How to host a big party in a small place?
April 7, 2014 11:53 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are hosting a housewarming party and we've invited more people that I think we can accommodate. What's the best way to make sure the party goes smoothly and what are some things we can do to help things along?

We've told guests to arrive from 3pm onward, with the expectation that it will go until the very late evening. We've got about 35 confirmed — a very varied mix of people, many of whom don't know each other — with more to reply (we invited ~50…it just sort of happened). Our new flat is quite small; an entryway, a living/dining room and a kitchen which about six people could stand in and chat comfortably. There's also a bedroom, extra bathroom and study, all of which will be closed off. The living/dining area currently has about 8 places to sit, and maybe 5-10 more could pack in, standing. My partner isn't too concerned about the room and is very reassuring toward my concerns. He thinks it will be packed but wild and fun — I'm inclined to agree, and am looking forward to the happy madness, but I tend to get a bit overly concerned about details and planning, so it's on my mind. I was thinking about sending out an announcement, but I wasn't sure what to say and I don't want to discourage our friends from attending. Things I've thought of so far…opening all the windows if it gets too much (it's ground floor, so people will be able to sort of "hang out" the windows a bit if needed), borrowing a few folding chairs, collapsing the dining table down to cart-size).

Question is anonymous because I've invited a few MeFites (or they read this site) and therefore don't want them to link this up to me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't announce in advance that the place is too small, but I think collapsing the table if you can and getting a few extra chairs makes sense.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:57 AM on April 7, 2014

If you're serving drinks/food, try to have these things set up in more than one location to encourage circulation and discourage the natural tendency to congregate in the kitchen.
posted by little mouth at 12:04 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

1. Collapse the dining table
2. Reconsider your stance on closing off the study and second bathroom. I get not wanting folks in your bedroom, but you're going to have a... situation... on your hands if you have 30-50 people, drinking, and only one bathroom.
3. Find a way to use outdoor space?
posted by amelioration at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

People will try to congregate in the kitchen. If possible, force them to spread out, by putting strategic items in other rooms - perhaps the entryway. Drinks especially, and a trash can. Keep trying to move food out of the kitchen as well.

All 50 won't show up, and even if they do, they'll fit. I've been to bigger parties in spaces as small.
posted by mr vino at 12:05 PM on April 7, 2014

Put the drinks and snacks on tables in the center of a room, not along a wall or in a corner. This does wonders for traffic control.
posted by gyusan at 12:06 PM on April 7, 2014

If it was before the invitations went out, I would have tried to segment the invites so that some are told to arrive at 3pm, some at 5pm and some at 7pm.

Maybe a way to keep the bedroom closed would be to put everything from the study (and other places) in it, opening the study as a kind of empty space.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on April 7, 2014

Not everyone who has said they will show will actually show up, and they are unlikely to all be there at the same time, especially since you are starting the fun early in the afternoon. People are pretty good at organizing themselves when a party gets crowded, if there isn't enough seating to go around, they'll hang out standing up, if there isn't enough standing room, people who have been there for a while and are getting tired will head out. I'd guess that you won't have more than 20 people there at any one time.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:22 PM on April 7, 2014

I saw a show on HGTV where they accommodated the party in a tiny space in part by turning the single bed in the bedroom into a lounge area for the evening.

On the other hand, the best party I ever attended was the graduation party from GIS school. It was held in an essentially unfurnished apartment shared for the two month course by a couple of our classmates. (I was one of the last to leave at something like 4am. I didn't even have any alcohol.)

So perhaps if you are keeping areas closed off you can remove some of your stuff from the public areas to make more space?
posted by Michele in California at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2014

You might want to spread things around the apartment so that you have movement and not everyone is hunched over the onion dip.

Put some chairs in the study, some folks can hang out there. Perhaps set up drinks in your hall, if the neighbors don't mind (invite them too!)

nth, keep the bedroom open so folks have access to two bathrooms. No one will hang in there. (although after one of my parties I took a bath before turning in and had a perfect view, under the bed so that I could see a mostly eaten plate of don't invite anyone who would do that!)

Serve easy to eat, one bite things, that way no one needs a fork or to be sitting down to nibble.

Limit beverages to things people can drink directly out of. Bottles and cans of beer, wine and soda. I know, indy bottles of wine, but do you need a bottleneck anywhere where people are jostling to pour into a cup?

