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What I’ve Learned From Really Good Parties

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

The trick to hosting a great party? Attending one and realizing what makes it so awesome. From themes to music, here are eight game-changing tips I’ve picked up through the years, presented with the beautiful tableware from SNOWE

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Cheese board, striped kitchen towel, table runner, dinner and salad plates included in starter eat bundle, essential glasses.

1. Themes are ridiculous, but worth it. Here’s the thing about themes: They make people rally. When friends host a party centered around even the smallest of ideas, EVERYONE shows up and EVERYONE is stoked. I’ve been to a “cereal party,” where guests were only granted entry if they showed up with their favorite box to share; a “lawn party,” where everyone happily stood in an empty front yard for hours; and a “tamale party,” where people trekked from all over a thundering NYC to hang in a cozy kitchen. It’s all in the pitch. No costumes required.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Striped napkins, table runner, dinner and salad plates included in starter eat bundle, essential glasses, cheese board.

2. There’s an end time on the invitation. Why? People will arrive on time. There’s an unspoken phenomenon that guests arrive more than an hour later than the start time listed, but with an end time, you confuse everyone into showing up when you say. Even the notoriously late! Plus, early parties rock. You can have all of the fun AND get a glorious night’s sleep. P.S. You don’t have to actually end things when you said you would.

3. The mood is set beforehand. In the fictional land of parties, what’s more magical than a soirée in a Nancy Meyers movie? The lights are dimmed, the candles are twinkling and music is bumping (and carefully considered). She’s taught me that a playlist of The Shirelles, The Beach Boys and Elton John can put any crowd at ease.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Essential glasses, carafe.

4. Drinks are outsourced. Ask guests to bring a bottle of wine, citrus seltzer or whatever else they want to sip. That way, as my friend says, “Everyone is in charge of their own happiness.” Plus, party costs are cut in half. Set out a drink station with wine glasses, tumblers and an ice bucket for guests to serve themselves. If you’re in the mood to be a little *extra*, a house cocktail is always a hit, too. The trick for keeping it easy (and not playing bartender all night) is pre-made pitchers. Before guests arrive, I fix up a carafe of Aperol (a low-key Italian apéritif), sparkling water and orange wedges.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Table runner, round platter, wine glasses, essential glasses.

5. Snacks are the real heroes of night. There are few things more devastating than showing up hungry to a dinner party, only to realize a) food won’t be served for a couple more hours and b) the last little smokie has been nabbed. Keep appetizers as plentiful as possible. People love chips! People love dips! (This one has only two-ingredients.) Plus, everything looks impressive on a pretty platter or cheese board.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Dinner plates, salad plates and low serving bowl included in starter eat bundle, essential glasses, wine glasses.

6. The menu isn’t fancy and no one cares. Do you have go-to weeknight pasta? Multiply the recipe and make that! Is roast chicken your speciality? Time to show off your skills. Great at ordering pizza? Now’s your time! Go big with your tried-and-true favorite dishes, and add bulk to the meal with sides you can throw together at the last minute, like a giant salad. When it’s time to eat, this starter eat bundle makes any meal look beautiful. The matching dishes and silverware are super durable as everyday essentials, while the additions of serving bowls and platters make the table look like you’re the ultimate host. It’s a set I look forward to using for years.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Starter eat bundle, appetizer plates.

7. Dessert is store-bought. A handful of broken-up chocolate bars, a pile of Tate’s chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of berries are enough to blow friends’ minds.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Softexture coverlet, pillow shams, reversible throw.

8. Keep it casual. What really makes a party is when the place feels like home. People are just happy to be there with you! We love SNOWE for making our spaces feel extra special with their thoughtfully-designed essentials for eating, drinking, sleeping and bathing. The company, founded by a couple setting up their first NYC apartment together, understands the value of everyday items you’re proud to share with friends.

How to Host an Epic Dinner Party

Thank you so much, SNOWE!

Thoughts? Any entertaining tips you swear by?

(This post is sponsored by SNOWE, a business that makes luxury essentials for your home at non-luxury prices. Since SNOWE is obsessed with quality, you have 90 days to make sure you’re obsessed with your order, or you can get it replaced or refunded. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo. Photography by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo and styling by Yossy Arefi. Thanks to my friends Natasha, Meghal and Eileen for modeling.)

  1. Amber says...

    These comments are the best. I’ve spent an hour and a half of my workday reading this page. Thank you!!

  2. Miranda says...

    This is such a fun post. I really enjoyed the photography and I hadn’t heard of SNOWE before this so I appreciated the introduction, especially since we’re renovating and now need new bedding and dinnerware. I’ve learned the less-fussy the party the better the outcome for everybody (especially the host!). Great tips and I’ve loved a lot of the ideas shared in the comments, too.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much, Miranda!

  3. Two words: Frozen pizza.
    Hear me out: We had a group of 8 over for the Loyola vs Michigan final four game and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I got 3 Red Baron pizzas at Target for $9 and asked my friend to bring the salad (she picked up two salad kits from Trader Joe’s. We had various drinks on hand. It’s the cheapest party I’ve ever thrown, every last piece of pizza was eaten and everyone (include the kiddos) was happy. Little known low-key party secret: Frozen pizza is actually really good.

    • To add to that, I’ve done frozen pizza (sometimes I get premade ones from Sam’s club) and just add a couple toppings like feta and pesto or chopped peppers or cauliflower and it makes it a little fancier without costing that much more. I do this for my yearly Galentine’s party and all the women in my family rave about the pizza, but it took very little effort on my part.

  4. When I lived in a teeny tiny apartment in the east village I used to throw all- day parties. That way I could invite everyone I wanted, but they didn’t all show up at once. One time I did a brunch party and had BYOB (bring your own bacon). People loved it! The key was telling people they could could come for 5 minutes or 5 hours- nobody felt pressure to stay forever. And asking guests to bring something OTHER than alcohol feels more generous and fun.

  5. Laura says...

    Where’s the green top in the first picture from? So cute!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Laura, it’s from Other Stories a year ago! xo

  6. Hilary says...

    I love to bake and love dessert but realize most people are too full for a big dessert after dinner! Followed cup of jo’s advice and last night pulled out a bag of Scandinavian Swimmers from Trader Joe’s and some dark chocolate. Everyone loved it! We passed the bags around, debated which flavors of gummies were best and polished off the package. Thanks for recommending something simple and easy!

    • Katie says...

      I have to buy those gummies every time I’m at TJ’s! They’re so yummy. I keep them in my car and they only last a few days.

  7. Kat says...

    At the end of every academic year I would throw a house-party to celebrate. Because we were students and low on cash, I told everyone to bring a frozen pizza. I prepared loads of topping bowls with things like extra cheese, onions, capers, ricotta, basil… Everyone was thrilled that they could come up with their own mixes, and every 15 minutes we would pull out a fresh pizza from the oven and pop in another. It was so cool to try new flavors each time!

