How to Host a Big Party in a Small House

I live in a house that is just over 1,000 square feet, and my husband and I have hosted 100 people here. We survived and even had fun.

My husband is a published science fiction novelist, and when the first book in his trilogy was released we threw a celebratory open house and book-signing party at our home. After tallying the signatures in our party guest book at the end of the day, we realized that 100 people came through our home. A year and a half later when my husband’s second book was published, we hosted a party again, that time drawing a crowd of about 50 people, and again about six months after that when the third and final book in his trilogy was released.

We could have rented a larger space such as a room at a local community center or church, but we like the more inviting atmosphere that comes with hosting in our home. It seems to encourage people to linger and chat more, which makes for a more memorable and personal party.

Don’t be discouraged if you think your home is not big enough for a large group. You can host more people than you think in a small space and still have a good time. Here’s how we did it, and how you can hopefully host your own large crowd if you’re working with a small space.

How to Host a Large Gathering in a Small Home:

1. Host during a time of year when your party can spill into the yard and or garage/car port, if possible. 

Our first party was during the month of April, and we live in the Midwest, where no one knows what the weather will be like during the volatile spring months. We lucked out and it was a beautiful, mild, sunny day. We opened up our sun room (which is only comfortable to use when it’s not too cold and not too hot outside), and we set every single patio chair and lawn chair we owned in our back yard to add seating, plus our kids’ Little Tikes picnic table for our younger guests. People also had the option to sit in patio chairs or on the glider on our front porch. Allowing the party to spread into the yard also allowed children who attended our party to run and play, providing easy entertainment for the younger set.

how to host a big party in a small space
Ready to party.

Our second and third parties took place during the months of February and December, respectively, so we had to keep everything indoors. We had half the number of guests compared to our first party, and things were cozy, but because it was a come-and-go-when-you-please open house, there were always places to sit or stand and chat.

2. Move furniture around to make extra room.

Our kitchen island is portable and has wheels, so we pushed it against a wall to open up the kitchen to more foot traffic (and then we loaded it up with snacks). I also moved unnecessary things such as our music keyboard and a rack full of children’s art supplies out of our main living areas to free up space to put folding chairs.

how to host a big party in a small space
Our kitchen island pushed to one side of the room to make space for more foot traffic.

3. Put less important knick knacks or non-essential decorative items into temporary storage. 

I lean toward minimalism and I have kids, so I don’t have many trinkets or knick knacks around my house. If you’re short on space, though, you’d be surprised at how much room you gain on places like coffee tables and end tables by putting these things away in a closet or a closed-off room for the duration of your party. Keep a few key pieces out for display, but put the rest into storage in a closet or drawer.

4. Think in terms of multi-purposing.

We served snacks and light meal types of food during both of our parties, and while our kitchen has decent counter space for a buffet spread, we were using every inch of space there. So we turned other places in the house into mini serving areas as well. We placed bowls and platters with less-messy munchies like chips and cookies — as well as plenty of napkins — on our coffee table in the living room (and we could do this because the table wasn’t cluttered with knick knacks), on the dry sink and on an open space on our china cabinet in the dining room, and on the coffee table in our sun room. This encouraged our guests to spread out around the house rather than having everyone congregate in the kitchen.

how to host a big party in a small space
Snacks on our dry sink in the dining room. This space usually serves as a catchall for wallets, purses, and mail.
how to host a big party in a small space
Another mini buffet on our living room coffee table.

5. Open up your basement if you have one.

I mentioned that our second and third parties took place during the winter when we were confined inside the house. We set up some extra folding chairs and lawn chairs in our partially finished basement in case things got too crowded on the main floor, but the only people who went downstairs were the kids. Still, it was nice to have the extra entertainment space.

6. And finally, come to terms with being cozy with everyone. 

Accept that it will be crowded and loud. Be hospitable. Be patient with people. Have lots of tasty food on hand. And enjoy the day. Your guests will have fun!

Have you ever hosted a large party in a small or modest-sized house? How did you do it? Share your tips in the comments.

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