hosting an open house

Yvonne Albertyn_BrazilOctober 29, 2007

I've volunteered to host an open house for DH's family. The most I've entertained is about 12 people - all close family members.

I'm guessing there will be about 30 people, ages range from about 13 years to about 85 years old. Thanks to the most recent Sunset magazine, I think I have a viable menu, but there's a lot they don't address. Even though it's an open house, I'm thinking it would make sense to rent 3-4 round tables that seat 6-8, and put them in the family room so there's a place to sit and chat. (My family room currently seats 6, though it's a large room - just filled with big furniture.) I'm also thinking that I should just rent all the serving pieces, plates, glasses, etc. DH is inclined to buy everything so we have it for future events. I'm worried about storage - we don't have a lot of it - and the cost.

I've been reading threads of entertaining 75+... how do you do it?

Your advice and experience would be very much appreciated.

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okiemom

In the past month, I have hosted 3 events with 35, 50 & 60 guests. Planning ahead can make the difference in whether you enjoy the time or not. First off, though, remember that most people are so grateful to you for inviting them into your home that they are really quite forgiving when it comes to those little hitches that are bound to happen!

Your idea to make sure everyone has a place to sit while eating is wonderful. I personally don't like to try to balance a plate, eating utensils, and drink; I find you have fewer spills and accidents when you provide a seat and table for your guests.

I do have enough china, etc. for 30 people, but it does take quite a bit of storage. Is this event formal enough that you can't use some nice disposable plates? This would keep you from spending quite a bit of time washing dishes. Even if I do use disposable plates, I stay away from disposable eating utensils because I think it is easier to eat with real ones.

Think about oven space and what needs to be baked and kept warm. Sometimes, putting items in crockpots can keep them warm after they are cooked. Do you have enough refrigerator space for what you have planned?

I prefer to set up a buffet and let people serve themselves; however, if you have a lot of elderly people, this might not work. For a buffet, I make a diagram beforehand to make sure I have space for everything. Also, if you have a buffet, think about logistics and the flow of traffic.

My feet still hurt from the shower/brunch I had on Saturday with 60 guests, and I thought I had on fairly comfortable shoes. Realize that you will probably be on your feet for hours and plan accordingly. When your last guest has gone, sit down and rest awhile before tackling the final clean-up. You should feel very happy that you have shown hospitality to loved ones and given everyone some happy memories!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 7:39PM
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lindac

Open house means everyone doesn't come at the same time....they come as fits their schedule during a set period of time. Are you sure you mean an open house oir a buffet supper?
Don't have tables set up....you want people to mingle and if you set up tables people will sit themselves down and just stay.
Set up extra chairs next to tables that are already there...chances are huge people won't all eat at the same moment as with a dinner party.
Plan on foods that don't need a knife...have your rolls buttered and your meat either in small pieces or something like meat loaf or shrimp of fish that doesn't need a knife.
And I agree with your husband....use real dishes! How much room does it take to store a stack of 3 dozen plates? Not much! And "real" flatware rather than plastic is so much nicer....and can be very inexpensive at places like Costco or Sam's....and you will use it for years!
When I do something like that, I often do a "cocktail buffet" that is use smaller than dinner sized plates and plan that lots of people will fill that plate or a clean one several times. And I plan on bringing out different things at different times. Some things are meatballs in a chafing dish, a side of poached salmon a tray of shrimp, a marble board with several kinds of cheeses, small dollar sized sandwiches with turkey or ham, varous crudites and a couple of dips, a cheese ball or 2, han and pineapple on a skewer and served hot, egg rolls....the list is unending!
People really don't need to sit for these kinds of foods. Some will but they will enjoy moving around and mingling.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 11:30PM
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colleenoz

Unless you know what everyone's diet is, be sure your menu includes foods a vegetarian, a diabetic, a lactose-intolerant person and a no carbs diet or gluten-free person can eat (obviously not necessarily all the same item :-) ). One friend of mine who is gluten-intolerant recently attended an event at which all the food contained wheat :-(.

I personally am a great believer in owning your own dishes/flatware/glasses for a crowd (and there's some nice stuff at discount stores and IKEA, etc) but really unless you see more big gatherings on your horizon you're better off renting IMHO, so you don't have to store something you will never use again.

I find a plan and a time line are useful, needn't be too detailed but know how far in advance you can prepare and store foods to take the pressure off on the actual day, what dishes/serving pieces/equipment you will need (and get them all out ready to go the day before in case you need to make any last minute changes/additions), when to put foods on to heat, how you are going to serve drinks- hot drinks? cold drinks? etc. Rehearsing it in my mind a few times before the event also seems to help me keep it all together.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 9:10AM
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gellchom

Good for you! You will have a lot of fun.

Please don't use disposables. Not nice enough for your nice party, and environmentally bad. Rent vs. buy? Don't try to decide in the abstract; do a little shopping and see what your options are. I wouldn't buy stuff I didn't like a lot. If you find some nice linens, dishes, glassware, and flatware that you can afford and that you would like to own, then buy them -- if not, then rent. Storage of linens, dishes, and flatware doesn't take much space, but storage of glasses takes more. Another choice might be to borrow from one of your relatives -- people like to participate, especially for family events. [Actually, if I were lucky enough to live in the same city with a close relative, I would suggest we buy together and share a large set of dishes, glassware, and flatware. We'd never need it on the same day!]

For such a large group, I would serve buffet style. If they will all be eating at different times, then it's a must. Also, if they really will all be eating at different times, open-house style, I don't think you need that many tables. Just be sure to clear away dirty dishes as people finish and leave the table.

