Do you want to have a party but not one that requires extensive meal planning? Do you not have enough seating to accommodate your ever-growing guest list? Or do you enjoy mixing, mingling, and introducing your friends to each other?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might want to consider hosting an open house rather than a formal dinner party. You can serve finger foods, and as long as you have enough space for people to stand and mill about comfortably, you don't have to cut the number of people on your list. Read on to learn all the ins and outs of hosting an open house party with great success.
What Is an Open House Party?
An open house party is an informal party held for a set number of hours with people coming and going as they please. You can host it in a home, unique location, or facility.
An open house is a great way to invite everyone who has asked you to a party over the past year. It enables you to reciprocate without booking every weekend for the next several months.
You should also consider inviting your neighbors. It's a nice gesture, and since they'll be seeing people coming and going from your house, you can avoid hurting anyone's feelings for being left out.
Invitations to your open house should set the tone of the party and contain the following information:
- Exact location
- Phone number and email address for RSVP
- Start and end time
- Style of the party (formal, casual, costume, etc.)
Even though you may not have enough chairs to seat everyone on the list, make sure you have enough room for them to walk around. Chances are, not everyone will be there at the same time, but you want to be prepared in case some people linger longer. It's also a good idea to expect more people than you invited to show up.
You only have to think about seating for everyone if you're having a dinner party; otherwise, don't worry about seating everyone. Most people will cluster in standing groups and party on their feet. You can create conversation zones with groupings of chairs to encourage mixing and give people a break from standing.
If you plan on having a lot of finger foods and a substantial beverage selection, make sure your tables can accommodate the provisions you're laying out. If not, consider getting a table from a party rental place or borrowing a folding table from a friend.
Big gatherings usually mean lots of cars. If you're worried about accommodating a lot of cars—too much for your local street—provide alternative suggestions for transportation, such as a ride-hailing service, carpooling with friends, or public transport. If those are not viable options, you might consider renting an empty lot or parking valet service. Give your guests some idea of where they will put their car if they drive.
You'll want a clean house before your guests arrive. Cut the stress by hiring someone to do the heavy work if you have the means. If you can't afford to do this, enlist family members and set aside an hour per day for a few days, so you don't wear yourself out right before the party starts.
If you don't want people roaming around your entire house, or if you have certain rooms that are off-limits, make signs to put on closed doors. Most people will understand that not every room is available for guests to snoop around in.
Something that is usually forgotten until the last minute is garbage cans and recycling containers for empty beverage cans and bottles. Usually, a normal-sized kitchen garbage container is too small to handle the extra garbage a big party will generate. If you don't want garbage bags lying around, consider getting pop-up garbage cans from a party store. Whatever you choose, make sure the garbage cans are easy to spot.
Food and Drinks
One of the best things about an open house party is that you aren't expected to feed everyone a full meal. However, you should offer a variety of food, considering that people have varied diets. Many people are vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, or have nut allergies. If the food is not identifiable, consider having ingredient cards on the table next to that food item.
Offering drinks is an excellent way to help your guest relax and feel comfortable while in your home. Not everyone drinks alcoholic beverages, so consider having water and soda as a good alternative. If you are offering a full bar, make sure you don't forget an ice bucket and mixers, such as tonic water, seltzer, or juice, and some lime or lemon wedges.
Make sure you have enough plates, flatware, and cups. There is nothing wrong with using disposable serving products or mismatched pieces.
It's good to have stations around the central area and in the kitchen to prevent a bottleneck. Here are some suggestions for refreshment stations that can accommodate different dietary restrictions:
- Variety of chips and dips
- Cold cuts and bread with condiments
- Vegetable platters
- Nuts and fruits
- Sushi platters
- Soft drinks
- Tea and coffee
You might want to incorporate a theme to make your party more enjoyable. Here are some suggestions:
- Luau: Give everyone a lei as they enter and serve tropical refreshments. You can find inexpensive luau decorations at most party and discount stores.
- Graduation: If your open house is a celebration of someone's high school or college graduation, place framed photos of the guest of honor around the room.
- Holiday: Decorate your house according to the holiday. If you don't already have your home decorated, you might even include your guests by asking them to help.
- Housewarming: If you have just moved into your home, an open house party is a great way to show off the new digs to your friends and family members.
Decorating for an open house party should be simple. Look around your house and consider ways to boost the décor you already have. For example, if you have basic neutrals with small splashes of color throughout, add vases filled with cut flowers in various colors. Or you may choose to use candles for color and fragrance.
Ending the Party
If you find that some people don't want to leave at the party's designated "end" time, turn off the music, grab your guests' coats, turn up the lights, and start cleaning; it's a universal indicator that the party is over.