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How to Host a Potluck

A potluck can be an excellent way to gather friends and family members for a memorable meal any time of year. They also make hosting a breeze since you can get some help in the kitchen from friends and family. You'll still need to organize the event and make sure it goes off without a hitch though. Use these tips from west elm to host the perfect potluck for your friends, family, neighbors and loved ones.

Angled-Leg Expandable Table

Send Detailed Invitations

Hosting a potluck is much more casual than a formal dinner party for the most part, but that doesn't mean everything needs to be loose and unstructured. In fact, the more you plan ahead of time, the more likely your guests are to enjoy themselves. That all starts with sending invitations early. Both digital and paper options work well, though paper may be a bit formal for most potlucks.

A week or two of notice is probably enough for a small gathering, though you can stretch it out to three to four weeks for a larger event. On your invitations, make sure you detail start times, you don't want someone to show up with a beautiful casserole that everyone's too stuffed to touch.

You can also inform guests about dietary restrictions to help them create their dishes. Let guests write back via e-mail or paper invitation to let you know what they plan to bring so you can avoid duplicate or similar dishes.

Get a Head Count

Potlucks can be a lot easier to plan than sit down dinners. You're still the host though, so that leaves things like plates, seating, glasses, and silverware in your hands. For that reason, you need a head count before the day of your potluck.

The good news is that you can still stay flexible by ensuring that you've got enough for guests you didn't expect or who find an opening in their calendar at the last minute. A good rule of thumb is to be ready for about 10% more guests than have RSVP'd before your event.

Create a Serving Station

A good potluck means guests can serve themselves with ease, taking what they want and enjoying it with friends and family. To make that work, creating a serving station where guests can access everything they need for a meal like salad plates, dinner plates and silverware is a must.

If possible, put your serving station near the food, but not in an area that blocks access to all of the goodies you've got laid out. Make sure you include enough for everybody to have a clean dessert plate.

Take Charge of the Bar

Some of your guests may show up with items like wine, a favorite bottle of spirits, or even non-alcoholic beverages. For the most part though, your guests will bring a food item, leaving you to stock the bar. So make sure to have a plan before the potluck begins.

One of the easiest things to do is make a self-service beverage bar where guests have access to everything from ice water to cocktails. For an elegant touch, mix a punch or beverage that can stay on ice for hours without losing its flavor. Adult beverages are excellent this way, but you can make two versions with ease as long as they're clearly labeled.

Put glasses, ice and napkins out in view so guests can help themselves once the party has started.

Pay Special Attention to Seating

Make sure you have enough seating for all your guests. If your dining room table won’t accommodate everyone, look to portable folding tables or outdoor setups with tablecloths to maximize the number of guests you can entertain comfortably. For large parties, consider renting basic items like tables and chairs from a local party supply company.

Slate Placemat

Hosting a potluck can be a lot of fun and a whole lot easier than a sit-down dinner. With these tips, you should be able to get your favorite group together for a meal without breaking a sweat. Just make sure you don't end up with too many desserts!

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