Hosting an Easter party or dinner shouldn’t have you hopping around with anxiety; parties and gatherings should be celebrations, not stressful situations. It is never too early to start planning, and being organized can prevent that night before freak out where you wonder why on earth you signed on to this scheme. Thankfully, with five simple steps, you can be kept from turning as mad as a March hare.
Step One: Guest List and Budget
A guest list is a fantastic place to start, because who is coming is going to inform just about every other decision you make. For instance, if your list isn’t filled with families and children, you probably don’t need an Easter egg hunt, but cocktails might be desired. Similarly, the menu will change based on whether or not you need kid-friendly foods.
From the list, you can form as close to accurate a head count as possible. If it isn’t a purely family affair or an event you traditionally host, send out some kind of invitation. At the very least, call or contact the people you expect will be at your house to find out who can and cannot make it. Don’t be afraid to press people for a response and give a deadline for an RSVP so you don’t have a constantly fluctuating head count.
From your guest list, you can also ask certain people to bring something — within reason. Just because you are hosting doesn’t mean you have to provide everything. Items like soda, plastic cups, or desserts can easily be divided up among your guests. This is one less expense for you, and won’t clutter your kitchen or home beforehand with extra items.
Step Two: Form a Menu and Make a List
You probably had some sort of idea of what you wanted to serve when you volunteered to host an Easter gathering, but now that you know your guest list and budget you can start to plan this in greater detail. Again, the guest list is helpful because if you know that Jack and Jill can bring the dinner rolls, that is one less item you need to purchase, freeing up money that can go toward ingredients for an appetizer.
When planning, be conscious of food allergies or dietary restrictions. There is no need to craft every dish around one person’s diet, but it might be something you want to take into consideration. You could also ask that person to bring a dish if you are really worried about providing a component that they will eat.
Seating — or lack thereof — is a part of menu making too. Will guests sit down at tables where the prepared food is in dishes, or will they serve themselves from a buffet line? Having to cut and carve when sitting options are few and far between is hard on guests, so try to be mindful of where guests will be eating when you’re pondering the menu.
After divvying up some side dishes and paper products among the guests, and determining what you will be making, take stock of what you have on hand and make a grocery list. Keep this easily accessible throughout the days or weeks leading up to your party so that as you shop you can remove purchased items.
Step Three: Grocery Shop
Even several weeks out, you can start buying what you need. Spices, butter, flour, sugar, eggs — anything that will not expire before you use it is fair game. You do not need to put off all purchases until a day before, but meats, fruits, and vegetables do need to be bought fresh. The same goes for any flowers you may use to decorate. Start picking up items off your list as you go through your regular shopping trips — just make sure you set them aside so you don’t accidentally use them, and check them off your list. For some items you seem to never have enough of — like butter – don’t be worried you’re overstocked.
Outsourcing Easter this year? Make sure you get any catering or bakery needs, and large meat orders in a few weeks in advance. The same goes for booking a cleaning service if you don’t desire to do any dusting. The sooner this is sorted, the easier your life will be as the date approaches.
Step Four: Pre-Party Prep
There are plenty of cookies, cakes, appetizers, or parts of dishes that can be made the day or two before the event. Not having to bake desserts the day of will free up space in your oven. Depending on what you plan on serving, that could be a highly coveted place the day of when you need it for baked side dishes, or the main. Try to avoid having foods competing for space by taking care of baked business the day before when possible. Keep any frosted cookies or cakes in perfect condition by getting both ready ahead of time, but icing them the day of.
This, and the days before, is also the time to clean up your act. Don’t leave all the cleaning until the last minute, because you need time for the final foods that should be prepared day of — plus, it is just another task that can lead you to turning into an (Easter) basket case. Also up for grabs once the cleaning is done is decorating. If you have small children, this may need to wait closer to the actual date if you can’t seem to keep their hands off baubles and porcelain rabbits. Tables can be set the night before — particularly helpful for brunches.
Step Five: Final Day Touches
Any final dishes that need to come together on the day should be mostly finished before guests start to arrive. Meats and mains will still be cooking when guests arrive, since you’ll likely want them fresh out of the oven when being served. Salads, fruit platters, or snack trays are generally best left until day of too. If you were unable to fully decorate or set tables in the days leading up to your party, do that in the hours before the first guests will begin arriving.
In those last few hours, you should also get yourself ready. When picking out what to wear, choose the outfit that either coordinates with your apron, or you won’t mind getting random splashes of food on. You don’t want to wait until the very end to get ready, because then you might be putting on your eye shadow or picking out a tie when your guests start to arrive. However, it is perfectly acceptable to be putting the last few spices into a sauce as people start showing up, so kitchen-appropriate attire is a must.
With your table set, decorations in place, and attire ready to go, everything will be ready when guests start ringing the doorbell. All you’ll have to do is enjoy everyone’s company!