  8. Nanne says...

    dessert is the hardest part of throwing a dinner party for me, hate to bake and baking hates me back :).

    i usually set up my bar cart with the coffee maker, cups,sugars, cream, fun coffee syrups/ liquors, biscotti. when i’m ready for everyone to go home, i turn the coffee maker on and set out a couple of platters of easy, pickup desserts. one of my biggest hits was a large tray featuring a varied selection of girl scout cookies. who doesn’t like girl scout cookies :? unfortunately they are not always available but they do freeze well.

  9. We love to host “cinq a sept” parties. It’s basically a drinks and apps party that everyone feels comfortable bringing their kid to. We have platters of nice appetizers for the adults and we order in cheese pizzas for the kids (as they tend to need to REALLY eat at that time). We have big dispensers of nonalcoholic drinks (fancy waters and and lemonade) and a bar cart. It’s super casual. People show up with drinks and apps to share, the end time (though we rarely adhere to it) does mean that people leave reasonably early and my husband and I always high five when we still have time to watch an episode of Peaky Blinders after the kids are in bed and the party is cleaned up!

  10. As a comment not related to the content of the post, I don’t think the flash-photography fits in with the aesthetic of Cup of Jo. I think of Cup of Jo as mature, thoughtful, stylish without being too trendy/hokey, and even elegant. I think the aesthetic with these photos fits more of a Teen Vogue or Cosmo or something else that’s young, hip, and mildly aesthetically unpleasing as an intentional aesthetic.

    This is my first “negative” comment on CoJ, and I hope it isn’t offensive. Just want to share that while the topic totally fits the CoJ vibe, the art direction doesn’t.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Jodi! Really appreciate hearing your perspective.

      Stella xoxx

    • Anonymous says...

      I loved the aesthetic! It was in fact aesthetically pleasing to me. Unsure of the correlation between flash photography and immaturity / thoughtlessness…

    • YANTI says...

      I know next to nothing about photography. But it did come to me while reading through the topic that this set of photos look “different” from what I’m usually accustomed to CoJ graphics.

    • Kate says...

      Chiming in to say I liked these photos! I saved them to my Pinterest boards and will enjoy referring to them in the future for party ideas. Horses for courses :)

    • Amber says...

      Stella, you are so gracious. This comment is hilarious. I noticed the flash (“That party must have been at night! How fun!”) and loved it, and also love the other types of ‘art direction’ CoJ possesses.

      xoxo to YOU for your grace <3

  11. Mm. Cannot wait for the day when I have a big enough apartment to host parties!

  12. Maria says...

    cold drinks: alcohol/non alcoholic carafe.
    mini caprese salads: mini mozzarella ball, basil and cherry tomato, on a toothpick.
    sliced sliced bread (one slice makes six pieces), cheddar and sliced banana.
    full loafs of bread, dips, cheese and honey/compote.
    mic drop. boom.

  13. j.fizz says...

    The most important thing I’ve learned about good parties is that I just don’t like parties.

    • Mama M says...

      This made me laugh really hard.

  14. Katie says...

    Stella “supermodel” Blackmon! Great ideas!

  15. Ramona says...

    I love all of this (even begrudgingly accept the theme party since you come right out and say no costumes!) but I have to protest the idea of broken-up chocolate bars for dessert!! As a person who doesn’t care too much about booze or cheese or meat but has a total sweet tooth, it’s always a little disappointing to me when dessert gets short shrift. If you’re a baker, then dessert is the easiest possible thing to make yourself since you can do it the day before. And if you’re not a baker, that’s why bakeries exist! I often bake Ina Garten’s lemon bundt cake for parties (or sometimes Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit spin on it) and I always put out to-go containers next to it so people can take a slice home for later. Most of our friends have little kids (as do we) and there’s something really lovely about taking a special dessert (or at the holidays I even put out tiny bottles of champagne along with the Christmas cookies) home with you to enjoy after you deal with the craziness of a too-late bedtime with the kiddos. It makes it feel less like the clock has struck midnight and your carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. :)

    • Luna says...

      Oh yes agree! Even a quick stop at your fave Cafe for an assorted box of treats can really light up the last hour or two.

      I loved the Cinderella reference too xx

    • Nicole says...

      I love the idea of putting out to-go boxes! I grew up in Brazil, where at weddings there are tables and tables of desserts and someone is always in charge of sending guests home with slices of cake to go — never thought to bring that idea to a more casual party at home. Brilliant!

    • Jenny says...

      I love that extra touch of the take away boxes (keeping parents in mind). Such a good tip.

  16. JAR says...

    idk why but #3 reminded me of helping my mom prep for parties and holidays as a kid. she is the MASTER of entertaining – everything would always be set + ready for guests with enough time for her to make herself a drink and sit and enjoy before everyone arrived. it is my ultimate goal. ive gotten close a few times but more often than not i’m putting the finishing touches on apps or need to excuse myself to go throw on a nicer outfit as the first people get there, not sipping a martini with ella fitzgerald on, cool as cucumber. someday!

    • katia says...

      my mom always had the candles lit and classical music playing, food spread out…i love thinking about the parties they threw!

    • Luna says...

      As a Mum myself I often wondered how my Mum managed to “do it all” as a working single Mother of 3 young kids. She held parties, gatherings and catering (1 of her paid jobs).

      Well, she had 3 sisters and 1 brother and lots of Cousins to bring a Course and or drinks each! Lmao. She also made dishes the night before OR wake me at 5:30am to begin prepping most of the dishes. I remember waking at 4:00 or 5:00 to drive to the Farmer’s Market and then Town Shopping.

      I love you Mum but no thanks!

    • Sophie says...

      My advice (which doesn’t fully solve your conundrum) is go get changed have a shower etc. 1 hr or so before your guests are due. You will feel so much better and you can always delegate some last minute jobs to your partner/ ever punctual best friend but no one else can get you ready. Also that way if someone does rock up early at least you feel clean and dressed appropriately.

  17. Jalene says...

    Okay these are all great tips (thanks Stella) , but is anyone else distracted by the the beautiful glossy hair on everyone’s head?!

    Is it just coincidence? good lighting and camera skills? or a secret hair product that appears to work on all hair types? I need to know!

    • Sasha says...

      It’s dark hair, right? It always seems dark shades are so super shiny, compared to lighter. I have blonde hair but years ago I dyed it dark brown and black, and the very best part was it was so so shiny. I’ve had it colored light too, and it’s not the same at all. I think you only get really shiny blonde hair when you’re a little kid.

    • elizabeth ashley says...

      Haha yes! That’s all I could think about!

