Housewarming party checklist

Time to christen the new pad! REAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. experts Gia Russo and Nathan Lyon offer this start-to-finish guide to hosting a get-together.

  • Compile a guest list. Include only the number of guests you can realistically handle.
  • Extend invitations. Whether you choose Evites, snail-mail, or phone calls, invites should go out three weeks ahead of time and should indicate what type of food will be served (dinner, hors d'oeuvres) so people can plan meals accordingly.
  • Create the menu and a shopping list. It's perfectly acceptable to order from a restaurant, set out pre-made party platters, or do desserts only. (After all, you did just move.)
  • Plan the drinks. Remember that a full bar-mixers and all-can be costly. A less expensive-and more fun-alternative is to offer beer and wine and a signature party punch. Make a list of what you'll need.
  • Determine your food presentation method. Will you have a buffet or place dishes in various rooms? Make a list of everything you will need: glasses or paper cups, plates, serving utensils, platters, ice buckets, napkins, and so on.
  • Shop for party supplies, food, and beverages using the lists you've made.

See Real Simple's Easy Party-Seating Solutions.

  • Create a music playlist. It should be about as long as you think the event will last. (To save time, combine a bunch of your preexisting playlists into a new one and set the iPod to shuffle during the party.)
  • Clean bathrooms and stock them with extra toilet paper and hand towels.
  • Run and empty the dishwasher.
  • Set out several small trash cans.
  • Stock extra hangers in the coat closet.
  • Set up a bar. Self-service is the easiest way to go, and it keeps you circulating rather than playing bartender.
  • Spruce up your decor. It doesn't take much: Arrange containers of fresh flowers around the house and light some candles (unscented, if they're in rooms where food will be served). For an added festive touch, hang paper lanterns from the ceiling in various shapes and sizes.
  • Assemble food and set it out.
  • Enjoy! You finally get to spend some well-deserved time collecting compliments-and hopefully a few houseplants and loaves of banana bread.

More from Real Simple:
Party Playlist
3 Easy Centerpieces
Food and Wine Crash Course