Exactly What to Have on Hand for the Perfect Last-Minute Party
Want to be prepared to party at a moment’s notice? Keep these party supplies on hand as your anytime-hosting kit.
Just as there’s an art to pulling together all the necessary party supplies and working down a party planning checklist for a long-planned soiree, there’s a particular skill set required for planning a last-minute party that doesn’t feel hastily put together. Fortunately, it’s a skill set anyone can master.
The key to an effortless last-minute party—whether it’s a backyard party or an indoor revelry—is keeping the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of a good party on-hand. Ideally, these party supplies are items that can be used whether you’re hosting or not; think pretty cheeseboards, glassware, and serving platters. When it’s just you and the family, they feel decadent and polished, but when guests come over, these household items magically turn into party essentials. Forget the idea of the good china—these items are meant to be used and enjoyed every day of the year, but especially on those days when guests happen to be joining you.
Learning to host a party takes practice and time, as does accumulating a proper last-minute party supply hoard, but both pay off after that first no-stress, last-minute party. Put those miscellaneous hostess gifts to good use as tools for a future gathering, keep your platters and trays in good shape, and you’ll have a party kit ready to go at a moment’s notice. Building your party supply collection from scratch? Start with these suggestions from Real Simple editors and party-planning pros—they’ll serve you (and your guests) well for years to come.
When it comes to the basic party supplies, stick to classic neutrals you can use any time of year. Jenni Kayne, a Los Angeles–based designer and the author of Pacific Natural: Simple Seasonal Entertaining ($28; amazon.com), says her go-to items are wooden cutting boards for appetizers and linen or burlap table runners. She also has simple glasses that can be used for water, cocktails, or wine. “If you have these things,” says Kayne, “you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you entertain.”
To buy: $14 for eight; cb2.com.
Keep an open bottle of prosecco carbonated with the help of a bottle stopper. “It will even allow you to store opened bottles on their sides in the fridge,” says Real Simple features editor Elizabeth Sile.
To buy: $7; williams-sonoma.com.
During the week, this bamboo fiber bowl and lid make a great lunchbox; during the weekend, they’re a trusty serving dish for fresh fruits, crudité, and more.
To buy: $18; zarahome.com.
For a tray that looks great even after it’s cleared of snacks, try this colorful option, which is available in a range of shades and introduces an unexpected shape to the snack spread.
To buy: $28; store.moma.org.
“We keep a marble cheese stone in the freezer for when we have guests over,” says Real Simple beauty director Heather Muir Maffei. “It keeps cheese from getting too soft and makes me feel instantly pulled together.”
To buy: $30; crateandbarrel.com.
Store-bought dips and spreads look ten times better in a pretty serving dish. Spoon them out of their plastic or glass containers and into these versatile dishes; guests will be struggling to understand how you were able to whip up a fresh batch of French Onion dip without notice.
To buy: $26 for 4; yearandday.com.
Whether they’re holding the family’s meals during dinner or guests’ snacks during a soiree, these eye-catching rimmed plates serve as a conversation starter all on their own—and prevent spills at the same time.
To buy: From $4 per plate; westelm.com.
Any drink—plain tap water, infused sparkling water, punch, you name it—tastes fresher coming out of a top-notch dispenser. This one, paired with an elevating (literally) silver stand, will make guests feel like they’re in a waterfront yacht club, not your living room.
Whether it’s holding fresh-picked flowers (it’s okay if they came from the yard) or your famous iced tea, this pretty pastel jug will be the centerpiece of any spread.
To buy: $75; store.moma.org.
Keep ice cool and packaged prettily in this ice bucket, which certainly outshines a plastic bag or dusty cooler and can be monogrammed for added oomph.
To buy: $52; katiekime.com.