Friday, January 21, 2011

Tools of the Trade - Large Party Gatherings

Carrie here with a different kind of post.

Now, likely you are reading this blog because you a.) are wanting to learn how to offer hospitality in new and better ways (or perhaps with a better attitude) or b.) because you need some motivation to even get started! Either which way, you are welcome.

The more I talk to other people, the more I realize how different we are in the ways in which we are equipped to offer hospitality to others. For example, some people do really well hosting large groups of people into their homes. Others feel more satisfied by meeting friends for coffee. Some families prefer meeting other families at parks, while others build parks in their backyard and host neighborhood gatherings. Everyone is different and it's all part of the fun discovering the special ways in which God has equipped each one of us to minister to others through hospitality.

Regardless of your special means of offering hospitality, I think it's safe to assume that there is always something new to learn and new tricks to stuff up the ol' sleeve and pull out when the time is right.

I, for one, am a large party person. If I had to choose between hosting 2 people or 20, I'd choose the 20 every time. I just love the conversation that a large group of people spark and how much variety there is within the gathering. I do recognize that sometimes it's the two people that you have over that can be a far greater influence on your life than the twenty but it's still fun.

Of course, hosting large gatherings can be very tricky. What food to serve (and at what cost?) How to keep warm food warm, cold food cold and drinks at the proper temperature? Here are two specific tools that I have either invested in or have on my radar to help me in this purpose:

The 3-Station Mini Buffet Server is priced at $29.00 on Amazon and is an absolute lifesaver! (I've seen similar styles for $24 at various department stores.) This is the best thing EVER if you want to serve a variety of appetizers that you want to keep on the warm side. I've served any number of food items with this server, from warm veggies to mini quiches. I. adore. this. thing. It keeps your food contained to one area as well, without forcing you to take up valuable space on the buffet table with multiple serving bowls and dishes. It is fantastic and I have used mine over and over and over again!

Another item which I do not own but would definitely like to add to my kitchen service collection is the following:

Some friends of ours pulled out their Stainless-Steel Warming Tray to use at Thanksgiving and I thought it was nothing short of miraculous. (It is more pricey, but worth it when you consider the amount of time you are saving for face-to-face interactions with your guests over face-to-bolwl interactions with your food.) When you are serving a lot of dishes that you want to keep warm, but need to bake and serve separately, this tray fits the bill! There was plenty of space for them to lay out a large platter of turkey carvings and a platter of ham side-by-side. (Our friends actually had two such warming trays. The other was covered with trays of stuffing. Yum!) This useful tool has most definitely been added to my wish list!

Of course, where would we all be without the Crock-pot!? I don't think you can have large quantities of people into your home for a meal without utilizing some crock-pots! I have two: a larger and a smaller sized pot. This allows me to serve meatballs alongside a pasta dish. It also allows for me to serve two different kinds of soups if the occasion calls for it.

I really don't know where I would be without some of these items. Before I had the buffet service, I found entertaining large groups a bit more stressful as I was trying to manage food on a stove, attempting to keep it warm without burning it. The buffet server allows me to walk away from the food, knowing it will be kept at the proper temperature without my having to sacrifice fellowship time to stand in the kitchen stirring food! I absolutely love being able to prepare my food before the company arrives and then be free to interact with my guests while they are in my home. (After all, having them over is about the fellowship!) Love, love, LOVE this tool!

What about you? Are there any specific tools that you like to use when hosting large gatherings that has saved your bacon (literally or figuratively) that you'd like to share? Definitely curious to know about them!

(Next up, I'll share some of my favorite small group hosting tools.)


  1. Great post! We don't have any helpers other than the crockpot.

  2. I have the warming tray but it is a version from the 60s (more like a Corelle surface instead of stainless) that I got from my mom. I love it!

    I have a Crock-pot as well as a large roaster oven with inserts that I use in a fashion similar to either a (giant!) Crock-Pot or the buffet server. I hope to actually GET a buffet server; the roaster cooks the items separately but doesn't look as nice for serving.

  3. I too, am a crockpot fanatic--between my sister and I, we have five!

    Large parties are our modus operandi. A couple things I've learned about large group parties:
    --Most people are more interested in being comfortable than being impressed Don't expect a large party to be picture perfect with every moment planned down to the last detail. Let go of perfectionism and let yourself have fun--it's a sure way to ensure that your guests will have fun too.
    --I've never had a complaint because I served the same food over and over and over again. Don't feel like you have to throw a "different" party every time. It's okay to find a party-style that's comfortable for you (or a party-menu that's easy for you to prepare) and to stick with it.

  4. I'm a big party person to! I love the interaction of all the people. I have lots of little helps; a crock pot, roaster (with insert to make it like your buffet server), toaster oven and all the regular applances.

  5. At my house the must-have item is a 30 cup percolator coffee pot. We started a house church several years ago and by week two it was obvious we needed one. Thrift shop, harvest gold, $7.00. Works like a charm plus it adds charm with its vintage hue.

  6. Good ideas! Thanks! Our must-have is the Rubbermaid large jug. We have 2 which serve about 30 each. They're mobile (for entertaining outside or at a park) and work well set up on TV trays inside. We generally do lemonade/punch and water. Of course, a cute label is a great "tool" too! :)

  7. Coffee maker. That's on my list as well this year. I don't drink coffee so I have to learn how to make it. But everytime we have guests over for a breakfast meal or for a later-in-the-evening event I think to myself that I SHOULD have coffee available for those who DO enjoy it!

    And Bekahcube - you are right. The menu doesn't have to vary. And large party gatherings shouldn't be so scary. Good things to point out!

  8. 2 or 20, both freak me out. Am I weird? I always like having friends over once I have them over so I don't know why I freak out but I do.

    Weird. Definitely weird.

    Anyway, I love, love, LOVE my crock pot(s)!!

  9. You are so right that we are all different! That's one of the things I love about this blog. We (the contributors AND the readers) come from such a variety of backgrounds, cultures and personalities that we are guaranteed to learn something new or think about a topic from a different perspective.

    Thanks for sharing about these products. When we host large groups these days it's during the summer in our backyard. So I'm not usually thinking about keeping food warm. :)

    A few things I use: large PLASTIC bowls and platters. I watch the after-holidays sales for Memorial Day and 4th of July and pick these up for half price. I like buying solid white or red serving dishes because they can be used for so many different occasions.

    I also use a 1 gallon rubbermaid jug for drinks (totally learned that trick from Amy). Lemonade is MUCH cheaper than sodas for a large group. And who doesn't like lemonade? If you fill the jug 1/3 with ice after making the lemonade then you don't have to worry with an ice bucket.