  18. Andrea says...

    We host a monthly spaghetti dinner party (inspired by Friday Night Meatballs, an article I saw on a long ago CoJ weekend post – we’ve been doing it for nearly three years now!), and I make the sauce and the pasta, but outsource absolutely everything else. I love it because it’s super casual and the guest list makes itself. People bring their kids, their dates, their cousins from out of town, whoever. Kids play, grown ups drink wine, and everyone has a great time.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Love, love, love, Andrea!!!

  19. Claire says...

    Yes to having a start time, an end time, and BYOB (I love the drink station idea). I run out of steam after about 8 pm, so we start early and end early. Having some board games, cards, chess board, etc, scattered around in case people want to play sometimes works out well. I like strings of little tiny lights to make the space look festive too.

    • Tessa says...

      I’m with you when it comes to running out of steam at 8pm! I didn’t realize that as an adult you can have an end time for your party. I feel like I’ve missed out on hosting so many dinner parties simply because I didn’t want to stay up late.

  20. I have to say I like the photography in this post. It’s a departure from your norm, but it’s fun! Bon Appetit’s spreads always make me feel like my social life may be more glamorous than I think it is.

    When hosting parties, I tend to take the opposite tact. I too make up a cocktail in the beginning and encourage everyone to bring beer or wine, but I’ll serve charcuterie and a mix of semi-homemade bites and apps. I’ll usually make a pizza from my sourdough starter. But ultimately dessert is my show stopper. Recently I’ve made a three tiered peach and blueberry trifle, a lavender lemon chiffon cake, cherry almond pie (Twin Peaks watch party), and several varieties of frangipane tarts. There’s always a buzz in the room when we near time for dessert, and it’s nice to have something to look forward to.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thank you so much, Emma! And these are such great tips. xoxox

  21. Kelsey says...

    Do you happen to know where your friend’s jeans (in the first image) are from??

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      I’ll ask!! xoxo

  22. Jessica says...

    We’ve stumbled upon a crowd-pleasing store-bought dessert: raspberry sherbet! We picked it up on a whim once and it’s gone over so well that we keep rebuying for parties. Enjoyed this post and thought the photography was beautiful, but I missed the warmer feel of CoJ’s established photo style. This type of flash photography feels — to me — like what you see on the society pages. There’s an event with a photographer there, and here’s what you missed. Whereas, the photography style I often see on this blog makes me feel like I’m part of the intimate gathering. Like I said, though, I thought it was very pretty (as is the servingware).

    • Katie says...

      Along the lines of sherbet…. here’s my go-to: one scoop of a citrus sherbet (something orange in color), one scoop of a berry (something reddish in color for contrast), garnish with mint, drizzle champagne/sparkling wine overtop. PERFECTION and so super easy!

  23. Susan says...

    We splurged (and also had gifted to us) some Snowe flatware and it is wonderful! We pair it with our Ikea plates. ;o) But, I’d love to invest in more Snowe tableware in the future.

    • Hi Susan! Amy from SNOWE here chiming in to say how happy it makes me to read this. I am obsessed with the flatware as well, and love that you’re mixing it with the pieces you have and love.

  24. My group of gal pals used to plan a monthly Saturday evening trip to Whole Foods, where we’d buy an assortment of their pre-made pasta salads, cheeses and breads, and desserts, with a couple bottles of wine. We’d go back to one of each other’s apartments to lounge in our pjs, try skincare masks, and watch movies. Since most of us were too broke to shop there for regular grocery trips, it felt indulgent without splurging on a fancy restaurant outing, and everyone winds up splitting the cost pretty evenly.

    • Sasha says...

      That sounds so fun!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Sounds amazing, Bethany!!!

  25. Ashley says...

    My group of friends (the women are all high school teachers) have our annual “summer party” in April where we break out the Summer Shandy and margaritas and all pretend like it’s summer in the final homestretch of the school year. We’re actually having it tomorrow night-ish (let’s be honest, we’ve got babies and toddlers and all have to do bedtime by 8ish) BUT…we are down to seven weeks left in the school year! Woo-hoo Summer!

  26. I love these tips. I’m totally going to have a bring your own plate, potluck.

  27. Anna says...

    Themes are ridiculous, full stop. The most frustrating, attention-seeking person I ever knew insisted on having a theme for every party (and bragged about it in her family’s Christmas letter as though it were an “accomplishment”). Please don’t encourage the madness. Life is full of enough inane requirements; I just wanna chill!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahaha, I can see your point, Anna! x

    • Maybe you could have a “chill” themed party? ;)

    • Ginny says...

      I’m gonna have to second this, with a caveat: though I am personally not a huge fan of themes, I don’t mind them if they’re chill. If, however, I have to dress up? Nuh uh. Maybe I’m a scrooge, but I had enough of that as an adolescent and now on Halloween. All other 364 days? PLEASE let me wear my normal clothes!

    • Patricia says...

      Yesss! I said your line that life is already full of ridiculous requirements just last week about a theme party.

    • I.hate themes too!!!

    • Gabrielle says...

      I disagree! My friend group has taken turns hosting an annual Christmas party for nearly 15 years now, and the themed ones are hands-down the most fun and most memorable because everyone gets soooo into it. My personal favorites were How The Grunge Stole Christmas (90s-themed food, lots of flannel) and White Christmas (all white clothing, all white food!). When a host has decided to forego a theme, which has happened and is totally their prerogative, it never feels quite as festive.

    • Sasha says...

      I agree Anna. I have a couple friends though, way more extroverted and social than me, who seem to live for this stuff. They love dressing up in costumes, themes, etc. I personally don’t enjoy it AT ALL, but it is fun for some.

    • Neri says...

      Totally with you. Themes are the worst. It makes a party seem so conditional and uptight. I was once invited to a wedding where the happy couple insisted on “black tie and bare feet”. Barf!

    • This hurts my heart honestly lol.

      My good friend, who got me into cosplay, does a costumed theme every year for her birthday party (people are NOT required to dress up if they don’t want to but it’s highly encouraged). It’s fun to see what everyone comes up with, from her fellow cosplay buds to those outside the community! One year was 90’s cartoons, another anime, another Tim Burton, etc.

      And if you’re not a costume/Halloween person I can see how this might seem dumb/silly/exhausting/childish but honestly, life is short, man. It’s short and it’s full of sadness and frightening things especially as an adult, and getting to put together your best closet Maleficent or whatever, or just any very free and creative pursuit, makes it all worthwhile and do-able. In my opinion. #protheme

  28. Margaret says...

    Cereal parties are my go-to! My husband and I are the first in our group of friends to have kids, so when our baby goes to bed we’ll invite people over to share cereal. Something about eating nutritionally void breakfast food together makes people bond!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      “Something about eating nutritionally void breakfast food together makes people bond!” Hahahah, yes, Margaret!!

