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How to Succeed at Hosting (Without Really Trying)

Betty's Guide to Spring Parties

Well, you might have to try a little bit—but definitely not too hard. Why? Because this is Party Planning 101, and we’re going to walk you through every step of the process, from calculating how much food and drink you’ll need to putting together a mouth-watering menu. So when you open the door to greet your first guest, you’ll be ready to enjoy the party as much as they will.

Psst … Want to skip the details? Grab the grad party menu above or one of our other ready-to-make menus perfect for every occasion from a backyard barbecue to a Christmas smorgasbord.


How Much Food to Make for a Crowd?

At the end of a perfect party, there should be some leftovers — that means everyone had enough to eat — but not so much that you have to pass out dozens of containers of leftovers. Follow the handy chart below to estimate the quantity of food you’ll need.

Here’s How Much Food to Make (per person)


4 to 5 apps per person (per hour)

Fruit & Vegetables

½ to 2/3 cup

Boneless Meat/Poultry/Fish

4 to 6 ounces

Bone-In Meat/Poultry/Fish

6 to 8 ounces

Main Dish of Pasta/Rice/Grain

1 cup

Side Dish of Pasta/Rice/Grain

½ cup

Tossed Salad

1 to 1 ½ cups


2 to 3 tablespoons


¾ to 1 cup


Here’s How to Calculate Drinks Needed

The general rule of thumb is each guest will drink two drinks in the first hour and one drink each hour for the rest of the party.

Punch (one gallon)

24 servings

Wine (one 750 milliliter bottle)

Four servings (6-ounce each)

Liquor (one 750 milliliter bottle)

16 shots (1 ½-ounces)

How to Put Together Your Menu

Once you’ve got a rough idea about quantities, you can focus on thinking about the fun part — the menu!

Mains That’ll Make You the Host with the Most

Always start by picking the star of your show: the main dish. This gives you a starting point for rounding out the rest of the menu with complementary flavors and different types of dishes. Ideally, you’re looking for a main dish that can be made almost completely ahead, so you can focus on your guests when they arrive.

  • All of our recipes list number of servings, but keep in mind that serving sizes are just guidelines. A hearty eater might eat more than one serving of a main dish if it’s served alone. This is where adding appetizers or sides can take the edge off for those with big appetites.
  • Plan for an unexpected guest or two, just to be on the safe side. This way you’re covered, if someone is famished or if they bring an extra guest. No matter what, it’s better to err on the side of having too much.
  • Think about the time of day. People usually expect a lighter meal at lunch or brunch and a heartier dinner.

Need a little inspiration? These main courses never disappoint.

Lemon, Garlic and Herb Dry-Brined Turkey


Dry-brining is a foolproof method that gives you tender, flavorful turkey every time. This recipe, infused with the flavors of garlic, lemon and thyme, is guaranteed to get raves as the centerpiece on your table. See Recipe


Sides That’ll Steal the Show

Now that you’ve got your centerpiece dish, you know if you’ll need heavier or lighter sides and what types of flavors will complement the meal. It’s a good idea to plan for hot and cold dishes, so there’s not too much to do at the last minute. For example, biscuits can be served at room temperature, salads can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, while hot sides can keep cozy in the slow cooker.

Here are a couple of our most sensational sides to get you inspired.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect pasta salad, a tried-and-true potato salad or something from the new generation of special-occasion brunch sides, we’ve got plenty more side dish recipes for you to peruse.

A Salad That’s Ready to Fiesta!

mexican salad

More than just a pretty presentation, this Layered Mexican Party Salad is a crowd-sized favorite that feeds 12. See Recipe


Appetizers to Set the Scene

Dips and bite-sized nibbles get the party off to a good start, giving guests a tasty talking point (and giving the host some breathing room, if things aren’t going as planned). Unsure about how to set up the ideal smorgasbord? Keep these questions in mind as you get your plan in place:

  • How many guests will attend? As the chart above indicates, you should plan for 4-5 appetizers per person, per hour.
  • Where will you serve appetizers? If guests will be milling around while they snack, consider bite-sized finger foods that don’t require utensils.
  • What’s the occasion? On game day, apps are the main event, but at a special occasion brunch, they’re not usually the focus.
  • How long between the time your guests arrive and the main meal? The longer the period, the more apps you’ll need to serve. Remember the serving size given above is per hour.
  • Do you have space in the oven for a hot appetizer? If not, make it easy on yourself with appetizers that can be served cold. Or, use your slow cooker to keep your dips or meatballs warm.

Here are a few apps to get your wheels turning and your mouth watering!

Enjoy Your Own Party with These Easy Apps

Bacon Jalapeño Turkey Roll-Ups

And, we’re not out of ideas yet. These appetizers are our favorite way to enjoy the party! See Recipes


Desserts That Impress with No Stress

Hosts and hostesses, remember this: make-ahead desserts save the day! There’s plenty to think about when hosting a party, so do yourself a favor and get dessert done the day before — or even early on the morning of the event. Crowd-friendly desserts like slab pies, cookies and sheet cakes yield plenty of servings and they don’t need to be served warm.

These pretty party desserts are a few of our faves.

Potluck Desserts to Turn Heads

Lemon Lime Slab Pie

Looking for a potluck dessert so delicious it’s guaranteed to disappear? We’ve got everything from bars to pies, sure to please any partier’s palate. See Recipes


Drinks That Keep Things Flowing

The best way to welcome a guest into your home is with a drink. Whether you’re planning to serve old-fashioned lemonade or a sparkling sangria, ask yourself the following questions when planning for beverages:

  • Are your guests the types to nurse one drink the whole night, or do they like to party hearty?
  • How long will your get-together last? The general rule of thumb is guests will drink two drinks in the first hour and one drink every hour for the rest of the party.
  • What’s your budget? Alcohol especially can be expensive. To make the most of alcoholic beverages, consult the servings chart near the top of the page.

You can’t go wrong with these superb sippers:

5 Tips for Making the Best Bloodies

BEAUTY_Bloody Mary

Making a Bloody Mary bar for your next brunch or game day event? Learn to make them better than ever. Get Tips


Ready-to-Make Menus for Every Occasion

Want a little more help preparing for your party? Check out these menus perfect for occasions from a backyard barbecue to a graduation party.


A Big Backyard Barbecue for Dad’s Day (or Just Because)

This father’s day menu for 12 will turn out the whole crowd!

A Brunch to Shower Your Bride with Love

The bridal shower menu for 12 is so impressive, you’ll have to be careful not to steal the show from the bride!

Blueberry-Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake


This perfect celebration cake is as pretty as it is easy. Lemon poppy seed cake bursting with fresh blueberries gets a lemony powdered sugar glaze. It’s just right for rounding out brunch. See Recipe


A Picnic That’s a Walk in the Park

The best thing about this picnic menu for eight is that it’s even better made the day before. Just remember to save 15 minutes in the morning to throw together the Dilled Cucumber and Tomato Salad.

An Open House to Honor Your Grad

Your graduation party will be the event of the season with these impressive recipes that are easy to adjust to the size of your crowd.

A Winning Lineup for Game Day

Keep your crowd cheering with this delicious game day menu perfect for feeding 12.

Celebrate Christmas with a Smorgasbord

Make merry with the ultimate holiday spread of heavy apps and bite-sized sweets. A favorite slow-cooker soup and a showstopping cake round out this Christmas party menu, which is easy to scale up or down to fit your crowd.

More easy entertaining recipes await you!