This past Mother's Day, I got a random urge to make my family a three-course meal by myself. First of all, expensive. Second of all, how do moms do it every day? I bit off more than I could chew, but dinner got made in time and everything was hot, seasoned, and cooked properly. We can just ignore the fact that I was on my feet from 2-6pm (the mimosas helped, a lot).
I still live at home but it's important to know the essentials of hosting a get-together for when I move out, regardless of size. Working for a catering company since I was 15 has helped develop my "sophisticated palate". But, I'm still young and have a juvenile appetite, so I knew I had to make food appropriate for my rugrat cousins as well.
If you can, set up the table and handle decor the night before. Even though I had a really simplistic set up, when it comes down to details there will always be something that needs to be changed and you won't have so much time the day of to be nit-picky. Handling everything the night before lets you devote all your time actually making the food.
Have a little something everyone can enjoy. Not everything has to be fancy all the time, but I'm entering adulthood - pigs in a blanket have got to retire. Everyone (kids included) like charcuterie boards. Can't go wrong with meat, bread, and cheese. I also had watermelon feta skewers with balsamic drizzle (sounds gross, tastes incredible) and roasted tomato with goat cheese crostini. These are all quick recipes that won't break the bank.
Try to allocate time for you to SIT DOWN. I was running around the house this Sunday like a headless chicken and caught myself flustered with everything and everyone. I admitted those mimosas were helpful while cooking, but champagne won't change the fact that you forgot to start the water for your potatoes.
Buy fancy decorations you know you won't use in the future. HomeGoods' clearance section and Michaels are your friends. The 'foliage' I used around the house cost me 3 dollars and my 4-set of modern wine glasses cost me 4.99 at Ross. I love to bargain, an adult party won't make me spend adult prices.
Go to Giant or Safeway before hitting up Aldi's or Walmart. I made the mistake of going to Giant first thinking I was saving money. I got 6 slices of prosciutto at Giant for 6.99 and an assortment of charcuterie at Aldi for 4.99, sad.
Be too ambitious with your menu. No one is expecting one person to churn out Michelin quality meals from beginning to end. People get so overwhelmed with good food they can't finish it all. I got overzealous with garnishes and appetizers that I ended up with too many leftovers. Next time, I prefer to put all my energy into a few dishes.
I hope you can find these tips to be helpful, and happy partying!