Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Ideas for Hosting a Fun Girls' Night at Home

No matter how much you love your husband and kids, sometimes you just need to some female time with your friends. There’s just something super-therapeutic about hanging out with your gal pals! A lot of times that may just mean going shopping or out to dinner, happy hour or the movies. But every now and then you might want to do something different. Why not host your own girls’ night in your own home?

Over the years I have planned a lot of such events for my female friends. They’ve always been a lot of fun, and sometimes they’re more relaxing than fighting the traffic and crowds to go to busy restaurants and shopping malls. If you divide up costs between your friends, it can actually be a less expensive way to spend time together.

Here are my ideas for 10 super-fun gals’ nights you can host in your own home:

1. Spa Night
Most every gal loves getting their nails done or a facial at a fancy spa. But that can get really expensive fast! A lot of my friends have confessed to me that they just can’t afford going to a spa. As an alternative, why not host your own spa treatment at home? There are a lot of different spa treatments you can do at home. Buy a selection of nail polish and pumice boards and give yourselves pedicures and manicures, or buy some acrylic nail kits and give yourselves your own acrylic nails.

I have a friend who sells makeup for Mary Kay and she came over once for a gals’ night and gave everyone makeovers and facials.

Another time I went out to store and bought seven different home facial single-use packets (each a different scent, in a different  color) to use at a gals’ afternoon. We got our masks on and took pictures together with our colorful faces. Afterwards we had wine and cheese while soaking  in our outdoor hot tub. It was a fun gals-only afternoon!
There are also hundreds of different recipes online for making concoctions for home facials., hand wraps and foot soaks. Those are fun too.

For added enjoyment, if you’ve got a home foot massager, foot soaker or melted hand waxer, those can be fun to bring out at home spa parties too.

If you want to do it up right, have some healthy snacks and beverages at your spa party, and play some relaxing “spa music” in the background.
2. Do-Your-Own Pizza Party

Why not invite your gal friends over for homemade personal pizzas? Buy some mini Boboli crusts or make your own mini pizza crusts up ahead of time and have the sauce, cheeses and various toppings on hand and have your guests make their own personal pizzas. Be sure to have some fancy drinks to go with your pizza.

3. Game/Card Night

Back in the day, women got together for bridge parties.  The ladies just loved playing cards while chatting and snacking on delicious foods.  You may not be in to bridge, but there are a whole lot of other card games you can play with your gal friends. Set up a few tables, pull out the cards and choose a card game to play with your friends. My favorites are pinochle, hearts, spades and canasta. Print up the rules on 8 ½ by 11” sheets of paper and set them out at each place setting. None of these card games are hard to learn.  Of course, there are also some fun group board games like Mexican Train and Balderdash that are enjoyable to play with a group of close friends.

You could combine your game night with potluck dinner. Have each guest bring a dish to pass. When you’re done eating dinner, you can get started on your game.
4. All-girls murder mystery party

I’ve hosted two murder mystery parties at my house for the gals and they have been a blast! You can make it a really big party and spend a lot of money decorating to the theme and even buying prizes for best actor and best costume. Your guests stay in character all night and do their own “improv” acting. Or, you can just sit around the dinner table with your guests and read the lines for your characters. In that case, the murder mystery event is almost like playing a board game. Either way, you’re sure to have a very memorable evening! There are a lot of online companies that sell murder mystery party kits. The companies below all have murder mystery kits especially designed for gals’ get-togethers:

5. Book Club Night

I love to read. I especially love talking with friends about what I’ve learned in the various books I’m reading. Usually I’m reading nonfiction, or historical fiction.  A fun idea for a girls’ night, admittedly in a rather erudite fashion, is to host a book club night. Now it doesn’t have to be a nonfiction book Having your gal pals over to talk about the latest novel you’ve all read can be fun. But so can a nonfiction book. It might be on a parenting topic (if you’re all females) or one on the sandwich generation if you all have elderly parents you’re concerned about. Or maybe there’s a topic in the news that you’re all interested in. For instance, I have a lot of friends who are interested in nutrition, so we all enjoy talking about the books we’ve read on topics like GMO agriculture and nutritional remedies for health problems. Choose a book about a month before your book club night. That’ll give your guests time to each buy a copy and read the book. As the host, come up with a list of open-ended questions to ask your guests during the party, to try to get the conversations going. Be sure to have refreshments on hand. (If your guests are shy, you may need to buy some wine to serve!)

6. Movie Night

Probably one of the more common types of at-home girls’ nights would be to watch a movie together. But even though it’s a common way for females to spend time together, it’s still worth mentioning here. Movie nights can be loads of fun. Survey your friends and see if there’s a newly-released DVD they’re all waiting to see. I actually have a huge collection of movies to watch with friends—even movies my mom liked back in the 70s and 80s that are classics. Your local Family Video may not carry a lot of 80s movies, but I have found a lot on Amazon.com and at garage sales for fairly cheap. Now when I have friends over, there’s usually at least a couple movies in my collection (many of them chick flicks, but not all of them are!) they have never heard of before, but end up liking.