  29. Great tip on the end-time of parties!!! I do enjoy having people over, but some people just don’t know when to LEAVE (we have kids, too, so when it gets too long after bedtime – oh man, cue the crazy behavior).

    Also, the theme idea is so fun. I see now that any time there was a theme, people had a blast. Some of my friends have a winter barbecue in February and it’s so fun to pretend that it’s warm outside when we’re all shivering around the grill because we’re ready for spring (we go inside to eat).

  30. I ordered a case of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Brownies after reading about them here. So easy to throw a pan in for a party dessert or to take as a host “thank you” gift!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Delicious, Suze!!!

  31. Kate says...

    My #1 tip: host barefoot! Or don’t do your hair. Or wear jeans. Just do or wear something that says “unfussy!” If I look relaxed, the mood is more relaxed. I tend to be a little uptight, so appearing relaxed is actually work for me. Dressing the part helps a lot.

    My husband’s #1 tip: the George Ezra Pandora station is excellent dinner party music.

  32. Luna says...

    So many gatherings I’ve been to where I have been full just from the Snacks alone. A person can really fill up from veges and crackers!

  33. I heartily concur with the point about dessert: lots of chocolate in big chunks, fruit and something like baklava generally makes everybody happy. Also…something that I realised many, many years ago…people like food that they can recognise. Which is why lots of people are thrilled when, instead of a fancy finish, they get given steamed pudding and custard. Or crumble. Or treacle tart. You really can have enough of bloody roulades.

    • Andrea says...

      Laughing because maybe 5% of Americans recognize the desserts you referenced. What is treacle? Why would you have it in a tart? Also, a terrific reason to travel. I love Anglophone countries that have a strong tradition of cake and tea. There is something so cozy and indulgent to having desserts be a part of a mid-afternoon pause.

    • raq says...

      I agree with andrea! your treacle tarts sound very fancy, I’d love to come to a dinner party!

    • Claire says...

      I laughed reading this. I think I sort of know what a bloody roulade is from watching the Great British Baking Show, but I am not confident I could pick one out of a line up with steamed pudding, custards, treacle tarts or crumbles.
      But I would for sure come to one of your parties just to have a conversation about recognizable foods.

    • I hope this comment appears in the right place otherwise I am talking to myself…treacle tart is delicious (syrup, breadcrumbs in a pastry case and treacle is really more like molasses so you don’t actually use it), steamed pudding is a sponge cake mix which you steam for a couple of hours and there are dozens of versions – syrup (again), chocolate, ginger, date, jam, marmalade, lemon or you can do a suet version which is fab. You have to have custard or lots of thick cream. Very, very old school and traditional from the days of the Victorian kitchen.

    • Sasha says...

      Fun British-isms!! I only know what those desserts are from the British baking show :)
      I’ll still take apple pie, chocolate cake with ganache frosting, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or BROWNIES!!! and ice cream over treacle anything lol.

    • Amber says...

      Annie, I’m coming over. Those desserts sound like heaven.

  34. This is such a cute post! I love having dinner parties and I think the best ones are those with the least hassle and the most fun! Your tips are great and I totally want to have a cereal party.

    x Elise

  35. Megan says...

    My friends and I used to have what we called “Cooking Challenges” at my house. Everyone had to bring an item they had never made before to share with the group, and one person would be the judge. Whomever “won” got to be the judge for the next challenge and would pick the theme. We did themes of breakfast, tailgating, hor d’oeuvres, desserts, items with certain ingredients, etc. It was so much fun, and everyone loved trying new recipes they hadn’t made before. Most of the group has moved away now (college town), but I keep thinking of reviving it. Thanks for the party inspiration!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      LOVE this so much, Megan! Can’t wait to try this, too.

  36. Diana says...

    Stella, I ADORE your haircut!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Wow, thank you so much, Diana!!

  37. Andrea says...

    My tip is to only do what you enjoy doing, outsource the rest. I enjoy mixing drinks with the help of the book “12 Bottle Bar” so I will do that plus an easy main dish (maybe) and have guests bring everything else. I have one of those grippy wet mats that are on the bartender side of bars from a restaurant supply store, I chill the glassware, pre-squeeze lemon and lime juice, make simple syrup…I really get into it! I don’t care about the food so I let people who do care handle it.

  38. Stacie says...

    Your friends all have such amazing teeth.

    • Amy says...

      Ha! I was thinking the same thing.

  39. Gemima says...

    I haven’t been to a large size party in years. The most I’ve been in company with is probably 8-10 people and always in the comfort of a friend’s home.

    Tomorrow night I am off to a friend’s party of about 80-100 people and tonight I am reading up & saving every link/post regarding Parties from A Cup of Jo. I am also enjoying the Comments section (all over again) on each of these posts.

    I will be up late tonight that’s for sure. Hahaha.

    • Kim says...

      Cracking up that you’re reading COJ as party prep. I totally do that. Enjoy your big party, Gemima!

  40. Here’s a little trick I learned from my mom: if the conversation at the supper table lulls, pull out the game “Roses, Buds, and Thorns.” It’s simple — each person says something about their day that was happy, something they’re looking forward to, and something that could’ve gone better. Even if it starts shaky, EVERYONE loves this because we all love to share about ourselves. Everyone leaves the party feeling a little bit more heard.

    • Gemima says...

      So true about being “heard”.

    • Susie says...

      I learned this from a friend of mine in college, except it was just “roses and thorns”. I’m going to try adding the “buds” part! I love it too. If you just ask “How are you?” you don’t get a full answer, but with this people can share the good and the bad.

  41. Love the idea of sharing a variety of broken gourmet chocolate bars for dessert. It’s what most people really want, so why work harder to impress?!

  42. The photography fits this post so well! This weekend is my bachelorette and we’ve literally copy and pasted last month’s Trader Joe’s cheese board ingredients into a shopping list spread sheet. Dinner tomorrow night is going to be pure appetizers (heavy in on chips and dips!) and I’m so psyched about it. I’m making a mental note to take flash photos now, too! It makes so much sense for festive occasions.

    • Bee Hogan says...

      Hope you have a Great time! X

  43. Jen says...

    Does anyone have any tips on hosting regular pot lucks? Im specifically trying to figure out the best way to do invites and how to be environmentally conscious. I don’t want to use disposable plates/utensils/cups but also don’t want to store stacks of it from thrift stores.
    Any other pearls of wisdom? :)

    • Rachel says...

      For potlucks, Corelle plates are great! They come in 100s of different patterns, so you can mix and match (or not), and the plates themselves are super thin (but very durable), so they’re easy to store.

      Depending on how fancy you want to get with your potluck, you could rent dishes or even have guests just bring their own.

