How to Throw a Big Party in a Small Space (Like, Say, Your Apartment)
BY CHRISTIE BRYDON // ART DIRECTION BY STEPHANIE QUINONES-MILLET
We all love a good party. Whether for housewarmings, holidays, or getting friends together for a home-cooked meal, it’s an easy way to connect with people and have a rockin’ time.
Well, “easy” might be subjective. How about a 10-person dinner party without a dishwasher? Or a pile of coats and zero closet space? Or a summer soiree with no air conditioning?
Don’t let a small apartment or the lack of a backyard deter you from hosting the merrymaking. There are easy set-up tricks, time-saving supplies, and (of course) new contributions from the sharing economy to make your party-planning fit to any setting.
Let’s get this party (planning) started!
Think outside the chair—pillows and blankets create a comfy seating area for guests.
Get creative with seating.
The math isn’t looking promising: 50 RSVPs and only…5 chairs? It’s a little concerning, until you remember that this is a party, not a lecture. Provide additional “seating” with throw pillows or blankets on the ground, and make it comfortable to stand by clearing a main area in your living room or renting a few tall tables for the day.
People will naturally move around as time passes, so don’t worry about having structured seating areas.
Kick back in the kitchen to make use of more space (and be closer to snacks).
Use all the rooms in your apartment.
Ever been to a party where everyone’s packed in the living room like sardines, while the bedrooms and kitchen are completely empty? Encourage guests to spread out and make use of all your square footage (even if it’s limited).
Clean up your room, make the bed, and plug in your string lights to make it welcoming. Pop some snacks and coasters on a small table in the hallway (if you’re blessed with a hallway) so people can hang out in between the main rooms.
Each room will take on a different vibe, giving people more chances to mix and mingle.
Everyone’s a DJ when you open the playlist for collaboration.
Crowdsource the tunes.
Music makes the party. Cue up a playlist before guests arrive, but use an app like Spotify that allows guests to easily add their favorites to the lineup. (Is there a way to block Rick Astley from being added?)
When you want something easy, delicious, and silverware-free, go for finger food platters.
Go full kid’s menu.
Sure, we’re all foodies at heart. But that won’t stop us from being happy with finger foods—and it’ll make your job as host much easier.
Serve up the quintessential platters (crackers, cheese, vegetables) and prep the oven for some appetizers (mini quiches, samosas, or pizzettes). Nix anything that requires utensils. Not only will it save you from washing endless forks, or putting plastic ones in the landfill, but it’ll prevent your guests from struggling with a flimsy paper plate and a slice of lasagna while standing over your carpet.
Skip a bin full of bottles and cans in favor of a pretty and crowd-pleasing pitcher.
Quench the thirst with party-sized pours.
People are usually happy with a BYOB policy, but a plethora of beverages can result in half-empty bottles, abandoned cans, and a boatload of recycling. Try making one or two signature drinks in big batches instead. Pitchers or punch bowls will go a long way and cut down on waste if everyone reuses their cups. (Tip: might wanna put a few Sharpies on the table for labeling if you’re using plastic.)
Plant-based utensils cover for when you only own four forks, but don’t want to buy plastic.
Eat (with) plant-based ingredients.
For the stocked kitchens out there that have plenty of stainless steel and a dishwasher, we envy you. For the rest of us, we might need to enlist the aid of disposable utensils.
Fortunately, there are new options of eco-friendly forks that don’t taste like bark. You don’t even need to enter a co-op market to find sustainable or compostable flatware. Party City has forks made of plant starch and plates made of sugar cane.
Paper towels might not mix with your decorations, but they will save the day if they’re at-hand.
Paper towels. Lots of paper towels.
This one’s simple but essential. Spills happen.
Opt for an app: They’re easy to play and don’t require guests to step around a Monopoly board.
Play virtual games.
It’s hard to get a big group around a board game, and let’s be honest, we’re not getting together to watch an hours-long round of Monopoly. Turn to that trusty favorite: your smartphone.
Apps like Heads Up and Evil Apples (think Apples to Apples, app-ified) can be played with as many or as few people as you want, and don’t take up an inch of space. Bonus: giving up phones for entertainment will keep you from being glued to your screen. Live in the moment, people!
Prevent a parking panic with a temporary valet or one-way-friendly Zipcars.
Rent a valet.
Chances are, a lot of your guests will take public transportation or get driven to your place, but some may bring their own cars. Your neighborhood streets might not exactly be spacious. If you’re feeling fancy, go full-out and rent a valet service to take care of parking. Just make sure to clear any issues with permits first. Or share some skills and teach your friends to parallel park.
Not sure how the night’s going to end? If you live in Boston or Los Angeles, friends can book the new, more flexible Zipcar for a one-way trip to the party and arrange alternative transportation home if they’re not ready to get behind the wheel.
Last, but not least: Enjoy the party! And don’t forget to take pictures.
Be a guest at your own party.
The greatest buzzkill has nothing to do with an overcrowded space or angry neighbors—it’s a stressed-out host. Look around: you’ve got friends, tunes, and the perfect setting for a fun time.
So instead of anxiously checking for cups that need to be on coasters, or snacks that need to be refilled, press play on your favorite song and socialize away!