I'm realizing as my friends and I get older that last-minute get-togethers are becoming not only a regular occurrence, but a staple in our lives. Gone are the years where we made a big to-do about birthdays and holidays; rather we relish the days when both good weather and free time align and we can come together to share delicious food, drinks, and conversation.
If we're not taking advantage of one of our friends' hospitality, we are hosting the casual event ourselves, usually with one or two (or fewer) day's notice. Here are some tricks for pulling it off.
DECOR: Don't worry about streamers, perfect centerpieces, or seasonally-appropriate dishware; your best ally in this arena is a clean home! Spend an hour or two de-cluttering, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and throwing everything else behind a closed door to be dealt with later. Grab a bouquet or two of flowers from the grocery store (or even your own garden) for a dash of freshness.
LIGHTING: You might not have time to hang string lights or festive lanterns, but DO dim the lights and put out a few candles for ambiance.
FOOD + DRINK: Here is where the power of the potluck shines! Volunteer to make the main dish or a specialty cocktail, but don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring appetizers, drinks and dessert to lighten the load. If you're really crunched for time, few people would say "no" to some good ol' pizza and beer!
MUSIC: Good tunes are essential to getting a great vibe going. If you already have a collection of party music, hit the shuffle button and walk away (maybe come back when the occasional Creed song sneaks in). If not, don't fret over putting together the perfect playlist. Let websites like Pandora.com do it for you.
ENTERTAINMENT: Depending on what your friends are in to, you might keep a few board games around, some karaoke on hand, or simply keep the wine flowing and enjoy one another's conversation. The beauty of last-minute get-togethers is that the group already has great chemistry and an intimacy that allows them to bask in the company of their favorite people, regardless of the activity.