    • I agree with Rachel. Bring-a-plate, take-a-plate home again makes a lot of sense. Just wash it between courses.

    • Jessica says...

      I’ve been to and hosted several potlucks where guests were invited to BYO_ (plate, bowl, etc). My advice if you go that route is to stock up on silverware (the thrift store is great for this) and napkins (snag a big stash of white dish towels on Amazon) and make sure that the sink is empty when guests are leaving so that they can wash their dish before they leave.

    • Kate says...

      My mom regularly hosts groups of 20+ at home. She bought 30 melamine dinner plates. The nice thing about melamine is that you don’t have to be precious with it. Thrift store utensils go in the bag, too. She shoves the plates in a bag and throws them in the coat closet when not in use. Usually uses Mason jars as cups, as they have so many purposes when not on the table. Try white kitchen towels for napkins- can be used beyond potlucks, easy to clean, fine if they are wrinkley from being thrown in a drawer.

      While not the most environmentally friendly up front, she’s had the plates for 5 years and they are in great shape. She’ll continue to use them for years.

    • We switched to disposables that can be composted. We do hang up signs to explain that to people though – otherwise everything ends up in the trash!

    • Jen says...

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses! I really appreciate it and can’t wait for summer potlucks and bbqs! Thanks!

  44. Those twins are beautiful!! Love How they are identical and rocking different styles..did a double take!

    • Jessica Jordan says...

      I thought the same thing! They’re so cute and lovely!

  45. Love these tips! As a college student I do as much entertaining as I can, eating off our floor mattress/dinner table, and these tips will help me when I get an actual table and kitchen!

    xx

  46. Kristie says...

    Love these tips! When I was share housing with some friends we started Sunday suppers almost accidentally, which grew into a huge potluck each Sunday with 15 – 20 people crammed into our little rickety house. In the summer we had hammocks and fairy lights under the trees in the overgrown garden, and someone built a actual bar from timber pallets (called the Black Marlin), we made a fire pit, and people brought guitars and bongos to do sing alongs, we even had one guy juggle knives and oranges!! Once we had a spinach pie competition where 5 people baked and the rest of us tasted with blindfolds on and had to guess who made what. It was so fun! Now I live over 3000km away, and we’ve all moved on, but we still talk about our Sunday suppers :)

    • Andrea says...

      That sounds like perfection!

  47. Amanda says...

    In the winter we host a monthly brunch with all of our friends. It’s seriously amazing! All we do is supply the Mimosas and maybe scones, everyone else brings something. It’s so helpful to get through the winter months!!

  48. Hannah says...

    I am very much into the concept of “good enough” hospitality (not my idea), where you just invite people over and don’t stress about it too much. I find that people are usually just happy to be welcomed into your space, that they are not thinking about matched tableware or signature cocktails. Those are lovely but we’re all busy and have kids – who has time? I don’t overthink hosting anymore. I make lamb shanks in the slow cooker or a baked risotto, or host a BBQ with kebabs and a bunch of salads. Anything that can be prepped in advance. My go-to dessert is ALWAYS a tiramisu because you make it the night before and it tastes better the next day. A few bottles of Barossa Valley wine, a bunch of flowers on the coffee table and a semi tidy bathroom. Boom. Done.

    • Sarah says...

      that sounds amazing, Hannah. Great attitude! Can I come by?

    • Gemima says...

      Well said Hannah.

      A group of Mums and I used to do this when our kids were younger. Every second Friday just show up with a bottle & plate to share, kids disappear around the house and garden for hours, and everyone laughed the nights away.

  49. Liz says...

    In college my roommates and I always ended up receiving tons of zucchini during the summer months- from their mothers gardens, an aunts garden, a friend, a neighbor, etc. We would have so much that we didn’t know what to do. So we would host a zucchini party and we would make everything out of zucchini. Zucchini pancakes, bread, cake, muffins, cookies! It was always a ton of fun. Now when I make anything with Zucchini I think of all the fun I had in college.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that couldn’t be sweeter, liz. now i’m going to think of that every time i buy a zucchini at the grocery store :)

    • Meghan says...

      My college roommates and I would host elaborately themed dinner parties too. Love it. We once had a tiny tiny dinner party – served felafels in mini pitas, tiny bowls of soup, tiny pizzas, drinks out of shot glasses, tiny napkins…. a tiny welcome sign on the door. Another time we served a meal where everything started with B. Borscht, broccoli, black bean brownies, drank beer…. so much fun. Love zucchini party. I always have too much zucchini in my garden as well.

  50. Dana says...

    Elton John pandora station is my party go-to! Always perfect.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahaha, adding this to my list, Dana. Thank you!!!

    • Search “Nancy Meyers Movie Goodness” on Spotify. It will change your life. Also, “French Cafe Lounge.” Now I can’t listen to anything else!

  51. Lindsay says...

    The one thing I always forget is dessert. I am not a dessert person. Like, when I have a bite of cake, I feel an immediate and intense (and very uncomfortable) sugar rush. So I truly forget that maybe guests *like* dessert. My husband (he’s partial to chocolate chip cookies) and I have hosted many a dinner party, and no one has ever complained about a lack of dessert. Are they just being kind? Our dinners are pretty great, but would they be greater with dessert? Also, I feel that an that extra glass (or two) of wine counts as dessert. But that’s coming from the anti-dessert lady.

    • gfy says...

      A lot of people enjoy a bite of something sweet at the end of the meal or soon after so it is really thoughtful to set out something like small bowl of chocolate truffles. Whole Foods makes a box of truffles that is not only cheap but excellent. Extra’s can be stashed in a ziplock or small container in the cupboard for the next dinner.

    • I don’t think every dinner needs a desert, especially when the dinner is good. Often when we do dinner parties everyone’s too full anyway to eat desert immediately after. If you are worried about it, consider just getting a few chocolate bars- I like dark chocolate, but even a few bars of Hershey’s milk chocolate would do the trick. It’s easy and light, and delicious with a few glasses of wine as well. :)

    • Caroline says...

      Haha. I’m totally the opposite. I love baking and eating dessert. I totally plan parties around desserts. The savory food is usually an afterthought.

    • I never think about dessert either! So dessert and drinks are the things I religiously dole out as BYO regardless of the size of the party (except my kids bday parties – I will relent and make boxed cupcakes for them). I am very happy to take care of all of the apps and dinner items – but don’t make me try to find a drink for everyone (I’m a beer girl!) or think of a dessert I’ll probably peck at!

    • Andrea says...

      They are just being kind. Part of a dinner party is getting to indulge in dessert.

  52. These are all really good ideas! I’ve always wanted to host parties but have felt like ‘I’m not the kind of person who does that,’ or ‘we’re too out of the way…’ which is ridiculous because I’ve NEVER thought that about anyone else.

