Thursday, November 8, 2018

5 Good Excuses to Invite People Over

Invitation and white hydrangeas

I love hanging out at my flat or someone else's. It's fun, less costly than going out and there's no last call or closing time to worry about. People can relax, kick off their shoes and just enjoy some time together. I'm lucky enough to have a group of friends who are really good at this and a few years ago I decided to try to host something at my home at least once a month. Like so many Londoners, I don't have a large flat which makes full-blown parties impossible, but once I decided to make entertaining a priority, I found myself maximising the space with an expandable dinner table and creative seating options. Over time, I've found that I hang out here so much more than I ever did before and why shouldn't I? My husband and I pay a lot of money to live in this space, so why shouldn't we actually live in it? Friends drop by for a quick drink or a cup of coffee, I host dinner parties fairly regularly, I've hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the last several years, pals come over for pizza and movie nights... What once seemed like a kind of empty space that I never associated with fun has now become a buzzy, comfortable place to spend time with friends. The bonus? I've gotten a bit better at keeping my house clean & tidy - something I used to let fall by the wayside more often than not before I started opening the door to my friends.

While I absolutely love a good dinner party and I feel like I'm in my element when I'm cooking delicious food for a group of friends, I'm well aware that it's a lot of pressure for some people, it can be too much for some budgets and that many of you might not have a space conducive to hosting a full-on meal. There's no shame in that - you don't need a 10 place dinner table or lots of money to have your buddies over. You don't even need to cook if you don't want to. Some of my friends are brilliant at coming up with fun ways to entertain and in the interest of full disclosure, some of their parties have inspired the ideas below...

wine tasting

1. Wine Tasting
Come up with a theme for your wine tasting. Some that I've attended have been Bring a Wine From Your Home Country, Reislings From Different Regions, Robust Reds and European Whites. Once you have a theme, decide on a price limit and make assignments for who will bring what. For example, when I attended the Reislings From Different Regions wine tasting I was assigned Australia, while others were given different countries. The price limit was £25 to £30. I went to a reputable wine store in Chelsea where they had only two Australian Rieslings, so I chose one of those. Ask every attendee to bring a bottle and to be prepared to say a little something about it. Serve everyone a taste and boom - there's your evening. Be sure to put out some snacks. Things like charcuterie platters, a cheese board, pita & hummus, small hors d'oeuvres and bowls of nibbles like nuts, pretzels or chips & salsa. If possible, tie the food to the theme.  If you like, you can even ask for help with this from your guests. I've recently been invited to a party and the invitation requested that each guest bring a wine and cheese pairing - easy peasy! It's also fun to make a play list to play in the background of the evening to set the atmosphere - perhaps you can even tie it into the theme.

2. Dessert Buffet
Similarly, if dinner is too daunting, why not just get sugar high with your faves? I used to be a member of a baking club a few years ago. The premise was that every month there was a theme and each person would bake something according to the theme. Suggested themes could be Chocoholic, Anything But Chocolate, Your Childhood Favourite or you could pick a specific type of bake for the theme like cookies & bars or cakes. Serve coffee, tea or ask someone on your guest list who's a little less talented in the kitchen to create a dessert cocktail instead and make sure to try a little piece of each dessert. YUM!

popcorn and gummy sweets

3. Movie Night
Pop some popcorn, pour Peanut M&M's and gummy bears into bowls scattered around the room and invite your friends over to watch a movie or two. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than going to the cinema these days and it's a lot of fun. If you're up for a big night, you can even play a little drinking game with the movie you choose (Google suggestions for this - they're widely available online). Alternatively, if it's just the girls or even some of your close guy friends, make it a pyjama party or a sleepover - camp out in the living room with plenty of blankets and watch Mean GirlsClueless and She's All That until the wee hours of the night!

4. Hangover Brunch
This sounds daunting, but it's super easy! I've hosted these and been to them at friends' houses as well and it's always a great time, especially the day after a big night you've all attended. There are oodles of brunch casseroles you can prepare or make ahead online or you can opt for things like yoghurt with fresh fruit & granola or pancakes. Put out some cheese & meats and serve mimosas. Super easy and lots of fun, especially when everyone reminisces with stories from the night before!

Drinks cabinet

5. Cocktail Potluck
I love the idea of a cocktail potluck, but I haven't yet hosted one. Ask each guest to bring a jug or two of their favourite cocktail to serve on a buffet bar. Put out some nibbles and glasses, label the cocktail choices with place cards and enjoy an evening of drinks with your buddies. (Click here for some cocktail recipes to get you started!)

6. Group Workout
This also might sound a little crazy, but it's totally doable. Some of my friends hired a yoga instructor to teach 5 or 6 of them privately as a group once a week in the home of one of the participants. It's cheaper for each person than a private solo lesson, but more personal than a class full of strangers and after each session someone would provide the food. From sushi platters to homemade roast dinners, they took turns cooking (or ordering) for each other and though I never attended, it always looked like lots of fun on Instagram. You could do something similar whether it's with just one friend or a whole gang of you. It doesn't have to be yoga - you could try a personal trainer, an at-home HIIT session or pilates. If it's a little outside your budget, go for something online or on DVD like P90X or a Tracy Anderson video. Make sure to include the food afterwards - that's what makes it fun and more rewarding!

7. TV Binge
Whether you invite your peeps over to watch a whole season of Grey's Anatomy on a Sunday or you host a weekly get-together to watch Game of Thrones (my friends do this too), this is a fun excuse for inviting your peeps over to hang at your pad. Cook, order takeout or even throw some frozen pizzas in the oven and enjoy watching your favourite show with some of your peeps!

Cards Against Humanity

8. Game Night
I feel like game nights have become extinct, but since the invention of Cards Against Humanity, I seem to be having them more regularly than ever. Pick a game or ask friends to bring their favourites, get some snacks together, pour a few drinks and enjoy a little good old fashioned friendly competition! It doesn't have to be card games or board games - if video games are your thing, try that or even download something like Heads Up for your phone. If you're really into it, create a tournament schedule and make a crafty little scoreboard chart.

9. Craft Party
It's fun to make crafts. It's more fun with friends. Whether it's making homemade candles while listening to music, decorating cookies or hosting a quilting bee, you can do this in a group and you can do it at your place. Be sure to put on a pot of coffee and have plenty of snacks on hand or your favourite pizza delivery on speed dial in case you craft up an appetite... If you need some inspiration, try making these DIY Loo Fizzies or Homemade Peppermint Bath Bombs.

10. Beauty Bash
Ask your best gal pal or all your girls over for a casual evening of beauty obsession. Paint each other's nails, try out a new face mask or if you want to throw a little extra budget at it, plenty of salons and professionals now offer at-home hair & beauty services at really reasonable prices, so hire a stylist to come over and give you blow dries while you chat about all the latest gossip.

I hope these suggestions will encourage you to host your friends more often or even inspire you to come up with some new, fun ideas of your own for friendly get-togethers at your home. If you have any fun ideas you'd like to share, leave a comment below.
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