Hi, Kaylee here. I’d like to provide a little budget-friendly guide on hosting a big event, all while making sure your house isn’t destroyed and you don’t piss off any family members. This advice can be used year-round, but I felt it was very appropriate for the holiday season.
First things first, let me briefly introduce my crazy self and why we had to host 100 people at our house.
Enter Stage Right: Kaylee, a Midwesterner that loves a good time out at a fun boozy happy hour, but also relishes in home-alone painting time with headphones, and also a bedtime prior to 10pm.
It’s been a wicked year. My boyfriend of 7 years and I bought our first home together in July. He proposed in September, and our families went wild. We had all been waiting for a while; I’m basically the only girl on my mom’s side of the family, and I’m the youngest on my dad’s side of the family. I am pretty much my family’s only shot at throwing a huge BANGER of a wedding within this decade (thank you for making “banger” an acceptable word, Miley).
My divorced parents do not speak to each other civilly. They are both happily remarried to wonderful people whom I love, it just so happens that they don’t care to interact whatsoever or be in the same place at one time. So, when one of them said, “I can’t wait to host your engagement party!!!!” I was already having an anxiety attack thinking of ways to maintain the peace and keep everyone happy.
The solution: Host the party in a neutral space, so neither side of the family could skip out on the event…which meant host the party at my OWN house. Fiancé was NOT happy about this. He is absolutely not a social butterfly and breaking in the new house (and new carpet) with 100 people on a rainy, cold day in November was not his cup of tea.
We decided to collide a few parties into one so people would accept that we were hosting our own engagement party…it would be a HOUSEWARMING/ENGAGEMENT/POST-THANKSGIVING/FOOTBALL GAME SHINDIG EXTRAVAGANZA. That’ll make people come regardless, right? But that would probably be too wordy on an invite.
Fortunately, that house that my fiancé and I just bought absolutely has space to host guests, but don’t forget I have four parents…so double the family members one would normally have. I’ll get into how we made the space work a little later on.
Here are my tips on planning this gathering on a budget:
- DATE AND TIMING – We chose a Saturday afternoon during the Ohio State/Michigan football game. We also decided to make the party open-house style so it didn’t feel like all 100 people were there at one time. People could come and go as they needed and this made it a little more laid back.
- VENUE – Luckily ours was chosen fairly simply. It would be no charge to host this at our own home. Of course there would be some kinks we needed to work out, but we’d get there eventually.
- MAKE A LIST OF THE PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE AND WANT TO SPEND THE DAY WITH – We invited all parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, and close friends.
- FORMAL INVITES OR E-INVITES – Although I was originally going to go the e-invite route due to the absence of cost, we decided to go the more formal route with invites since it was close to the holidays. I also think this is a great physical reminder for people. We also recommended that attendees RSVP so we could plan ahead on food and drinks. We used Vistaprint to create our invitations…and for nearly $0.40 a piece, why not!? Look how cute they turned out! I sent out invites about 4 weeks prior to the party. Not sure if this is proper etiquette; I just sent them out when Vistaprint shipped them to me, and they delivered only a few days after I ordered them! Speedy quick!
- MENU – We decided to go an easy no-stress route…casual catering. We used Buffalo Wild Wings for wings, potato wedges, and mini corn dogs! Mini corn dogs were a hit with children that came (AND the adults too, can’t lie). Luckily, my dad offered to pay for the food, and tons of my family were super generous and offered to make veggie trays, fruit trays, dips, desserts, etc. *Tip: ALWAYS take people up on their offer to help!!! And stock up on Thank You cards. Trust me, y’all will need ‘em! Some really fun, unique things we did for food and drinks include: a DIY loaded nacho bar, mimosa station, and a spiked hot apple cider station!
- CAKE FOR EVERYONE – I really wanted a cake for dessert so it felt more like a celebration. We ended up getting a cake from Costco which was $18.99 for a full sheet cake and it was DELICIOUS. You can also customize it however you want so I had a hilariously appropriate phrase on the cake.
- TO DECORATE, OR NOT TO DECORATE – We went simple on this. We used real buckeyes from a friend’s backyard instead of confetti (didn’t want to bother with the mess) and black table cloths. I went to Party City to get a roll of plastic for the table cloths and a few football themed party decorations. My fiancé was paranoid about 100 people coming in and out of our house the whole day since we just got new carpeting, so I bought football field runners from Party City and protected main areas of our carpet. This was a HUGE win in my book, highly recommend.
- STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES – I got everything I needed from Sam’s Club to get a good deal. There were many things I needed in bulk: drinks, plates, napkins, cutlery, cups, toilet paper, paper towels, and chafing dishes, burners, and trays to keep food warm. I ordered some things on Amazon as well; extra appetizer utensils, tongs, a cooler, and a few other things too but I’m going to stop there in case my fiancé reads this. *Tip: Pier 1 sells porcelain labels, and these literally SAVED my OCD ass so much time because I didn’t have to spend time explaining food options to the guests.
- SPACE CONSTRAINTS – Although our house is roomy, hosting nearly 100 people can make almost any place feel crowded. We decided to organize and clean up our attached garage and hook up an extra TV there. The weather was a little chilly and rainy this day, but we found a used kerosene heater and utilized that, and the entire garage was as warm as our house was! Everyone was comfortable and this was such a great extra space to take advantage of.
- DETAILS MATTER – There are things you may not think about until the last minute, but try to have a plan in place. Think through parking options! We had family park at an angle on one side of the driveway so anyone could get out when they were ready to head out. Stock up on carpet spot cleaner and multi-surface cleaner. Gather as many tables and chairs as you can from family and friends. Luckily, my family members host hella garage sales every year so the table and chair supply is almost endless for me.
- IF PROVIDING ALCOHOL, WATCH YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER’S ALCOHOL INTAKE – This is something we had discussed prior to the party but didn’t think about in the moment. Everyone wanted to celebrate with us and have a good time, but unfortunately my drunken lizard fiancé learned a lesson the hard way: “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” Words to live by, my friends. Long story short, I had to take care of my precious drunken future husband in shifts with my FMIL so I could still be a hostess for the last half of the party. (YES, you read that correctly, he only made it halfway through the party.)
- ENJOY YOURSELF – I actually had such a fun time through this entire journey of planning and hosting. Definitely am a self-proclaimed “hostess with the mostest” due to everything going off with out a hitch (minus the fiancé blacking out)! Each guest had such a fun time celebrating such an exciting time in our lives and I wouldn’t have changed one thing!
Although hosting this event seemed daunting at first, I loved every minute of it! I am very much looking forward to planning a wedding with the incredible people I surround myself with! Here are my final reminders (mainly need to remind myself) and tidbits of advice for y’all out there:
Don’t argue about something with your significant other for longer than 5 minutes if it’s something that won’t matter 5 years from now!
If one of you is going to shoot down an idea, provide a good alternative!
And of course, in honor of my father, “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before liquor, never been sicker!”
Future Mrs. Drunken Lizard
Hey hey, Leigh Ann here! Kaylee, thank you big time for sharing how to host stress-free and on a budget! This will come in clutch for all of you hosting Christmas and NYE parties in the near future. Kaylee is truly, the hostest with the mostest!