This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.
As we get older, the simple things start to become more important. Getting a full night’s sleep, going on a walk while the sun sets, enjoying a delicious dinner with great friends. These were all things I didn’t fully appreciate before life got so busy, so now I’m sure to relish those experiences because they can be few and far between. These days, I love to celebrate life’s littlest moments—not just the big, shiny milestones like an engagement or a new job promotion. However, hosting—regardless of the size—can get stressful if you don’t have a party planning timeline to follow.
Anyone hosting an event, whether you’re a seasoned host or you’re the girl who just got matching dishware at 29, can learn a thing or two from this step-by-step timeline for hosting. From themed bashes to low-key dinner parties, you’ll want to make sure all your bases are covered so you can relax and enjoy an evening with your closest friends.
This hostess with the mostess guide includes all the details you need to shop like a champ, cook for a crowd, prepare the perfect wine bar, and set it all up so that you can enjoy your own event. We even consulted the wine experts at La Crema for tips on how to set up your beverage station like a professional—and provided you with an easy-to-save chart. Read on for our multi-day party planning timeline that gives you a roadmap to a stress-free gathering.
5 Days Before: Get Organized
Start choosing meal options
Confirm your headcount and divide the meal options by appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We’ve listed a few tips for choosing each meal so it’s easier to make your decisions:
- Appetizers: Think about your crowd and how you plan to start your gathering. Do you plan to pass appetizers or have a buffet-like station guests can pick from? Planning a larger central appetizer station with cold appetizers would make it easier to prep in advance and allow you to enjoy the party even more. Another great easy app idea? Air-fryer recipes. They’re satisfyingly crunchy and a breeze to whip together.
- Entrees: Whether you are centering your meal around a theme or the size of your gathering, ensure you have something for everyone. Keep in mind any dietary restrictions or allergies of your guests and ensure everyone will have something to eat. Any entree that can be cooked unattended during your event will ensure a smoother and more enjoyable time for you as the host. To save you some extra time, prepare a meal prep recipe ahead of time.
- Desserts: This is the area where you can minimize your prep and serving time, so take advantage of that. Opt for a simple item that does not require heating prior to serving. Bars, cookies, fruit, and trifles are all easy crowd-pleasing desserts. If you want to wow your guests, a super easy addition is homemade whipped cream that can be made the morning of and stored in the refrigerator. Want to serve something lighter? Try these healthy dessert recipes.
Once you’ve decided on your meal options, make a grocery list and categorize it by perishables and non-perishables. If you plan to outsource the day-before shopping to a delivery service, build your list in the delivery app for easy ordering. Set your recipes aside in a convenient place for later in the week, and print them if you can for easy reference. Lastly, create a work-back plan for what foods will be prepped and cooked on which days.
Plan the bar
Now that you know your menu and headcount, you can plan your beverage selection and how you plan to serve it. Seeing as La Crema is a trusted leader in producing the best luxury wines, we knew their advice for prepping your bar station would be invaluable. La Crema’s Master Sommelier, Emily Pickral, recommends that hosts keep a variety of wines on hand to accommodate different palates such as Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Rieslings, Merlots, Cabernets, Merlots, or Red Blends.
“The best hosts offer options for their guests. Not everyone likes white wine, not everyone likes red. I would suggest having lighter styles of red and white, like Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc as well as a sparkling option, for welcome wines and appetizers. As you move into a seated dinner with heavier foods, you can move into richer or fuller-bodied whites and reds like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Pickral also adds, “If the party has a theme, that can also influence your selections. I always think it’s fun to pair food and wine based on their region of origin—so if I’m having pizza for dinner, I think of medium-bodied Italian reds like Chianti Classico.”
When it comes to quantity, it’s standard to have a white wine option and a red wine option on hand. It’s always better to have more than you need rather than not enough. “My rule of thumb is one bottle per person. So, If I’m inviting six people to dinner, I’m likely to have three bottles of white and three bottles of red but open them as needed.” Stock up on La Crema wines for your upcoming event and use code LCEVERYGIRL to receive 15% off + free shipping when you order four or more bottles from La Crema! No time for shipping? Buy our favs from La Crema on InstaCart to get them ASAP.
