Thinking of hosting a game day party this year?
You don’t need to spend big bucks or a lot of time to host an epic sports party. A bit of planning can keep your celebrations easy, enjoyable, and fun!
Whatever your sport of choice, a classic rivalry or playoff game are the perfect excuses for getting together with family and friends for feasting and festivities.
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And our hosting tips can help ensure a good time is had by all.
Ready to tackle some great party ideas, appetizers, and make-ahead recipes to help you and your guests enjoy the day?
Then let’s strategize the right play on how to host the best game day party!
Here’s what you’ll find ahead.
How to Host a Game Day Party
Create Your Game Plan
It’s the same for all parties – put in a bit of thought to planning your event and you end up gaining more free time, eliminating oversights, reducing stress, and pulling off a successful soiree!
So pull out your pen and paper, or phone or tablet if you prefer, and take some notes about how you want the day to play out.
Start with items like your guest list, what you’ll feed them and when, beverage choices, seating arrangements, kids activities (if needed), who can help with food, and safe transportation after the match.
And of course, you need at least one decently sized television screen… streaming on a laptop isn’t going to fly with most hardcore sports fans!
Craft a Special Teams Menu
One of the first things to consider is the types of food you’ll serve, and when.
We recommend a make-ahead menu that covers all of your guests’ dietary preferences, including those with alternative tastes or dietary restrictions.
To satisfy a large crowd, keep a variety of appetizers flowing for the first half of the match.
For example, cool and creamy tzatziki and plant-based spreads like homemade hummus, fresh salsa, olive tapenade, or guacamole will all be lighter choices to serve, so your guests can indulge with a clear conscience.
And the guacamole can also double nicely as a healthy twist for filling deviled eggs.
At half time, serve something heartier, but keep it simple so your guests can eat comfortably in their armchair or mingle if they like.
And recipes like chili and other soups and stews – especially any options that you can easily prep and make ahead in the slow cooker – can be served in disposable bowls that your guests can hold and carry around when the last fumble made them a little antsy.
Stay on Top of Spectator Hydration
Watching a tightly contested match can be thirsty work!
If you like to craft your own cocktails, choose large-batch recipes, ones that can be prepped and chilled ahead of time. A homemade sangria or an autumnal cranberry punch will both score touchdowns at the party.
And along with bar bevvies, be sure to have some fun and tasty non-alcoholic drinks or cocktails on hand as well.
To avoid turning the kitchen into the social center and free up fridge space, place large buckets or coolers filled with ice and drinks around the house – in the entryway, the deck or patio, the TV room, and so on.
You’ll like this Zilpoo set of large, 18-Liter clear plastic tubs with handles. It’s available in a pack of four on Amazon now.
Your guests can easily help themselves, and this strategy keeps the kitchen free for prepping appetizers and entrees and cleaning.
Arrange an Armchair Roster
The overall casual vibe of a sports party is different from other gatherings, since the seating should be loose and open so people can move freely to chat and mingle.
What matters most to many fans is the match itself… which means everyone needs a comfortable seat to eat, drink, and watch the game.
If needed, rearrange the furniture so your entertainment space is ready for your friends to enjoy the action, matching the number of guests to how many can be seated in front of the TV.
Avoid Objectionable Conduct
At most sports parties, there are guests who are more interested in visiting than paying attention to the match, often blithely chatting away during critical plays.
This can sometimes raise the ire of the more dedicated fans!
To avoid a TV room scrum of gabbers versus sports fans, set up a smaller seating area away from the TV hub and out of earshot.
Your friends can relax and catch up with one another without getting flagged for objectionable conduct!
Designate a Kids Zone
If children are included in your plans, create a kids zone where they can hang out and play without adults interfering with their fun.
Set up a table that’s just for them and provide finger foods, drinks, and various games and activities. You should also check in with the parents ahead of time to discuss a game plan for the pickier eaters.
If you have the space, it’s even better to set up an entirely separate room for just the kids.
For the junior sports fan, toss a few cushions on the floor and place a small TV turned low in a corner of the kids area so they can keep up with the action.
And with the blessing of nicer weather, the kids can also play outside – as long as you establish boundaries!
Enlist a Cleanup Crew
Stay on the winning side and keep your workload to a minimum – and fun times at a maximum – with a fast and easy cleanup.
Use disposable or recyclable cups, plates, forks, and spoons in order to avoid time spent on washing dishes.
Feeling guilty about one-use items? You can still enjoy their convenience with environmentally friendly and biodegradable plant-based dinnerware – they decompose in just a few months.
I like the compostable 6-inch round Palm Leaf Plates from Eco Soul, available now from Amazon.
After the game’s over, pull out a couple of trash bags and a bin for recyclables and get your guests collecting and separating the debris.
While they clean up, you can divvy out any leftovers into takeaway containers for your guests to take home.
Stay Onside With Arranged Rides
For guests who enjoyed a few drinks while watching the match, keep the good times rolling with arranged rides to get home safely.
Wrangle up a designated driver or two, have a ride-sharing service on standby, or hire a minivan and driver to transport your party-goers home without any serious incidents.
A Thrilling Victory!
Hosting a game day party can be a lot of work, but with just a little planning ahead of time, you can pull off a fanfare event!
Plan and prep your menu and keep everyone happy with a steady flow of appetizers for the first half of the game, then serve a satisfying entree or two at halftime. And have a supply of chilled beverages close by for guests to serve themselves.
Make sure everyone watching the match has a place to sit, section off the gabbers, and provide kids with their own space, games, and food to keep them occupied.
When it’s all over, put the cleanup crew to work before they leave and use designated drivers or hire transportation to ensure tippling fans arrive home safely.
What are your go-to tips for planning a party on game day? Let us know in the comments below!
And for more helpful how-to advice on planning the most entertaining events with the most delicious foods, add these guides to your reading list next:
- 5 Steps for a Perfect Pasta Salad
- How to Make a Full-Course Italian Meal
- 5 Steps to Create the Most Perfect Meat and Cheese Board
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock. Product photos via Amaozn. Originally published on April 24, 2015. Last updated on October 27, 2023.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.