Soirée, party, or a casual get together—there's so much forethought and prep work that goes into every gathering, and for good reason. You want your guests to have a good time! Depending on the type of event, be a cocktail hour, dinner party, or potluck, having the proper hosting essentials can leave guests happy and make the night a memorable one. If you're trying to get your Martha Stewart on and host more at-home gatherings this year, you've come to the right place.
We know that hosting can quickly become a costly endeavor, so we chatted with the pros, aka party planners, to learn what hosting materials are worth and not worth investing in.
What not to waste your money on
First off, Hovik Harutyunyan, a party planner and creative director at Harutyunyan Events, says that you can ditch the overly-themed dinnerware. Plates with holiday themes, seasonal or bold patterns, and vibrant colors don't age well and "given their highly specific looks and aesthetic, they can only be used during certain times of the year, so they don't really get you a lot of mileage," he says. Instead, Harutyunyan recommends investing in two or three timeless dinnerware collections that can be used all throughout the year or creatively mixed and matched. Solid and or neutral colors work best.
Themed disposable decor
Next up: Overly-themed disposables. According to Rachel St Amour, a principal partner and co-owner of Van Saint Group, themed partyware (think: paper Mardi Gras signs)—which you can find in the aisles of Party City or Target—may be cute at first, but they'll just end up in storage or your trash bin. "Opt instead for solid colors that go along with the theme; you'll be so much more likely to be able to reuse those in the future," she says.
Non-edible party favors
If you're thinking small trinkets or non-edible party favors—don't do it. "Most of the time, you'll be left with an excess of them for years to come," says St Amour. "If you are absolutely compelled to have a favor for your guests, opt for something edible. No one is ever sad to see a specialty cookie, little jar of jam, or infused olive oil."
What host essentials to invest in
Serving dishes not only elevate your space and event, but they're also practical. "Investing in a variety of shapes and styles of appetizer bowls, platters, trays, cake stands, cutting boards, and cheese knives will not only make your food look more beautiful, but will make planning your party (and its menu) all that much easier," says Harutyunyan.
For dinner parties, spruce up the table with Gomakren’s Serving Platters. They have exaggerated corners that look aesthetically pleasing, are easy to grab, and fit all dishes, from pasta to salad to protein. Food never looked this pretty.
Host to impress with this Compact Swivel Charcuterie Board from Uncommon Goods. Made of sturdy bamboo, this board features special sockets for ceramic serving bowls, a built-in groove for crackers, and a hidden drawer to store cheese knives. From fruits to nuts to salami—this board holds it all.
Build your dream butter board with Williams Sonoma’s Black Marble Cheese Boards. The black Marquina marble looks incredibly classy with its delicate white veins, and since marble is naturally cooling, it’ll keep fruit and cheese fresh throughout your event. I know this sounds cheesy, but this board really is “grate.”
No cheese board is complete without a set of charcuterie knives, and this set of three is timeless. The set includes a knife, spreader, and slicer to make munching a breeze. See, everything tastes gouda!
Originally $30, now $28
For appetizers like olives or nuts, use these perfectly sized porcelain bowls that look a lot more expensive than they are. This set of six is ideal for holding side dishes like soup, salads, cereal, fruit, and ice cream (ice cream partay anyone?). Made of durable porcelain, these bowls are durable and have a classic look with an all white finish. Plus, the curved design adds visual appeal to any space.
We also love these squiggly bowls for smaller sides (like fruit, nuts, sauces, and dips). The shell-shape is unique and doubles as decor, and the bowls are perfectly sized to be easily passed around the table. Each dish is glazed to prevent staining and are made of chip-resistant porcelain for durability in the years of hosting to come.
Investing in timeless and high-quality dinnerware is a better investment. Harutyunyan says you can't go wrong with a classic all white china set, one with a gold or silver border, or a more modern and playful set.
Originally $260, now $225
Harutyunyan recommends investing in staple dinnerware sets, and this one from Our Place is timeless (but still feels effortlessly modern). The set comes with everything you need to host brunch or dinner. What’s included? Four large ceramic plates, four midi plates, four small dessert plates, large bowls for pastas and salads, and small bowls for dessert. Available in four colors, pink, cream, orange, and charcoal, this set will stand the tale of time no matter if it’s a party, baby shower, or casual get-together. Happy hosting!
Originally $55, now $50
As recommended by Harutyunyan, solid colors work best because they tend to age better over time. That’s the case with this set of 16 by Gibson Home. This set comes with four of each dinner plates, dessert plates, bowls, and mugs for the ultimate feast. Each piece has a smooth and matte finish to illuminate whatever you’re cooking in the kitchen. Available in seven solid colors, from yellow to black to grey, there’s a color for your hosting needs.
