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5 Easy Tips for Throwing a Last-Minute Gathering

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One of the things I love most about winter is that our schedules are less busy–leaving more time for things like impromptu get-togethers! There’s nothing more fun than getting a text from your best friend saying, “Are you home tonight? I’d love to stop by!” and being able to say, “actually, YES!”

A fun fact about Neal and I: Because we tend to overbook ourselves, we usually try not to plan anything out too far in advance. If we feel like hanging out with just the two of us, we want to be able to do that. If we feel like hanging out with friends, we like to be able to do that too. But who wants to make plans 4 weeks out?! Not me!



Because of this little quality of ours, we tend to find ourselves entertaining more “on a whim” than hosting planned out dinner parties. Plus, we’re really just not the dinner party type. Apps, wine, and cozy sweaters? That’s more like it.

If you find yourself inviting friends over with just a few hours to spare this new years eve, or anytime, really– these tips will come in handy!

1. Stock your Freezer

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Now, notice I didn’t say “stock the fridge” or “stock the pantry.”

The reason being–meats and cheeses go bad after awhile. Crackers go stale. But frozen? That stuff lasts FOR-EVER.

If I learned only one thing from my mother (okay, 1.5 million things, but if I could choose just one, this would be up there) is that nearly ANYTHING can be preserved in the freezer and kept for months!

This is especially true when it comes to appetizers–there’s no excuse not to keep a few frozen appetizers on-hand that you can pop into the oven at a moments notice. Crispy, crunchy finger foods are always crowd pleasers, even for the pickiest eaters. (For example, if something can pass the Kelly test, it’s always a picky eater award winner. Kelly loves egg rolls. Therefore, everyone loves egg rolls.)

And because I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love a great egg roll, I like to keep a couple boxes of Pagoda Asian Snacks in my freezer. Their egg rolls are made with 100% white meat chicken, celery and carrots, with no added MSG. So it’s basically all the good stuff, and none of the bad stuff! Neal also loves their Crab Rangoons and Cream Cheese Wontons! They all come with their own dipping sauce, which is nice, so you don’t have to run out to pick up a bottle!

The freezer idea doesn’t just apply to appetizers, but entrees too! Other ideas you can make ahead and stock in the freezer for instances like this: Lasagna, Chili, Spaghetti Sauce–You name it!

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2. Stock up on crowd-pleasing wine

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There is nothing worse than getting to a party and having only Chardonnay to choose from. (Yuck!) Go with a wine that everyone will like–a Pinot Noir is a great middle-of-the-road wine because it’s light and easy to drink with both food and by itself. Our favorite Pinot Noir is made by Meomi, which is affordable at less than $20 per bottle. I’ve never had a guest who wasn’t obsessed with it!

If you aren’t sure if your friends are red wine drinkers, it’s always nice to have a couple bottles of white on hand. Sauvignon Blanc is usually the best option because it’s mild and easily drinkable. Pinot Grigio tends to be too punchy for many, and Chardonnay too oaky–but I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about a Sauvignon Blanc!

It’s always helpful to have at least one bottle of Prosecco chilling in the fridge for impromptu celebrations and occasions! Plus, if you haven’t chilled more than one bottle, it will buy you some time to do so! (Tip: to quick-chill wine, wrap a wet paper towel around the whole bottle and pop it in the freezer. It will be cold in about 15 minutes!)

3. Bring out the good candles

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Have you ever walked into someones pretty house but thought it smelled weird and stuffy? How embarrassing.

On the contrary,  you know the feeling when you walk into Anthropologie and it smells so unbelievably wonderful that you never want to leave? That’s typically the feeling I’m going for when I have people over, so I always stock up on some good candles (and no, I don’t mean the cheap kind from the drug store!)

I picked up the one above at one of my favorite local boutiques, Gather Home & Lifestyle, but I also love this one, and this one.  These mini ones  also smell amazing and are super affordable!

Open some windows and start burning your candles about 30 minutes or so before guests arrive, and your home will be fresh and inviting the second they step in the door!

4. Put the records on

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Neal and I have a record player and have had so much fun expanding our record collection over the years. It’s always a total hit when guests come over–we always have a few picked out to play, but it’s fun to let guests choose their own as well. (They often reach for my Red Hot Chili Peppers album or The Beatles!)

If you don’t have a record player, that is obviously totally fine! But have a playlist in mind to set the mood–I’ve been loving Amazon Music’s playlists lately, which are really well-curated. On Amazon and Spotify, you can sort by genre, mood, or occasion–that way you don’t run into any awkward silences. (Awwwkkkwarrrdddd.)

5. Pull out some games to go with munchies

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Okay it might sound silly to pull out party games but they are SO. MUCH. FUN! Cards Against Humanity is always a hit with our friends, but if you’re looking for something a little more tame, Utter Nonsense is really hilarious, and involves reading silly sentences in different accents. Apples to Apples is another classic! It’s a fun pre-dinner activity that is easy to play with finger food!

What are your last minute entertaining tips? 

This post is sponsored by Pagoda Asian Snacks, a brand I buy and currently have in my freezer! Thank you for supporting the partnerships that keep GG up and running!