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My Favorite Must~Have Party Essentials

Are you planning a party during the warmer summer months? I opened my little party goodie box to share with you my favorite must~have party essentials.

With May comes party season. There are Kentucky Derby parties, graduation parties, end~of~school parties, bridal showers, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day.

In June, we have Flag Day, Father’s Day, summer pool parties, barbecues and picnics.

I’m not a professional party planner, but I just love to host parties. It doesn’t matter what’s the theme of the party, the occasion, the number of guests or the time of year.

There are a lot of moving parts to host a party:

  • plan the menu (food and drink is a major component)
  • style the table decor
  • set the dining or buffet table
  • ready the serving pieces and individual dishes
  • ensure you have enough plates, glasses, napkins, tablecloths, silverware
  • decorate your home if the party is tied to a special event.
  • clean/declutter all public areas
  • all the little things that make a party special

Hosting parties is so much easier if you have some basic party essentials in stock.

These are foundations that come in handy year after year, never go out of style, mix with everything, are versatile for any occasion, and aren’t too expensive. That’s my criteria for party essentials.

This post contains affiliate links to products that I love, use and recommend. If you order any item from this site, I may receive compensation to keep this blog going, but you do not pay one penny more.


When we need multiples of items, such as dishes and glasses, cost definitely plays a role.

I have my favorite places to shop for party essentials.

For plates, glasses, serving pieces, such as platters and trays, and napkins, both cloth and paper, you can’t beat these stores.

If you don’t have a nearby location, most of these sources can be found online.

For monogramming styrofoam cups and napkins, Swoozie’s is a great option. Locally, I find the cutest party napkins at Tuesday Morning or Home Goods at a great price.

Of course, there is Amazon and other online resources.


Don’t think that party essentials are only available at retail stores or online. Over many years, I’ve accumulated what I consider must~have party essentials at off~the~beaten~path places.  

I’ve found spotless, like~new napkin sets at garage sales. I just bought 25 beautiful white cloth napkins for $55 at an estate sale. That’s $2.20 each.

party essential items

Trays, platters, cake stands, and bowls are great buys at estate and garage sales.  Even flea markets carry glassware and tableware. I found the sweetest sherbet glasses and my Fiesta glasses and a pitcher at an antique mall.


You’ll notice that so many of my suggestions are white: white dishes, white napkins, and white serving pieces. That’s because you can’t go wrong with white. Cream or ivory work well too.

Clear glass and metals also function as neutrals.

I love color, but I like to use it as accents, in flowers, and decor. BUT, I throw that rule out the window if I’m focusing on a colored~themed party!


You have to have plates for people to eat from (unless you are serving finger food and napkins suffice), glasses to drink from, silverware to eat with, and napkins for folks to clean up with.

NOTE: I love finger foods at parties where no silverware is needed or at the most, just a fork. No knives unless it’s a sit~down meal.

Years ago, when we had our first Kentucky Derby party, I shopped for all these items at World Market. That was before shopping Amazon online was so prevalent.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have used them. I have two sets of the dinner plates and four sets of the napkins.

We have two cases of 10~ounce wine glasses, which can be used for wine, tea, lemonade, and water.

I love using dishes and glassware in this less expensive price point for buffets and cocktail parties.

If someone drops a glass and it breaks, it’s not a big monetary loss. I can honestly tell my guest that it’s not a big deal.

There is nothing worse than having a guest break a valuable piece of crystal. They feel bad, you feel bad.

PARTY ETIQUETTE TIP: As a guest, if you break something that is obviously valuable, always offer to replace it. As a hostess, always graciously decline the offer. If you want to be a thoughtful guest, surprise your hostess, find out the crystal or china pattern and replace it, anyway. You’ll forever be a treasured friend.

NOTE: Save your good china and crystal for sit~down events where accidents are less likely to happen.

TIP: Speaking of party accidents, I like to keep this clean~up product handy. It works great on red wine spills.

party essential items


Having inexpensive washable tablecloths is an essential party staple. I just ordered a new round tablecloth for our breakfast room table. I also have several rectangle tablecloths.

party essential items
party essential items


Most of us don’t have dozens of place settings (or just forks and spoons) on hand for large gatherings. Some plastic utensils look so nice, it’s OK to use them.

I know these are disposable, but I have often hand~washed these and reused them.

party essential items
party essential items


Here are some that I think are essential ~ not only practical but pretty.

TIP: always think vertical for displaying and serving your food. It makes for a more pleasing arrangement, allows you to need less space for serving and lets the guests see the food better.


Here’s a simple option. Or if you like something with a little more pizzaz, here’s one with chalkboard signs that even comes with a chalk marker.

party essential items
party essential items


I love that this one can have bowls or plates for serving. This rectangular one is a really great choice for desserts, appetizers, or pastries.

party essential items
party essential items

The 3~tier tray would be great for desserts or small sandwiches.

The wood rectangle tiered~tray would be a lovely way to serve charcuterie, crackers or cheese.

party essential items
party essential items


Cake stands make great serving possibilities. Stacking different sizes is so attractive.  I love these options. And don’t forget that flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales are great resources for cake stands.

party essential items
party essential items

I have had this Cake Stand that converts to a punch bowl/salad bowl from Williams~Sonoma for years. It is so versatile. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used it.

party essential items

TIP: another way to add height to your serving pieces? Place cardboard boxes under your tablecloth or a large napkin. Then place your serving piece on top. Just make sure that the box is sturdy. 


Certain foods need to be kept hot ~ like the Bourbon Balls that I’ll be making for our Kentucky Derby party. I found my old Rival crockpot in the back of a cabinet in the butler’s pantry. I know I haven’t used it since we moved here nine years ago. It didn’t work.

I ordered this new crockpot with a removable insert. A chafing dish is also a nice addition to have on hand.

party essential items
party essential items

For serving and keeping foods cold, try this bowl serving dish or this sectional serving tray. Don’t forget a nice ice bucket or a pretty large bowl to hold ice for wine bottles, beer, water bottles or soft drinks.

party essential items
party essential items

Here’s a collection of more essential party items.

party essential items

I hope these ideas have been helpful. As we get into May (graduation, Mother’s Day, end of school parties, Memorial Day) and summer holidays, it’s nice to think ahead about parties you may be planning.

You can be on the watch for party essentials and sales. But remember ~ Christmas is 7 months away. It’s never too early to plan ahead.

Don’t want to forget this collection of my favorite essential party items? PIN this post to look at before your next party.

party essential items
party essential items
party essential items

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  1. Wonderful tips, Carol! I couldn’t agree more on World Market and Tuesday Morning. No Swoozie’s here — too bad, sounds like a good one!

  2. Such great advice! I want those scalloped cake stands. They are too cute!

    For years I was resistant to all white plates…now I think they would come in very handy.

  3. Carol, you give such great advice. I always come to your blog for good southern etiquettte from a professional! I love all the tier stands but find it so hard to store. I have no space but they look so elegant.

    1. Diane, my mom taught me so much about being a hostess. My parents entertained a lot when I was young so I was able to see what she did. It’s really paid off.

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