4 Days Before: Start Shopping and Prep Work
Prep the food and table
If you need to order specialty items from specific vendors, now is the time to either place an order or confirm pick-up times. Buy all non-perishable food items and any last-minute tablescape necessities on this day. If you’re making baked goods or appetizers with multiple steps, start the dough and freeze it so it’s one less thing to worry about. Pro tip: homemade phyllo dough for appetizers is an easy way to elevate your whole meal.
Prep your home and future outfit
Deep clean and restock items in whichever rooms your guests will have access to like the dining area, bathrooms, and living room. While these areas may get untidy again, you at least have a good starting point and can easily pick up clutter closer to the event day. We also recommend having your outfit picked and tried on by this day. Nothing is worse than throwing a big party and not loving your own outfit. Ensure your outfit is also clean and pressed in advance so you’re not worrying about this on the day of.
3 Days Before: Set Your Table or Food Serving Station
Wash tablecloths and napkins, wipe down vases and other decorative table items, and clean plates and utensils if you don’t plan to use them in the next few days. Once your items are ready, place them on your dining table. Set out serving dishes for your food so those are ready to be filled the day of. Pro tip: Write down on a piece of paper what food goes in what dish so your friends and family can help put out food too.
Day three is also the perfect time for creating (or choosing) the perfect playlist for your event. The right music really sets the mood for a party, no matter how big or small, so pick that ahead of time. If you plan to assign seats, then print or make name cards for your guests. Etsy has great digital templates for name cards that are affordable and easily printable. We love this simple, modern option from Etsy, and if it’s just the girlies, this trendy one will do the trick.
2 Days Before: Set up the Bar
Once you’ve purchased your wines, day two is ideal for setting up your bar station. A self-service bar is always a great idea for guests to easily help themselves and feel comfortable in your space. Based on what you plan to serve, make sure the bar has space for all of your beverages with matching glassware. La Crema’s Master Sommelier recommends that hostesses have an abundance of wine glass shapes.
“Aromas play a pivotal role in its overall character. The smaller the bowl, the harder it is for all those aromas to escape. Larger bowls allow for more oxygen to meet the wine. They also lend themselves to an easier swirl, which not only looks cool when executed properly but will also aerate the wine and help it open up. Each wine style has specific characteristics in terms of acidity, fruit expression, tannin, and alcohol, and the different glass shapes intensify or mellow those attributes” Pickral says.
Red wines typically have bolder tastes and aromas, so she advises using larger bowl glasses so they have room to breathe. Meanwhile, white wines can be served in narrow-rim glasses to preserve their delicate and subtle aromas. If you don’t have multiple glasses on hand, don’t worry: rinse with fresh water before moving to your next varietal.
In terms of wine storage prior to your event, Pickral says that storing temperature makes a big difference in the overall consumption experience. “I encourage taking whites out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before you serve them, so they are not ice cold. I suggest serving them around 49-55 degrees. Conversely, reds taste great after 15 minutes in the refrigerator before you serve them. They should be kept slightly cooler than room temperature or around 62-68 degrees. So as far as storage, keep whites in the fridge and reds at room temp until 15 minutes before your guests arrive, and then swap them in the fridge.”
Setting up your bar cart or station with the appropriate glassware and accessories now will make a difference later on since wine doesn’t require too much prep on the day of an event. “The great thing about wine is that it doesn’t involve a lot of preparation. Just open the bottle and pour. But you could refer to my temperature suggestions for optimal enjoyment!” Pickral suggests.
1 Day Before: Run to Grocery Store and Finish Prepping
Get your food ready
Purchase all your fresh ingredients like bread, vegetables, fruit, herbs, and meat. Clean and wash all vegetables, chop ingredients and put in air-tight containers, and finish your baking before storing in the fridge. You can also prep simple appetizers by grouping ingredients together for easy assembly the next day.
If you plan on having fresh flowers, now is the time to buy and store them. Depending on your climate, you can arrange them the night before or store them in a bucket of water until the morning. Ensure that the room they’re stored in is cool and dark so they last longer.
The Day Of: Finish the Essentials—and Have Fun!
If you assign tasks to friends or family, check in early in the morning so everyone is on the same page. Reference your work-back plan for cooking and start cooking in the morning so everything is ready a few hours before your event starts. This will give you enough time to get ready, finish table settings, chill beverages, and arrange the appetizers.
Once guests arrive, start the music and take your party planner hat off! Now is the time to engage with your guests and have a good time. Don’t forget that the cleaning can wait—a relaxed and happy hostess sets the mood for the whole party.
This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.