Tea party? Look no further than Anthropologie’s Glinda Glass Dessert Plates. These seven-inch flower petal-like plates are made of glazed glass—which look beautifully when paired with cake. Now these plates are worth saying “cheers” to.
For outdoor soirées, you can do no wrong with Kaloh Melamine’s dinnerware collection. This set comes with 16 items: four dinner plates, salad plates, pasta bowls, and cereal bowls. Each piece is lightweight, durable for outdoor conditions, and has a modern look. It’s available in classic colors like white, gray, and black, and the light blue color way makes for a unique pop of color.
These Latte Bowls from Anthropologie give pasta parties new meaning. Each bowl fits spaghetti, fettuccine, and more. The finish undergoes a glaze process, giving the bowls a smooth, sleek look—like they were *just* dipped in half-and-half. Choose from cream, lavender, pink, maize, and terra cotta, and if you can’t choose, the assortment works, too.
For something with a bit more design and texture, Famiware’s Plates and Bowls Set is another way to spruce up your event. This stoneware set comes with four dinner plates, salad plates, and cereal bowls. You can plate soups, salads, entrees, and even desserts. What’s more, these plates passed the dishwasher and microwave vibe test, all of which are safe to use on those devices, making clean up easy peasy.
Another cost-friendly way to spruce up your event is through candles. "Candles are one of the easiest, quickest, and most affordable ways to spruce up any party," says Harutyunyan. "I recommend having a bulk set on hand at all times that you can throw on a table in a moment's notice for even last-minute entertaining situations."
This 48-pack of candles come recommended by Harutyunyan. This bulk set features 48 ivory and unscented candles that immediately brighten up the room. Add around your event space or use to set up the dinner table. Whatever way you use them, it helps that they go with everything.
There’s something about tall candles that can jazz up a table, and these Fukai Candles from Burke Decor are jaw-dropping. The wick is made of cotton and is OEKO-TEX certified and lead-free. All in all, the candle last 12 hours, so you’ll get plenty of use.
Originally $30, now $26
If you’ve got a little extra spending cash, candle holders are another great way to beautify your space, says Harutyunyan. These gold candle holders are timeless and come in three different heights: small, medium, and large.
Having cloth napkins like linen and cotton can go a long way, since guests will be using them throughout the event. "I recommend investing in a few key color sets that will give you great value," explains Harutyunyan. It also helps that they can be reused time and time again, making them more earth-friendly. White for formal entertaining, a soft green for spring or summer, and a burgundy one for fall and winter. He adds that you can find beautiful linen and cloth napkins at Target or Sur La Table.
Linen can really jazz up your table setup, and we’re swooning over these white linen napkins from Solino Home. Made of 100 percent flax linen, these napkins are lightweight and are perfectly suited for spring and summer dinners. Even more, they’re machine-washable and are extremely easy to care for. No matter the occasion, be it ice cream parties or get-togethers, these napkins have got your bases covered.
Instead of paper napkins, party planners recommend opting for linen ones, and these Sur La Table ones are perfect for setting the table. The packs comes with a set of four and is available in 13 fun and solid colors, from red to green to dark blue.
For a subtle print, we’re gawking over these springy tick stripe cloth napkins from Target. Made of a cotton-linen blend, these napkins are absorbent, environment-friendly, and stylish. Fold and add on top of a plate to complete your dinner table.
For something more heavy duty, these cotton and linen blend cloth napkins are great. They’re durable, machine-washable, and are great for absorbing crumbs and debris from your mouth during gatherings. The set comes as a pack of 12, which is great for medium-sized gatherings, baby showers, and more.
Lastly, you can't go wrong with an array of colorful tumblers. "Build a collection of rocks and tumbler glasses—vintage, handblown, colored, etc—and they will tell a great story when you serve cocktails," says Courtney Zentner, co-founder of the Drifter. Plus, they double as water glasses and add an extra pop of color.
Originally $80, now $68
This colorful set of glassware from Nordic Peace will have guests in awe. The slightly scalloped glassware is beautiful as it is functional, and can be used for cocktails, juice, soda, water, and whatever your guests desire.
Zentner recommends this Blue Print tumbler. Each tumbler is handblown and doubles as a glass for cocktails or water. “We love the tomato-orange color,” she says.
For the wine enthusiasts, having a set of colorful wine glasses will be sure to entertain. Each glass has been handmade and crafted with only the best materials, and the set of six comes in different colors: green, orange, red, blue, purple, and pink. Made for red or white wine, these glasses will give you something to celebrate no matter if it’s a party, wedding, or holiday.
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