    Funny sidenote: when Snowe appeared all over the subway ads, I wondered to myself how long it would take to show up on COJ ;)

    • Just a wave from us at SNOWE saying how awesome it is that you saw the subway AND this post! <3

  53. Cynthia says...

    Am I the only person who doesn’t like Tate’s cookies?! They are hard crisps!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      have you tried the double chocolate ones? they are so addictive.

    • Erin says...

      Tate’s are possibly the best mass-market gluten-free cookie out there! My celiac family hearts them.

    • Naomi says...

      Joanna is RIGHT! The double chocolate ones are delicious! The chocolate flavor is so deep for a cookie! You might change your mind!

    • Caroline says...

      Dipping them in tea/coffee makes them much better, but I’d always choose soft, freshly baked cookies over crispy ones.

    • Cynthia says...

      hmm I will have to give the double chocolate a try!

    • Amber says...

      If you don’t like Tate’s, try Pamela’s! They are soooooooooo good and soooooooooo soft. The double chocolate are good, and so are the regular chocolate chip — those ones taste like COOKIE DOUGH instead of cookies!!! Mmmmmmm

  54. Florence says...

    Hello Stella! The Reformation dress you’re wearing is gorgeous! We seem to have the same built (more petite) and I was wondering what size you chose. On the site, it looks like I’m an XS, but I don’t want it to fit like the model (extra tight).

    • Bernadette says...

      Was literally going to ask this exact question!! Had it in my shopping bag, but was waffling on size.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Florence! I’m about 5’2 and I got a size XS. I actually tried on the S in the store and liked the length better, but the sleeves were too long! Hope this helps :)

  55. Jen says...

    Potlucks are usually such a disappointment with my crew. We’re all in our late-30’s to late 40’s and have families, jobs, etc and most of the contributions are half-assed to say the least. ha!
    Last year I started throwing a dinner party every other month where guests aren’t required to bring anything except their own alcohol. It keeps the costs manageable and my guests love feeling like they are contributing to a party without having to actually cook anything. :) I absolutely love cooking for other people so it works out for everyone.
    I also keep the guest list to 6-8 total adults so I’m not having to make a feast.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, jen!

  56. Carly says...

    This was such a great post. I love your writing voice, Stella!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This means so much, Carly. Thank you!!!!

  57. Great post! This year my friends and I have inadvertently started a dinner party circuit and I just hosted our last one two weekends ago. I kind of followed all of your guidelines. It was a sake tasting party and we made gyozas, grilled miso eggplant and Japanese rice. I pulled out my kitchen bench and laid my floor pillows all around and we drank Sake, played Japanese drinking games and giggled to the silliest things ( Sake drunk is the best kind of drunk) The best surprise of the night was when I pulled out a tray of Japanese candy and some mochi ice-cream for dessert. The room of 30-somethings squealed like they were at a 10 year old’s birthday party. It was the best dinner party I’ve ever thrown.

    • Amy says...

      This sounds so fun! I want to come!

  58. Audrey Johnson says...

    I think these are all wonderful. The whole purpose of a party is relaxation, enjoyments and friends. So why put so much pressure on them or yourself. Make it easy and let everyone have fun!!Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  59. Steph says...

    I loved reading this. The photography is a bit severe for my taste- with bright flash and intense shadows. Just curious, was it inspired by Into The Gloss photography?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thank you for your feedback, Steph! :) I can totally see where you’re coming from. We’ve been liking this style for a while (yes, love it on Into The Gloss!), so we’d thought we’d give it a try.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      and on bon appetit! we like experimenting with different styles of photography, illustration, etc. thanks for your note, steph!

    • Kara says...

      So funny, I really liked the style of photography! I like that you guys are playing around with different picture styles, it adds interest to already interesting posts.

    • Paige says...

      The pictures remind me of photos from my childhood. So thankful cameras have improved!

    • Becca says...

      I loved this photography! In fact, I think there’s a cup of jo post from five years back or so about dinner parties that used a similar photography style… and it inspired me to take a picture of the best charcuterie board I’ve ever put together at my New Year’s Eve party this year! Somehow the brightness makes the pictures feel buzzed and happy, just like a good party feels :)

    • Tess Williams says...

      The photos made me want to be at that party!

    • Anna says...

      I second this Steph!

    • Madie says...

      I also noticed and actively disliked the photography (but loved the content!) My eye actually started avoiding the photos and skipping down to the next paragraph of text. Interesting how polarizing this type of flash photography can be!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks for your comment, Madie! We’ll definitely keep this in mind moving forward :)

    • Steph says...

      I regret not putting with my original comment that I really do love Julia Robb’s photography in general. And i think it’s great that you linked her website. It was just this particular set that I thought a little too intense.

  60. Julie says...

    I’m getting married this summer and actually registered for Snowe’s flatware! We had a really hard time finding quality flatware we liked. We wanted sleek and simple, and Snowe’s is exactly that. It feels substantial and durable. Fortunately we’ve already received it and will start using it ASAP ; )

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s awesome to hear, julie. good luck with your wedding planning! such a fun time in life. :)

    • Hi Julie! Amy from SNOWE here just to say huge congrats on your upcoming wedding and love that you’re loving the pieces. <3 Also, if you're ever hosting little ones at your home, I've found that the salad forks and teaspoons are perfect for toddler hands :)

  61. Mel says...

    Love any post about hosting, even sponsored ones. Thanks Stella!

  62. cgw says...

    The best party/get together I ever threw was the Pi party. It just so happened that one year 3.14 landed on a Saturday. Everyone invited was asked to bring a pie. The definition of pie included: sweet pies, savory pies, shepherds pie, pizza pie, paleo pies, quiche, and this list went on and on. It was so much fun. I’m never keen on dress ups, but do appreciate a loose theme, it does seem to “rally” the guests as this author states.

  63. Rhonda says...

    Stella, I love this post but I also love your haircut! Could you share info on your haircut? Is it layered in the back? You are a doll. I really enjoy your posts.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Rhonda! This made my day, thank you. It’s a little longer in the front than the back, no layers and cut by the amazing Kirsten at Little Axe in Brooklyn. She’s amazing. xoxoxo

  64. Tabby says...

    I love throwing parties, my personal tips are: 1. Hire a party helper from Tasktabbit (they have a category for this) and it’s the best – this person can keep things clean, pour drinks, keep food looking fresh, and the best part is you get to go to your own party, 2. Always do make your own sundaes for dessert if you’re having a dinner party (scoop good vanilla for everyone and put out little pitchers of chocolate, Carmel and fruit sauce and nuts) – it’s always a hit and requires no extra prep, 3. If you can, send people home with a party favor – I always estimate that about half your guests will forget to grab one, but I love sending people home with a little something extra – doesn’t have to be fancy.

    • Wendy says...

