I love to host a good party. When I was in graduate school, I hosted about 3 or 4 gatherings for friends to watch awards shows, because that’s the kind of person I am. The only problem is that having parties and living in a cozy apartment are not usually conducive. Fortunately, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks, and now when I have people over for the Oscars (I reduced my awards shows down to the big one), I have a plan that works nearly every time.
Step one to hosting a “real” party even when it feels super casual? Invitations. A few years back I discovered Paperless Post, and have been using them for all my party-invite and e-card needs since (side note: I’m not a shill. There are what – 6 of you? – reading this, so it would have been a very poor investment on their part). They have invitations for nearly every occasion – including lots of free ones! – and the above are some of the choices when you search “Academy Awards” under invitations. I used the one on the top left with a black and white collage of photos from Oscar-nominated movies. By having an invitation, and not just an email, you legitimize an event. It’s no longer just a random gathering of people from an email chain, it is officially a party. I also like that you can manage RSVPs, provide a map, a message board if people want to coordinate potluck items, etc. If you want to have a dress code (say…have people show up in that fancy dress they have tucked in the back of their closet), this is the place to do it. Or go a little funny and say it’s a “Tiaras and Sweatpants” party – which is not a phrase I’ve ever used before, but may in the future. Because who wouldn’t want to show up to a casual get-together in comfy clothes while also bedecked in jewels?
I also find that hosting people is the best motivation for cleaning. So while things don’t have to be perfect (and they never will be), I can usually make sure we are tidy and ready for guests by the time people arrive. Just make sure that there’s extra toilet paper handy in the bathroom – getting to the end of the roll is a scary scenario for a few people. This might also be the occasion to pull out your “fancy-guest” soap. After all – if the rest of the house is getting ready for a party, why shouldn’t your bathroom? This is the space where I tell you that having a party in a small space is about inviting the right number of people and no more. Too many people in a room is uncomfortable for everyone, especially when you’re all mostly sitting around. Figure out how many people your hosting space can comfortably seat, invite that number of people (yourself included), and no more. An overcrowded little apartment can be smothering.
Speaking of potluck items – food and drink may be the most important. I find that most people don’t need a full meal for this kind of party, and they’re also willing to bring stuff. I like to make it known that I will provide the bubbly (sparkling wine makes an occasion feel fancy!), and at least one or two appetizers. My go-to is Trader Joe’s frozen items. Most of these can be baked at the same temperature, and they are nearly all crowd-pleasers. If you’re looking for advice on specific ones, I’ll say that this Kitchn article is mostly right (though the Mac’n’Cheese balls are still very yummy, if a little messy). This year I made a dip, and sort of failed, but it was still pretty good and I’ll share the recipe tomorrow.
Timing the party is whatever you want. The show usually begins at 8:30 EST, with potentially hours of pre-show red-carpet time. I like to invite people for 7 or 7:30, which gives us all loads of time to settle in before the show. Because in those first few moments after people arrive, you should be handing them an Oscar Ballot. It doesn’t matter if they’ve seen the movies. Heck – sometimes that helps in choosing. But it’s a fun activity that brings people together in those first few minutes of the party. Finding ballots online is not difficult. Simply enter “Printable Oscar Ballot [YEAR]” (changing [YEAR] to whatever year it is) into your search engine of choice, and you’ll have lots of choices. Make sure you choose one kind and stick with it – it’s hard to keep track of multiple ballots later in the evening as I do if they are printed from multiple sources and the order is not the same everywhere. The winner can receive an award (I’m thinking of getting some of these guys for future parties), or else just bragging rights.
I also like to print out some copies of Oscar Bingo – searching “Printable Oscar Bingo [YEAR]” (changing [YEAR] to whatever year it is) – though in this case, it sometimes helps to print out from a couple different sources. I’ve found that most of the Oscar Bingos put out don’t change the items in the squares from sheet to sheet, and so all the cards are just the same content in different orders. This is not so much fun, because either everyone will get bingo in quick succession or nobody will. Make sure there is some variety in the things people are searching for, and it will be much more interesting.
In the future I might get some Oscar cookie cutters (a friend has this one) and bake adorable mini-statuettes to bite the heads off of. But while it would be fun to have more space -to be able to spread out and not have to strategically place as many chairs in the room as possible – for now this is easy and fun. And most importantly – something anyone can replicate. Hosting a party doesn’t have to be a big thing, but if you think through the details, you suddenly become that person who is a good host. It may not seem like a very “grown-up” party, but since we are adults now, we get to redefine what that means.
Has anyone else hosted an Oscar Party? Or have a gathering that you are known for hosting every year? Any tips or tricks for easy and relaxed party-planning that I missed?