Definitely consider hiring a helper -- especially if you buy the dishes rather than rent.

Most important: remember that a perfect party is not a flawless party -- it's a party where everyone has a great time and enjoys each other. Mistakes and mishaps ALWAYS happen, and they don't ruin a party -- hosts' overreactions to them do. The trick is to remember that the people are guests, not an audience or a jury. Don't let aiming for perfection ruin the fun of planning and preparing. But you don't sound like you are nervous at all. So just have lots of fun planning!

Will you tell us the menu you are considering?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 9:10AM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

Wow!! Many thanks for all your help! I have an Ikea very close to where I work, so I should probably go there tonight. I like the idea of rehearsing - and drawing up the layout. Colleenoz - thanks the reminder - I have one family that is vegetarian.

Menu so far:
smoked salmon canapes
tapenade goat cheese canapes
spiced beef tenderloin
some sort of pasta like tortellini or ravioli (3/4 of the side is Italian, and the other side is Portuguese)
mix of sausages with small rolls and mustards and relishes
radicchio salad with citrus, dates, almonds and parmesan cheese
Several cheeses and sliced meats (salami comes to mind) and breads/crackers

(as I type this, it's sounding pretty rich! Any suggestions to make it more healthful?)

Okiemom, I had to smile at your mention of "sore feet" - something I hadn't considered.

Many thanks again!!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:44PM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

One more thing... how many plates/glasses should I buy? Also, how do you handle the dirty dishes - I only have one dishwasher, and I don't want our guests to feel they have to do the dishes :-).

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:47PM
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gellchom

Unless you really want to own them, if you have all that family in town, I wouldn't buy dishes, glasses, and flatware, I would borrow. They will like feeling included. You could also borrow from a friend -- we do that a lot around here. (Sometimes we even buy specialty or large items to share.) A bonus is that then it is all really good stuff. Don't worry about everything matching. It's nicer if it doesn't, in fact.

I don't like it when guests start with the dishes. We all have our own way of organizing our clean-up, and the well-intentioned helpers mess us up and put a premature end to the party. And as okiemom wisely pointed out, you should REST a little while before cleaning up -- helpful guests don't realize that they are preventing that. The ONLY way to prevent this, at least with close friends and family, is to hire someone to do dishes. And for 30 people, it's worth it anyway. I am ALWAYS glad when I hire someone. If you have a housecleaner (or a friend does), ask him/her, or else try to find a student.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 4:53PM
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lindac

I have a stack of 2 dozen plates, mugs and bowls....and a friend has 3 dozen just the same....and another friend also has 2 dozen. That's 84 place settings...and many times I have used my 2 dozen alone.
And I also have stacks of white china ranson patterened plates...dessert size, luncheon size and dinner size. And another stack of about 20 white with a gold rim, dessert size...and another stack of about 3 dozen red transfer ware...
I just scrape them and stack on the counter until the guests leave....then load the dishwasher while I clean up,,,do another load.....wash wine glasses and do one more load of plates. I wouldn't dream of hiring help for 30 people for a buffet....perhaps for 50 but not for 30.
The "worst" party I ever had was my pot luck group of 10 people.
I had cocktail glasses and plates, dinner plates, salad plates and soup plates with an under plate. Stemmed wine glasses, stemmed water goblets, cups and saucers, dessert plates....and after dinner drink glasses!!
The soup course could have been skipped! seems I was forever washing glasses!!
Buffet for 30 is easy.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 6:30PM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

Wonderful ideas!! Thank you! I just called my sister who always seems to have stacks of dishes and asked if I could borrow them - and she reminded me that DH's grandmother who just passed away has a lot of dishes, as does my mother in law - who would be thrilled if I asked to use her dishes.

What about the menu... any thoughts on improving or adding to it?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 7:21PM
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colleenoz

How are you serving the tenderloin? Sounds not like fork food, so may be a logistical problem for people who want to eat and socialise.
Crudites- raw and par-cooked vegetable sticks- with a dip such as hommous, are healthy and fairly low-maintenance and will give your vegetarian a little more variety
Bowls of olives (and little bowls for pit disposal) are also good for grazers
Will you have anything sweet/dessert-y? Maybe a fruit platter for the health-conscious?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:20PM
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lindac

Yeah...it sounds rich...spicy, fatty...but delicious!
It's a party! go for it!...you have a salad and breads....don't worry...sounds wonderful to me!
What's for dessert??
If you are feeling guilty...add a crudite tray...cut up some celery sticks! LOL!
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 9:51PM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

Yes, veges are on the list, as are several dips. The tenderloin will be sliced, and bread rolls will be nearby if anyone wants to make a small sandwich.

Dessert - cheesecake got the #1 vote, followed closely by brownies. A cake might be good, too...

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 1:07PM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

Many thanks for everyone's help. The open house was yesterday, and went really well! We did cave into having enough seating for everyone - which meant that everyone sat at tables, and didn't mingle. We did a post mortem this morning, and decided that next time, we'll leave the couches in the family room to encourage mingling. We also had way, way too much food - in fact, I think we gave at least 1/2 of it away, and our fridge is still full! I also spent way too much time on canapes - when having crackers and the toppings in a dip bowl would have been much tastier, taken less room, and less messy - and I would have spent an hour on them instead of a whole day!

And, I forgot to make sure all the bathrooms had soap! One of the guest bathrooms was soap-less (we hardly ever use that bathroom).

Thank you, again!

Yvonne.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 6:56PM
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