Be mindful of your neighbors. Encourage folks to leave before midnight. If you're starting at 3:00 this should be easy. Also, remind folks not to park in resident parking spaces.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:36 PM on April 7, 2014

1. Limit the variety of things you're serving. A full bar takes up more space than one flavor of beer and one kind of mixed drink. Six different kinds of snacks take up more space than 3x the amount of 2 different snacks.
2. Traffic flow! Don't put everything in one place! There's a welcome station (take coats, set down bottles of wine they've brought you, etc), a drinks station, and a snacks station, or maybe two (salty/sweet).
3. Traffic flow! Don't require people to move to get what they want. i.e. cups on the table, ice in the freezer, soda on the table, and oh, you said beer was in the cooler on the deck? Bad. This means crossing the room 2-3 times to get 2 drinks. Wherever there's food, you need plates and napkins and a trash can. Wherever there's drinks, you need cups and ice and napkins and openers and a trash can. And an extra trash can in the schmoozing space.
4. Assume you're going to use your bedroom for something. This might be moving bulky furniture into to make temporary schmoozing space, or putting a pile of coats on the bed (and a place for housewarming gifts, if any), or not being upset if you walk in and find people having a quiet conversation.
5. Simplify food - nothing that requires a fork, or a place to set your plate down so you can eat with both hands. Small bites are good, but you do want to have plates, otherwise you create a bottleneck where no one will walk away from the food table. (be wary of dips, they encourage people to stand over them.)

But those are just things you can do to quiet your hyper-planning brain. In actuality, your party will still be fine if you don't do these things. Even if it is crowded, people will be happy to be there - because they are your friends, and they want to come visit you at your new flat - and if people are happy then the party is a success.
posted by aimedwander at 12:43 PM on April 7, 2014

You'll be fine if you get rid of the table and replace it with chairs all around the outside of the dining room. Of the 35 confirmed you will probably not get everyone showing up (depending how reliable your friends are) and probably some will leave early and others will arrive late, so you probably won't have more than ~25 at a time. If the weather isn't too bad people might drift outside, especially smokers.

I assume you have some plans for dinner, hopefully not messy/difficult things to eat that require a table, so people can eat on their laps. You should try to get enough seats for everyone while they eat, unless all the food is something like hor d'oeuvres that can be eaten on the run. But since you're starting so early, you really should have some "real food" of some kind.

Also strongly seconding opening the other bathroom, especially if people are drinking alcohol, or you'll have a line out the door for it. When I host parties of a similar size we often have a line even with 2 bathrooms.
posted by randomnity at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2014

Consider minimizing seating. It takes up space AND discourages mixing.

I think the crowded feeling will make it lively and fun and make it easy for people to talk to people they don't know much more than a more sparsely packed party would. I hope it's great!
posted by rosa at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2014

Can you open up the study? Maybe stash anything delicate from the study in the bedroom?
posted by radioamy at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2014

BYO chairs, I always ask people to bring their own deck/camping chairs.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:20 PM on April 7, 2014

I'm not sure why you don't want the study & bedroom open, but if you're embarrassed about anything, keep in mind that if it's a housewarming party, people know you just moved in & shouldn't judge your mess/lack of furniture/etc. I mean they shouldn't judge anyway, but you get extra leeway here.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:48 PM on April 7, 2014

I've invited a hundred people to a 400-square-foot apartment and it worked out fine. Guests arrive and depart in a staggered manner, they wedge themselves into whatever space to chat, they have a great time. Agree with advice to spread snacks around -- not only to encourage wandering, but to feed anybody who gets trapped far from the main zone -- and also to clear away unnecessary furniture. Not sure I'd fold up the dining table, unless it really crowds the space (heck, it's the best place for the non-kitchen bar!), but I'd pull all the chairs to places along the wall in other rooms, or throw them in the bedroom. Also another vote for leaving the bedroom open, of only to let people pile coats and purses there. Don't borrow chairs, because people sitting take more space than people standing, and honestly, if folks don't tend to know each other, they'd rather stand and chat, making it easier to mingle and move around.

Good luck! have a great time.
posted by acm at 8:47 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you alerted your new neighbors as a courtesy?
posted by winna at 9:13 AM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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