Whether you're preparing for a holiday, a sport-themed event, or just want to invite some friends and coworkers over for a simple gathering, understanding the basics for hosting a casual get together keeps the event running smoothly and reduces your stress as host. Focus on these three key components for casual parties: Dress, food, and atmosphere.
What does "casual" mean to you? If you're thinking after-work business casual and your invitees are thinking jeans and old Rush t-shirts, you might have a clash of minds and style. On your invitation - which can be a simple e-vite or a group email, in keeping with the casual theme - give a few dress tips by using words like "hang out," "game dress," or "cocktails and jazz."
How your guests choose to dress is up to them, of course, but you do want to communicate the basics while avoiding sounding like a fashionista dictator.
Food for a casual gathering is more about what isn't present than about what you serve. For instance, you don't have a sit-down meal with assigned seating at a casual gathering. The food can be lighter fare with a focus on hors d'oerves and small finger desserts. Popular light foods include:
For drinks, offer soda, sparkling waters, local brews and wines. Hard liquor is fine as well, if you have a basic understanding of mixology and can prepare cocktails. Otherwise, stick to beer and wine for alcohol.
For truly casual game-day food for a sporting event, add in chicken wings and blue cheese dip, chips of all kinds, mini-tacos and plenty of soda and beer.
Warn guests in advance if the party is adults only; a toddler in tow can ruin the fun for child, parent, and guests alike if the atmosphere is not kid-friendly. The same goes for pets; warn that one friend who brings her German Shepard everywhere that a wine and cheese party isn't the place for her beloved companion.
Stick to these basics and your low-key party will have a high-powered impact when your friends and colleagues rave about watching the game or beg for your puff pastry recipe (don't tell them it's Trader Joe's!).