations for the menu, as noted in The New York Times’ “Death of the Party” article. Crackers and cheese won’t cut it anymore, and imported wines, cheeses and micro brews don’t come cheap. Basically, there seem to be four major reasons people don’t entertain like they used to:

Why Don’t People Throw Dinner Parties Anymore?

  1. They’re too expensive.
  2. Your home feels too small.
  3. You don’t have time to plan or prepare for a dinner party.

Keep reading to learn my favorite party planning tips and hacks to make party planning less of a hassle and help ease your way through your next gathering at home. After, you’ll be ready and willing to invite those neighbors over for some good old fashioned fun.

Is Party Planning too Expensive?

Buy disposable items like paper goods, napkins, plastic cutlery and large trash bags in bulk. Better yet, do so when they are on sale. Storing these party items for future use will help cut the cost when it comes time to plan your party.

Go old school with a Potluck dinner and B.Y.O.B. Ask each guest bring a dish and their own beverage of choice. That way, the host isn’t burdened with the bulk of the expenses.

Is Your Home too Small for a Party?

Not enough space? Keep it small! Don’t feel obligated to invite the whole neighborhood. You can move some things around to make space for extra seating. Your guests won’t mind as much as you think they will. Even if you had the space, think about all the parties you go to where everyone always gathers in one space together anyways.

Even better, go for planning a casual cocktail party with appetizers and finger foods — no formal sit down dinner necessary.

Don’t Have Enough Time to Host Parties at Home?

Do you feel like you just don’t have enough time to host a get-together? We got you covered! Use this quick checklist as a starting point to help cut down the prep time.

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Party Planning Checklist:

  • Plates
  • Cups
  • Napkins
  • Cutlery
  • Appetizer options (delegate to guest)
  • Entree
  • Dessert options (delegate to guest)
  • Non-alcoholic beverage options (B.Y.O.B.)
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags
  • Extra seating
  • Bathroom basket (see hack #3: extra toilet paper, room spray, matches, disposable hand towels)
  • Music

Save Even More Time with These Party Hacks

Party Hack #1 – Cutlery

Keep all plastic cutlery separated in mason jars. Refill as needed. You can even tie different color ribbon or twine around the jars to match any other party decor you may have. You can also try keeping it all on a tray for easy moving.

Not only do the mason jars and trays make your party cutlery look nicer, but you also don’t need to go shopping last minute for those items if you keep them stocked up and on hand. You’ll also spend less time “setting up” the day of the party. Your guests will be amazed by how organized and pretty it all looks and won’t be any the wiser to know it was all ready to go beforehand.

party planning checklist hack - place cutlery in decorative jars and trays to be ready at a moment's notice.

Party Hack #2 – Decor

No budget for decor? Shop the yard! You don’t need to have a magazine worthy garden to pick from to find great party decor. Any fresh greenery will do.

Don’t be scared to pick some wild flowers from the side of the road or even layer some seasonal tree cuttings like boxwoods, pine or cypress across the center of the table for a clean fresh (and free!) centerpiece. One word of advice, though: consider soaking freshly cut flowers in a bucket of water before bringing them indoors or onto a table setting. That way any little critters who were living inside get the eviction notice.

Party Hack #3 – Drinks

Separate drinks by type in a large cooler by using cutting boards as dividers. They are cheaper than buying cooler dividers and do the trick of keeping the beverage options separate for easy access! You can keep one section for sodas, one for alcoholic beverages and one for kids drinks. Help guests navigate your coolers by adding labels to the lids, too. They can be as simple as a sheet of paper written on with a Sharpie.

party planning checklist - bathroom guest basket with essential toiletries

Party Hack #4 – The Bathroom

There’s nothing more welcoming than a stocked and ready guest bathroom. Keep a “guest tray” in there with toiletries and treats to make your guests feel at home. Fill it with things like disposable hand towels, air freshener sprays, a pack of matches and some hotel size soaps and lotion. Keep it all in a little basket in a linen closet or under the sink for easy access when guests come over. Nothing is worse than guests having to ask the host for something to dry their hands on.

Party Hack #5 – The Cleanup

Keep extra trash bags at the bottom of the trash barrel in both the kitchen and the bathroom. That way if the trash gets full, guests would be more inclined to help out and empty it for you without having to ask you where the trash bags are. There’s no bigger party hassle than a full trash that just keeps getting piled on, making a mess!


Do you think these hacks and checklist would help you get out of a party planning rut? Anything we missed? Just leave your ideas in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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About the Author

Layla Gunning

Hi! I'm Layla, a new homeowner living in the south shore of Boston with my husband and 2 pups. I'm obsessed with affordable interior styling, mixing old and new and all things home. I blog over at mysunsetavenue.com sharing how we're making our little 1900s New England bungalow our dream home on a budget...one DIY project, thrifted find and decor deal at a time!

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