My daughter’s graduation party is less than two weeks away, and today I am excited to share with you my plan for the party food!
Choosing a menu is a vital part of planning an event, and there are a lot of factors to consider: the time of day, the size of the party, the season, the age of the guests, how busy you want to be before and during the event, and the general feel you want the event to have.
For Annie’s party, one of the first decisions I made was to only choose menu items that would not require any attention from me once the party begins, and would only require minimal preparation. I have hosted parties in the past where part of the joy came from preparing more elaborate, fussy dishes that might require last minute attention. That can be a delight, but that is not what I want for this party. In order to be fully present, I need simple food. This decision will allow me to connect and be in the moment.
I also want food that communicates our desire to celebrate, but with a mid-afternoon start time, we are not providing a full meal. This line can be difficult to navigate. Part of the responsibility of hosting an event is to feed your guests, even in the middle of the afternoon. But no one needs a second lunch and serving an early dinner is not a good option either. In my opinion, mid-afternoon party food should be fun, easy, beautiful, and provide a substantial snack for the guests.
As the owner of a hospitality company, I have observed the fear that many people bring to the food planning process. Most people are afraid of either not having enough food (“We don’t want to run out!”), or, on the other extreme, having too much food (“We don’t want to have leftovers!”). My encouragement is to leave the fear behind. You are hosting a party, so host the party! Choose a menu, make it abundant and beautiful, and allow the food to represent the spirit of celebration. In that same vein, you might run out of something, and that is okay. Unless you are hosting a seated dinner, running out of food is rarely the crisis we imagine it to be.
In my case, I have chosen several items that sound fun and delicious. I want a table full of food to reflect the spirit of celebration, but I am totally guessing on the quantity to prepare because RSVPs for a come-and-go event are tricky.
I am simultaneously being thoughtful about numbers, but also choosing not to stress about whether or not we run out of any one thing. No one is going to leave hungry or thirsty, and if all the hummus is devoured in the first hour, then I guess the guests in the second hour won’t have hummus. All will be well!
On the other extreme, if no one eats any hummus or drinks champagne or eats cookies, and there are piles of food leftover when the event ends, that’s fine as well! My role is to provide the food. My role is not to control whether or not people eat the food. I get to embrace my role and let go of any added layers of stress that have nothing to do with me.
I have seen hosts fret about whether or not to serve food at a party claiming, “No one eats!” This might be true. Sometimes people do not eat the bounty of food we provide, but I think it is still our job as hosts to honor the significance of the occasion by providing ample food, and then allowing people the freedom to eat or not.
My advice is to plan thoughtfully, serve the food, try not to worry about whether you will have enough, and don’t take it personally if no one eats a single bite. Embrace the party, and enjoy it for the celebration that it is!
For Annie’s party, my plan is to anchor the menu with large Greek-inspired mezze platters. This will provide ample nibbles in a format that can provide as much or as little sustenance as a guest desires. I am also planning to put together some simple antipasto skewers.
The rest of the menu will focus on easy to eat snacks and sweets. Grapefruit popcorn, pink yogurt pretzels, clementine cucumber salsa, Hurley House Rice Krispie Treats, mini Sparkle Sandwich Cookies, and a few cakes for visual appeal (it’s not a party without cake!) will round out our table.
As an added bonus, we have invited our favorite shaved ice truck to set up in our driveway to provide frozen treats for the kids (and kids-at-heart!). Shivers is owned by one of my original Hurley House employees, and I jumped at the opportunity to book her for this event.
For beverages, I am only serving self-contained selections like Topo Chico, Izze Sparkling Clementine Soda, and mini bottles of Prosecco. Serving individually packaged beverages is my favorite way to remove the stress from the drink situation. No ice. No cups. No refills. Everyone can help themselves, and I don’t have to fuss over any of it during the party!
I hope these pointers and example from my own life help you as you select food for your next celebration!