It’s not a big deal to everyone, but for me, I love to throw a fun party.  I love the planning and finding those little details to sprinkle here and there for extra party flair.  Some of us would like to throw more parties or even just entertain more with friends for a simple dinner party, but we feel like we can’t because it’s too much work or we can’t find time.  I want to debunk that today, because entertaining can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  I’m going to give you some easy tips to entertain the simple way and show you an Oktoberfest party we had a couple weekends ago.  It was a super fun and easy party to put together.  It only took me about 20 minutes to set it up, but it looks like it took hours.  Really…it was that simple.

Simple Entertaining

  • Pick a theme (or not): I love themed parties for my kids’ birthdays, but you might just be wanting to show off your awesome cooking skills and have more simple dinner parties.  That’s great too! Just ignore this step.  But if you pick a theme early, you can start mentally planning for what you’re going to eat, what you’ll use to decorate, what your invitations will look like, etc. With this theme in mind, go to the dollar store and the Target dollar bin.  Things will jump out at you that go with your theme.  If you’re choosing a theme, it gives you a starting point.

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  • Pick a date for the party: This might be the hardest part of all, but if you’ve really made a decision to simplify, you probably have a lot more space in your calendar, which is awesome because it allows for more memory-making activities than sitting in the car driving to activities every night.  With a date and a theme, you’ll have the framework for your get-together and you can go from there. 

  • Make your menu: When I throw a party, this is usually the area where I cut corners.  I don’t want to serve junk, and I love good food, but the cooking isn’t necessarily my forte.  I will find really easy things that I can make ahead or ask other friends that are coming to the party and maybe love to cook to help out too.  If you love to cook and you’ll be making everything from scratch, think about making anything ahead that can be prepared the day before.  Another thing you could do is set up everything for the party the day ahead so you’re not scrambling to cook and decorate at the same time. 

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For our Oktoberfest party I tried to keep it pretty simple.  I happen to have two good German friends that were really excited about it, so they offered to bring some amazing authentic German dishes, but they said their dishes were really easy too. 
German sausages 
(I got these at Aldi, we grilled them a half an hour before the party and kept them warm in a warm oven to bring them out at party time)
(Brought by a friend…delicious)
(Brought by another friend…so good!)
German Potato Salad
(I made the day ahead to save time)
Soft Pretzels and Mustards
(Bought from Aldi in the frozen section…just baked them before the party)
Obadzda-German Cheese Spread
(Brought by a friend…SOO good!)
Dessert: Ice cream with Berries
(A gallon of vanilla ice cream and frozen berries from Target heated up in a saucepan…so easy)
Drinks: Beer and Juice Boxes for the kids
(I included on the invitation for everyone to bring their favorite beer–then we just put in all in the ice bucket together to share.)

  • Plan your décor: this is probably my favorite part.  If you allow yourself a couple weeks or so to plan, you can have your theme in mind when you go shopping.  Colors and different elements will catch your eye and you can start gathering ahead of time.  When I plan a birthday party for my kids, I start about a month or so ahead of time.  It gives me time to order anything I might need to.  When you plan your décor, search Pinterest, your favorite blogs, and party magazines for ideas…but then stop! There’s so much out there, you can get overwhelmed.  Here’s some areas of décor to think about (but you don’t have to include all of these at your party, of course):
    • Table centerpieces
    • Color schemes
    • Focal points, like a photo booth, a craft table, or the cake table at a birthday party
    • Wall decorations
    • Flowers
    • Party favors 
  • Become a semi-hoarder and shop your house: There are things that I would have totally thrown out long ago, but they might work really well for an array of parties, so I’ll keep it.  Keep a large tote in your attic or garage where you can store weird things you find for parties.  I’ll buy things on clearance or at Goodwill that I think will work well for a party, even if I’m not planning a party.  When the time comes to throw a shin-dig, go shop your house and see what you can find.  I usually don’t have to buy much of anything for parties because I’ve collected quite a bit.  Some things to look for on clearance or at Goodwill:
    • Table linens–white tablecloths go with everything
    • Serving pieces
    • Banners
    • Cheap fabric
    • Dishes–paper or glass
    • Cake stands
    • Vases
    • Craft supplies
    • Costumes
    • Artificial flowers
  • Plan your games and activities: This is the part that used to trip me up because I didn’t want people standing around awkwardly.  But I realized that it doesn’t have to be anything super amazing to be super fun.  Most of the time for kids parties I’ll plan one game, a scavenger hunt, and maybe a craft.  That’s usually it.  I try to plan the activities around the theme to make it all flow together.  For family parties, like our Oktoberfest, we usually just bring out the bean bag toss boards and any other yard games.  The kids seem to find simple games like tag to keep them busy and everybody’s happy.  

  • Set the mood: Other things to consider when you want to entertain–simply.
    • Think about the guest list–don’t invite a bunch of people that stress you out.  You’ll thank me later.
    • Put together a simple invitation on your computer or with scrapbook supplies that go with your theme.  You’ll set the mood from the moment they get the invitation.
    • Choose a playlist.  I like to find music that fits the theme, but that doesn’t always work.  Take a little time to find a great playlist or Pandora station.
Décor for our Oktoberfest party was so simple.  We created these faux gingerbread hearts with cardboard and construction paper.  The gingerbread hearts are very traditional for Oktoberfest.  They all have sweet messages in German.  I had the gingham banner from years ago that I thought went well with our harvest theme.  We used a lot of “flowers” that were found in the woods–they’re all weeds.  My friend Karina and I sat down for an hour the day of the party and wired together flower crowns for all the girls.  I am no floral designer, but this was very simple.  We sat the crowns around before the party as part of the décor.  I also grabbed my pumpkins and mums from my deck and moved them to the party site.  My friend also had some German beer steins that we used on our table for extra flair.  And that’s it!   It looked very pretty and fun and it took just a few minutes to set it all up.

Last thing: do not be stressed at your party if not everything is how you imagined.  If you’re willing to open your home often to entertain, there’s bound to be a recipe gone wrong or a rain cloud right at the wrong time.  It’s ok.  It’s a risk you take, but we’re not going for perfectionism.  I want to entertain because I love getting together with friends and family.  I love the planning part too, but I know from the beginning it’s not going to be exactly how I envision it.  Your time and effort is a blessing to others.  Enjoy the people you’ve invited and forget the mishaps.  Have fun–it’s a party! 

Entertaining doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.  The more you do it, it just gets easier.  Any excuse to gather good friends, with good food is a good idea.  You’re creating memories, opening your home and your heart.


If you’re new here, this post is part of a 31-day series on simplifying our homes and schools. 
To read from the beginning of this series, click here:
N E V E R   M I S S   A   P O S T–

One Comment

  1. Your Oktoberfest looks like so much fun! I'm a big fan of simple entertaining, and Fall is hands down my fave time to host, even if it's just a come-sit-around-the-fire, let the kids play, everyone bring their own meat kind of thing. Getting over the need for perfection (something I still struggle with) greatly increased my hospitality. We always hve a good time!

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