You’ve moved in. You’ve unpacked (finally). You’ve heard from your friends “When can I see your new place?” so many times you’ve lost count. Looks like it’s finally time to throw a housewarming party.
There’s only one problem: how do you throw a housewarming party? The last one you went to, it was just six people standing around awkwardly, dipping vegetables in that weirdly thick ranch dressing that comes in a plastic tub while they quickly ran out of things to talk about. Yeah, no thanks.
But here at Bellhops, we believe in you. Your housewarming party doesn’t have to be a dud-with-ranch-dressing. In fact, it can be a beautiful time where you fill your new house with memories, laughs, and friends and family. Here, we’ll discuss housewarming party themes, etiquette, decorations, food, and even the history of the tradition of the housewarming party. Let’s get to warming that house of yours.
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of a housewarming party started? If not, feel free to skip this section to get to the more practical bits. But, if you are the curious type, stay with me here.
Believe it or not, the term “housewarming” literally means to “warm a house”. Centuries ago, to celebrate moving into a new home, residents threw a literal housewarming party. Their friends and family would come over and start fires in the various fireplaces in their home and offer firewood as a gift to keep the home warm.
Besides warming the house, this practice was also believed to banish and repel evil spirits by providing protective warmth. It was thought that while a house sat unoccupied and cold, it was a prime spot for ghosts to move. Therefore, it was only natural to drive out those ghosts when someone moved into a new home by throwing a housewarming party.
In French-speaking countries, residents moving into a new home would throw what was called a pendaison de crémaillère. It was customary to invite all who had a part in building the home over for a dinner party as a way of saying thanks.
Over the years, ghost banishing rituals and French dinner parties have transformed into what is today referred to as a housewarming party.
First things first, you might want to come up with a theme for your housewarming party. A theme is not a requirement for a good party (obviously), but we have found that lots of new homeowners like to spice up their housewarming parties with a theme. Oftentimes a theme can provide conversation fodder, music ideas, and food ideas that will make the rest of your planning easier. Your call.
If you do pick a theme, the key is to come up with one that is fun but not obnoxious. A good theme that is not overdone can make it easy for new faces to talk to one another.
For example, while a costume party might sound like fun, could it be awkward for people to attend whom you have never met before? Probably. Also, imagine being that one guest who shows up without a costume to the costume party? Or worse… the one guest who shows up wearing a costume while everyone else is not.
Keep in mind that your new neighbors are going to attend the housewarming party, so come up with a theme that is fun but also comfortable. Here are a few theme ideas:
Have all your guests bring a covered dish from another country –– (Japan) sushi, (Italy) lasagna, (U.S.) fried chicken and (Greece) Gyros. This would not only be fun, but it would also cater to a variety of different tastes. For instance, if neighbor Bob only eats chicken and has never touched a fish in his life, he can just eat fried chicken.
Have all your guests bring a $10 – $15 gift that they can exchange with someone else at the party. Even if it’s July, this could be a cool theme. After all, who doesn’t like receiving gifts?
This is where you pick a particular project and center the party around it. It could be unpacking some, painting a particular room, or figuring out the layout of your living room together. Have drinks while you do it, make a playlist, then have dinner together afterward. You’ll have to know your guest list pretty well to pull this one off, though. Inviting your stranger of a neighbor over to help you paint is probably not his idea of a “party.”
If you decide to throw a housewarming party where the food isn’t dictated by the theme, you’ll have to come up with a menu.
You know the age-old saying— the closest way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach. So yes, if you want a good party, you need good food and drink.
We’ll go out on a limb here: we recommend home cooked food for your housewarming party. The whole point of the party is a celebration of the new space that you call “home,” right? And what says “home” more than a home-cooked meal? It lends the party a level of authenticity that just feels right. That being said, obviously, having some sort of catering is always an option if you’d prefer not to cook.
Lastly, if you are still struggling to think of housewarming party food, throw a make your own pizza party. Buy a bunch of fresh ingredients, pizza sauce, and dough… then let everyone make their own pizza and… BAM! You’ve got yourself a good time. Just add a couple of cold beers and it’s a grand housewarming party.
Housewarming party decorations can be a little tricky because if you aren’t careful they can get pretty expensive. Again, we are going to recommend you go conservative and affordable on the decorations.
After all, your guests are going to want to see the home and not the 50+ balloons you bought from Party City.
With that said, we do recommend investing in something that spruces up your home to make it feel like a celebration. That’s the Spotify playlist. You’ll want to play music the entire night. No, it doesn’t have to be blaring throughout the house, but light music makes a party so much more comfortable to people.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant where there is absolutely no music playing and everyone is talking quietly? It lacks energy. It feels dead. Maybe even a little creepy. Those are not words you want describing your housewarming party.
Now, for the housewarming party etiquette. While we’re sure you are super polite, everybody can use a little refreshing when it comes to etiquette.
One of the biggest questions we get when it comes to housewarming party etiquette is — should I register my housewarming party? Everyone’s answer to this is a little different, but our answer is no. Registering for your house party may come off a little pushy… like you are just throwing the house party to snag some free gifts.
Put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes. If someone were to send you an invitation to a housewarming party and then say, “Oh yeah, I am registered at Bed, Bath & Beyond. So, you can buy all the presents there.” It puts a bad taste in your mouth. Guests will naturally bring housewarming gifts, you don’t have to remind them.
The next piece of housewarming etiquette we wanted to cover was the invitation and the guest list. We recommend always giving your invites a 2-3 week heads up so they can plan in advance.
Also, from a marketing standpoint, if you want more people to attend your party, it doesn’t hurt to send out a reminder a few days before the party? After all, people tend to be procrastinators.
In regards to who you should include on your guest list, we recommend sticking to your street. Sometimes you can live in a neighborhood with 100+ neighbors, which is obviously way too many guests. Keep your guest list under 25— you can always throw housewarming party round two.
The last thing we are going to say is this: stop overthinking it. Sometimes people new to a neighborhood feel overly inclined to impress their neighbors and become the popular kid in the cul-de-sac. There’s no need to start the game of Keeping Up with the Joneses
Simply put, your neighbors will like you for you (assuming you are a good, courteous neighbor). Throwing a housewarming party can be a sign of respect to your neighbors. It shows them that you are taking time out of your life to get to know them. Relax and remember to have fun.
Ryan Finlay is no mere mortal. He is a wise and wealthy Craigslist wizard that has spent the past five years honing his craft on one of the world’s largest buying and selling platforms.
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