      Wait—part favors for grown ups at dinner parties?!? What kind of things do you mean? I need examples! This has never occurred to me but I’m curious. Love the make your own Sundae idea! Such an easy crowd pleaser. I like make your own tacos for parties because people really do like to customize, and it seems festive (with a good cocktail!). And I aspire to having a task rabbit helper at my next party—great idea!

    • margaret says...

      on easter this year, my parents sent all of their kids home (6 of us) with a whole smoked chicken that my dad had smoked outside during the day. my brothers have been texting pictures out on our family thread of all of the different meals the chicken has made its way into (smoked chicken fried rice, smoked chicken porridge, a very lazy smoked chicken with crusty bread and cheese). best adult party favor ever.

  65. Anna says...

    This is all so good!!! ???

  66. edie says...

    love the Bon Appetite vibes of this post.
    even the photos :0

  67. Ellie says...

    I once had a Passover Seder for 11 in my 600 Sq ft MAX apartment. (My MIL’s response was, “where?” Hahaha)

    My top tips:
    1. I like to be in control of the menu and the budget. The only things I typically let people bring are dessert (occasionally) and wine. If I don’t have to buy wine, it’s a huge cost savings and I don’t have to transport it on public transit. Also, if there’s enough wine, the party is great.
    2. Always have ice cream or something pre bought as a backup dessert in case something goes wrong with the dessert you planned or you run out of time.
    3. If the party is large enough and you can swing the cost, rent plates and glasses from a party rental company. The best part is you don’t have to wash everything!

    And if you like music from Nancy Meyers movies, there is a 5 or 6 hour long Spotify playlist called Nancy Meyers’s Kitchen and it is AWESOME!

    • Elizabeth R says...

      THANK YOU FOR THE NANCY MEYERS Spotify info!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg a “nancy meyers’s kitchen” playlist??? awesome!!!

    • Katie says...

      Listening now. Such a hot tip!!!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This is amazing, Ellie!!!!!

  68. Katey says...

    Agree on all the tips! But as a fellow tiny apartment dweller what I really want to know is if you throw parties in your tiny studio? And if so what are your best tips?! Where do you put all the coats? Where do people sit? Do you forget formal sit-down dinners and just do snacks and drinks? Please tell all!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Katey! Yes to all of the above :) Now, it’s usually just a group or five or six. Coats go on in the closet or on the corner of my bed, I have four stacking stools to move around my desk/dining table and my two regular chairs. My computer goes in the closet, haha. It depends on the week with snacks vs. dinner! If it’s dinner, it’s still informal! And, most importantly everyone always ends up sitting on my bed because it’s the most comfortable spot. I love it :)

  69. tomorrow i’m hosting a party for my female friends just to do their make-up, photograph it and put it in my mua portfolio, so this post found me just in time! thanks!

    also – i found out that everybody likes to feel like they participated. if somebody seems a bit unsure of themselves, you can always gently ask if they want to help you in the kitchen. working together seems to loosen up my shy/stressed friends. and what a joy it is to bring a bowl of delicious punch you’ve made togheter to the rest of the guests!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      “found out that everybody likes to feel like they participated. if somebody seems a bit unsure of themselves, you can always gently ask if they want to help you in the kitchen. working together seems to loosen up my shy/stressed friends.”

      Yesss!!!! This has saved me so many times when I’m feeling shy at a party! Great point! x

    • Chelsey says...

      100% yes! Love this comment

  70. Super agree on drinks! I actually don’t drink alcohol, and even though it’s an adulting goal for me to one day have a few drinks to mix on hand (turning thirty soon, maybe I’ll get it together in the next decade!) I’m the first to admit I’m not who you want picking your beverages. BUT, I do always make/provide a ton of food and have found when I tell guests to BYOB they always show up with enough for them and others! At the last party I threw a few of my friends (who were strangers to each other!) banded together to go out and get different mixers together, which was very cute. Fun was had by all!

  71. Agnes says...

    This post is everything I needed! I’m planning a birthday collage-making party/my first solo hosting gig ever and I’ll definitely be referring to these stunning photos ad nauseam

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how fun, agnes!

  72. Lauren E. says...

    I very much agree with all of these, but I find now that I’m older, my friends LOVE a good costume party. I recently threw my 37-year-old husband a 90s themed party (Saved by the Bell played muted on the TV, I bought slap bracelets, Gushers, and pizza bagels, and the playlist was a rockin’ mix of all those songs you forgot you loved from late night radio) and everyone arrived in costume! Most were dressed in a mix of their own closets, Goodwill, and H&M and everyone had a ball. One of the best parties I’ve ever hosted.

  73. K says...

    For a recent party, I made chocolate chip cookie dough in advance and froze it in balls. As dinner was wrapping up, I popped them in the oven. There is no better dessert than warm chocolate chip cookies. – HUGE crowd pleaser, highly recommend! (store bought cookie dough would work, too)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      LOVE!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i bet the cookies made your whole place smell amazing, too. :):):)

    • Jill says...

      Yes! Yes! Deb Perelman’s salted chocolate chunk cookies (https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/04/salted-chocolate-chunk-cookies/) are PERFECT for this. Is there anything better than a warm chocolate chip cookie with some vanilla ice cream?! We actually ended our party with most eating the cookies directly off the cookie sheet as they came out of the oven and ice cream out of the tubs with spoons. Smitten Kitchen desserts are a crowd favorite, always!

  74. Annie says...

    +1 to simple, store-bought desserts. I’ve served ice cream and cookies in parfait glasses to rave reviews!

  75. Gen says...

    Disagree on #4–don’t rely on guests to bring food and/or drinks, unless you specifically say it’s a potluck. They’re the GUEST, that’s the whole point, and you’re the host. It’s fine if they bring their own stuff, and a lot of people don’t mind doing that, but at least start out with some core drinks like beer or wine, esp considering not everyone arrives on time. I do love potlucks but again, you have to say so.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      great point, gen!

    • I think as long as you set an expectation, so that people aren’t caught off guard,* you are free to enlist any sort of contributions that make it easy. If people don’t like it, they won’t come! I never ever mind bringing something. I’m delighted that someone has undertaken to get people together and happy to help.

      *Was told “no presents” for a party once – quite adamantly – and then ended up being the only one who didn’t bring a gift. Fool me once!

    • Leah says...

