Tips for throwing a big party in a small house: Don’t let the size of your house stop the fun. Ways to maximize your space and keep everyone mingling.
For the eight years before buying our first house, Paddy and I rented an 840 square foot house in north Seattle, and we threw a lot of parties there. Summertime was easiest, because we had a pretty decent sized back yard (for city standards, anyways).
Our biggest party of the year, however was our annual white elephant Christmas party. Being a wintertime party, we had to get everyone indoors and able to move about and have a good time. The last year we lived there, we crammed 46 people in that house, and the party was the best one yet. Throwing a big party in a small house is possible. Here’s our tips for maximizing your party space:
1. People always congregate in the kitchen
Even when we lived in our small duplex apartment with the tiniest kitchen in the world, the couple times we threw a party people would still cram into the kitchen. It’s where the drinks are, and often the food. People go in for a drink and get caught in conversations. Therefore, expect your kitchen to be a main gathering area, even if that’s not what your intention is. Consider putting food or a bar in the living area to help people disperse a bit more if your house layout allows it. Always include paper plates for food so guests can take snacks with them to other parts of the house instead of hovering over the snack table.
2. Make sure there is plenty of seating in the living room or larger areas of the house
Folding chairs are great, you can store them in the garage the rest of the year, or rent them if you don’t have any. Put some around the perimeter of the living room, making plenty of places for people to sit and talk. Sure, it doesn’t look as nice, but people like to sit and converse almost as much as they love to cram in the kitchen (especially ladies in cute uncomfortable shoes).
3. Make an outdoor smoking area
You will most likely have at least a handful of smokers. We like to put up a 10×10 pop-up canopy outside the back door with Christmas lights or lanterns to provide a sheltered, ambient place for smokers to congregate.
4. Put a photo booth or activity in a spare room
Our last year we made a photo booth with an iphone (see my post about how to do this here) and put it in the guest room. It was a smash hit. Not only was it super fun and we got a lot of entertaining photos from it, but it dispersed people throughout the house a bit better. Don’t forget props!
5. Maximize fridge space with coolers
Put an extra cooler outside in the smoking area or next to your bar table with ice for beers. This will give more space for drinks and help with kitchen traffic.
6. Don’t forget logistics like extra TP, etc
Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper. This is something that is easy to forget when you have a small household, but is essential to having a large amount of guests at your house. Put extra rolls under the sink or in a basket somewhere where guests can find it if it runs out. Check the bathroom periodically during the party. Also, keep a trash can and a recycle bin in the kitchen or somewhere where they can be easily found.
Lastly, remember that not everyone you invite will show up. We usually get about a 30-50% turnout of who we invited. Paddy always had a mini panic every year at my Facebook invite guest list–“86 people?! What if they all show up??!!” Dude, they won’t all show up. That never happens. People appreciate that you invited them, even if they can’t make it. And you never know who will make it–we’ve had some long lost friends come out of the woodwork and get back in touch.
So don’t be afraid of throwing a big party in a small house. It was a tight squeeze at times in our old rental house, but people said they kind of liked it They said it was a little like a college kegger but for grown-ups.