It’s birthday season in our house. For the month of January, I am kept on my toes arranging birthday parties for my two sons, one of whom was born in January, and the other whose birthday falls almost exactly a month after, in February. I’m lucky, because my children are still so small that as long as there are cake and balloons, they are happy. Where I’m not so lucky is in the guest list department. We have moved a lot over the past few years, and since my youngest son has only just started school, we did not have any family or friends nearby to invite. We have had to learn how to have a great celebration with just our immediate family and a few friends, and I think, over the past few years, we have done a good job. But, I have realized that throwing a small party is quite a bit different than throwing a large party, so here are some tips on small-group entertaining.

Focus on the small details

When you have a large guest list, you can get away with a few less details. After all, the more people who are there, the more your guests attention will be on mingling, and the less on the details. When you have a smaller group though, it’s far more important to get the little details right so that you can view your party as a success.

When I have a smaller guest list, I like to put more effort into the activities/main event. It’s always a good idea to have a main event of your party (for example, cake/presents, a special appearance by Santa or any other big event. I also like to focus on having the ?Wow? factor as the party is starting ? something that sets the tone for the party. For example, at my son’s second birthday party, our theme was a show most people don’t know, and in that show there are always bubbles floating around. When the guests arrived, they walked into a house full of bubbles, thanks to two very efficient bubble machines.

Expect to be a bit flexible with the date of the party

When entertaining for a small guest list, put more energy into accommodating everyone’s schedule. When entertaining a large group, if you set a date and a few people can’t make it, it’s no big deal. When you are entertaining a small group and a few people can’t make it though, it has a big impact on your party. When planning the date for your smaller-sized party, be open to juggling the date to accomdate the largest number of people attending. In the past I have even put two party dates out there and went with the one that had the largest number of positive RSVPs.

Follow up on your RSVP’s

Once again, your focus is on how many guests are attending, which means that if the deadline you have set for RSVPs has passed, it’s even more important to follow up with those guest who haven’t yet RSVP’d to make sure that you party will take place.

Offer a smaller spread of food

Naturally, you can scale back on the food a bit with a smaller group, but it’s a fine line between scaled-back and skimpy. Don’t skimp on the refreshments just because you have less people attending. A great rule of thumb is to provide:

  • A salty dish (Naan and Daal or smoked salmon with crackers)
  • A sweet dish (Sweet and sour meatballs)
  • An alcoholic option (beer, red and white wine ? one selection of each)
  • A non-alcoholic option (coffee, tea, soda)
  • A dessert (cake and/or a fruit plate)
  • A healthy option (veggie and/or fruit plate)

Set a shorter time frame for your party

While a large party may not have a pre-determined end time, chances are with a smaller party, you will have an idea of when everyone might trickle out. If you want your guests to stay later, set a later start time for the party, whereas if you are planning to entertain in the afternoon, set the end time before the dinner hour. It’s perfectly acceptable, providing your not throwing an open house, to give your guests an idea of when the party may end.

Set the scene with music

Silence is golden – unless it’s at your party. With a smaller group, there can be more lulls in conversation, and nothing makes people more uneasy in a group situation than dead silence. Choose lively, upbeat background music (put that Kenny G CD away, hosts!), and turn it just a tiny bit louder than you think is ideal. It’s an easy trick to keep the volume of your party a bit higher, as though there were more people attending, and help you to avoid the dreaded Small Group Silence.

While entertaining a small group is definitely different than large-group entertaining, these quick, savvy-host tricks will make your small party feel like a larger one, and ensure you a successful party from start to finish!

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