      But who doesn’t, when invited to a party, ask what they can bring?? Isn’t this a rule? I love to bring something, even if it’s small — a bottle of wine or sparkling water even — because it makes me feel like I’m reciprocating and acknowledging their generosity, even in a small way (until I can have them over later). And I think people love to bring something because they have an anchor item they’re comfortable with. It’s so much cozier and chummy-er when people bring things to share, instead of or in addition to a host gift. I’m actually embarrassed to invite people to an explicit potluck, as if I were forcing their participation (unless it’s a huge party). All my friends (new and old) have asked what they could bring when I’ve invited them, and I always take them up on it …

  76. Meghan says...

    This post seemed a little conflicting to me. Stella is adorable, your photography is fabulous, and the tableware is gorgeous, BUT nearly $500 for the eating bundle?? I realize you can buy individual pieces, and I’m sure it’s totally worth it, but coming after Caroline’s post about embracing your quirkiness and warmth this comes off a tad sterile. I personally love the endearing-ness of mismatched dishes, that one cup with the tiny chip you just can’t get rid of, or your grandmother’s handed down flatware. The message about keeping things low-key and easy was nice though. Anyway, just my two cents. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for your note, meghan! i hear you that it’s a splurge to get the eating bundle, although as you say, you can get them individually too, to suit your budget. our view is that snowe is a great investment since they’re so well made and will last forever. these WILL become those beloved hand-me-down pieces that might have a tiny chip down the road. not everyone has a full set of quirky pieces to start with (at least i didn’t!). even now, at age 39, i have ikea plates with weird black scratches on them. :) personally, i’m excited to invest in snowe this spring so we can have those lovely basics for enjoying meals with our friends and family. they’re a great company, founded by a wonderful couple, and their quality and customer service is fantastic.

    • Ali says...

      Joanna- I too have had those ikea plates with the wierd black scratches forever! Made me smile that you also have dishes that aren’t perfect. Might be time for both of us to get some beautiful new dishes!

    • Yael says...

      Are you saying this is not an effective commercial in that it didn’t sell you on the dinnerware? Or that you find it weird to have such aspirational/staged content on a lifestyle blog, because you want it to actually be in line with the ‘authenticity’ message of be yourself, be low-key, be easy? I’m not disagreeing, just wondering . . . Me personally, I always find it a bit jarring to look at posts that are like, “hey, check out my personal experiences with X!” and then discover they are designed for product placement. But I guess that is like the point of lifestyle blogs.

    • Meghan says...

      Oh, I think it was presented beautifully! Maybe it was just the contrast of this post and the one before it that was jarring to me. With the previous post I felt like I was a part of this inclusive community. Maybe it’s just a testament to the quality of writing on Cup of Jo, which is fantastic. With this one, I was suddenly reminded that, oh yes, you are all in NYC and have lovely parties with matching flatware and sparkling water and perfect teeth, lol. I know I’m in the minority and I’m not their target audience so I’ll take my seat on the sidelines but thank you Joanna for your thoughtful response and SNOWE for supporting this blog. xoxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we always want you to feel included, meghan! fwiw, stella lives in a 175-square-foot apartment, usually with her boyfriend staying there, as well. even if the photos are beautiful (we had our dream team working on this shoot), these are real people with real worries/anxieties/family issues/etc etc. you’re definitely our target audience and we’ll work even harder to make you feel that way with every post. xoxoxo

    • Hi Meghan, a shout from Amy at SNOWE to say hi and that we fully support mixing and matching, especially with handed-down pieces! I for one, have a “#1 grandpa” mug I’m not giving up anytime soon :) Love seeing the thoughtful conversation here – would expect no less from COJ comments section.

  77. Elizabeth says...

    Here’s what I’ve found to be the secret to a good party (other than good food, drinks, relaxed hostess, etc.): make sure everyone knows someone else at the party. That way, everyone has someone they recognize and can start a conversation with. No one is standing in the corner, looking lost, hoping someone will talk to them, waiting for the hostess to rescue them.

    Great ideas. Parties are a great place to break out hors d’oeuvres from your mom’s recipe book – the 50s, 60s and 70s were the high point of party food as far as I’m concerned. Today, we think of these things as so unhealthy (aka, food made from other food), but food made out of cream of mushroom soup or Velveeta cheese won’t kill you for one night.

    • Angeleno says...

      I totally agree with you! 100%! Oh man that makes me nostalgic, being a kid and having the best apps ever.

  78. Ariana says...

    Best dip on earth:

    1 sausage roll
    1 package of cream cheese
    1 can of Rotel

    Brown sausage and add the other two ingredients and simmer. Serve warm with tortilla chips. I have had men damn near propose to me from this dip. It becomes the center of every party. Trust me.

    • meaghan says...

      I second this. I make this dip for almost every get-together, and there’s never any left by the end of the party.

  79. Laura says...

    Damn. I want to go to a Stella party.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aww, haha, Laura, you are welcome next time :)

    • Laura says...

      If only I live in NYC, or they were held in LA!

  80. Erin says...

    We throw a pyjama party every Christmas. We wanted to be the one holiday party that no one felt pressured to dress up or buy a new outfit for. We’ve been doing it for 5 years now and everyone gets really into it – some friends get so excited about buying new PJs to debut at the party. It’s always a fun, totally chill time.

    • Susie G says...

      What a fun idea that I am going to steal, Erin!

  81. We cook with the guests sometimes, not just barbecue. Not in a chaotic way but planned out, make your own pizza, latkes (we’ll have a few mixes), even with simple meals. If everyone is going to be in the kitchen anyway we might as well all have fun…..and a glass of wine.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      So cute, Stacey! Love this.

    • shannon says...

      Agree! We went to an amazing dinner party where the hosts had us all help make homemade pasta. It turned into a very low stakes competition of who made the cleanest noodles in the pasta machine, and it was so relaxing especially as I didn’t know anyone else there. By the time we sat down to eat I felt like one of the group.

    • MJ says...

      my co-workers and I have done this for years as our Christmas party. we go to someone’s house and make homemade pizzas. everyone else is responsible for bringing an app or a drink. We each end up with the exact pizza we want and it’s fun making our own food.

    • Tess Williams says...

      I love this! Makes me dream of someday having a big, open kitchen my friends can gather in (instead of a teeny pocket apartment kitchen)!!

    • Rachel says...

      My fiance and I taught ourselves to roll sushi a while back, and now we do that instead of make your own pizza! You can really put anything into it, and if the fish is on sale and you’ve got the mats and toppings already, it’s pretty low-cost as well. And when our guests leave, they have all learned a new skill!

  82. Betsie says...

    I agree with it all! And I just want to add, I love the bright flash photography in this post.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much, Betsie! We wanted to try something different :) Happy you like it!

  83. Linda says...

    I need details on your dress, Stella! You glow in it!

    • Laura says...

      I was thinking the same thing! Perfect party dress!

    • Lily says...

      same!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Ahh, so, so kind, Linda! It’s from Reformation: https://bit.ly/2qax2AJ

      Thank you!!!

    • Lidia says...

      I’m so happy someone asked! That dress looks stunning on Stella!

  84. Sarah says...

    Ms. Stella, you are cute as a button!