Tell your friends to come in comfy clothes—like sweat pants—and have some lap blankets to pass out to your friends so you can all relax and be comfortable. It goes without saying making a huge bowl of popcorn and perhaps some mixed drinks only adds to the fun!

7. Craft Night

Just about everyone I know has a craft they like to do. One friend is an expert scrap booker. Another crochets scarves all the time. Another does flower arranging. I make homemade soap and do beading. Something I’ve done a lot with my friends is to host craft parties. For instance, I’ll organize soap making parties. Usually we’ll make three batches of soap at a party. I’ll do the first batch to demonstrate the process. My friends will just watch. After that batch is done, then my guests take turns helping to make soap for the second and third batches. Once the soap is done, we divide the soap up among everyone to take home—and each person chips in some cash to pay for supplies. I’ve done the same thing with beading parties, where guests all make bracelets and necklaces to take home. Other times I’ve invited a friend over who’s the expert and maybe she teaches everyone present how to make napkin rings out of silk flowers or whatever.

Craft parties are a great way to learn a new skill and be productive, and still relax and talk with your friends. This is something, though, that can get expensive. You can either give each of your guests a list of supplies that they need to buy ahead of time to make their own craft project at your house. Or, you, as the host, can buy all the supplies and then figure out what each guest needs to pay for her share.
7. White Elephant Gift Exchange

Most people probably have items at home that are unused and unwanted. You know…the extra Gevalia coffee pot you got in the mail a couple years ago that sits unopened in your attic….the bagel-shaped mug you bought while in New York….the rhinestone watch you impulsively bought at the department store during the after-Christmas sale, but you got it home and thought it was way too gaudy?!! Everyone has items like these….that they would like to get rid of. One way to accomplish this is to host a white elephant party.

Ask each of your guests to bring one unused, but interesting—even funny or unique—item that’s been wrapped up. If your guests don’t have such an item at home already, they might go shopping for one. If you’ve got a Spencer’s Gifts in town, they are a great source of humorous white elephant gifts.

Usually at these kinds of parties, it’s part of a dinner. I like to make it a potluck. Use paper plates. Number the bottom of each paper plate. As your guests arrive, have them set their wrapped guests on a table in your home. Before you set the gift on the table, attach a number sticker to the gift. Do not allow your guests to look at the bottom of your plates until after dinner.

After dinner, the gift exchange begins. The person with “1” on the bottom of her plate goes first. She gets to unwrap the gift with the #1 sticker on it. The person with #2 on her plate goes next. She can either take the gift marked #2, or “steal” the #1 gift from that person. If she steals the #1 gift, she gives #2 gift to that person to unwrap. The person with the #3 plate goes next, then #4 and so on. On each subsequent turn, that person can either open the present with that number on it or “steal” another person’s unwrapped gift. Whenever a person’s gift is stolen, she is given the unwrapped gift as a replacement. When all the gifts are unwrapped, the game is over. This is a particularly fun party with large groups—10 or 15 or more people—so there are lots of gifts to unwrap and exchange.

9. Cooking Lessons

I have a few friends who like to cook like I do. We take turns teaching our specialties. I taught cannoli, apple strudel, and homemade pasta making. Another gave lessons for making chili rellenos. Someone else made pirogies. These are best for small gatherings—somewhere around 4 to 6 people—so that everyone can have space to see around the kitchen workspace.

This is another event though that can get expensive for the host.  We all know that groceries are not cheap these days. What I’ve done with these kind of parties is to figure out how much it’s going to cost for whatever food item we’re going to prepare. Then divide those costs up per person.  Once the food item is prepared, you and your guests can eat it together. Or, you may want to buy “to go” containers to send the food items home with your guests.

10. Wine, cheese and chocolate tasting party

This is really a simple party.  As your guests to each bring a bottle of wine and either a cheese and cracker tray or some pieces of chocolate on a tray. This is really fun with large groups—somewhere between 10 and 20 people—so you can have a lot of different wines, cheeses and chocolate to sample.  You may want to ask half of your guests to bring a chocolates and the other bring cheese and crackers. You may want to assign specific types of cheese to bring: such as a brie to bake, a cheeseball, or some sliced cheeses.

As the host, you will need to supply wine glasses (you can go to stores like World Market and Bed, Bath and Beyond and buy very inexpensive wine glasses—usually not much more than $1 a glass—or you could buy disposable plastic wine glasses from your local party store), paper luncheon-sized plates, and cocktail napkins. A set of wine charms are also nice to set out, so that guests can keep track of which glass is theirs!

These are my favorite gals’ get-togethers. I’m sure there are other ideas too…but hopefully this list will get you started!