How to Host a Game Day Party

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.

Vertical image of a large party watching football on the couch while eating assorted food and drinking beer, with text on the top and bottom fo the image.

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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.

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.

Vertical image of a white platter of grilled chicken wings, selective focus.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings – Get the Recipe Now

Many guests will be happy noshing on classic sports bar fare. But for others, some flavorful meat-free, wheat-free, and low-calorie options may be needed as well.

To satisfy a large crowd, keep a variety of appetizers flowing for the first half of the match.

Along with fun fare like egg rolls, ham and cheese sliders, nachos, pretzels, saucy chicken wings, and mac and cheese bites, offer some healthier options.

Horizontal image of a hummus dip in a navy bowl next to crudite and pita chips.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Roasted Garlic Hummus – Get the Recipe Now

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.

Greek yogurt has a rich, thick consistency that’s perfect for low-cal, low-fat versions of zesty Green Goddess dressing to serve with a platter of veggies.

For appy inspiration, check out 21 of the best vegan appetizers and 69 finger food appetizers – they’re perfect for parties.

Vertical top-down image of cubes grilled meat and slices of vegetables on sticks over a bed of brown rice on a black plate.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Citrus Marinated Beef Kebabs – Get the Recipe Now

At half time, serve something heartier, but keep it simple so your guests can eat comfortably in their armchair or mingle if they like.

Dishes like burgers, kebabs, samosas, or sandwiches and wraps are easy handheld fare that don’t require a sit-down service.

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!

Be sure to keep your spectators hydrated with a selection of bar beverages like chilled ale and beer, cider, seltzers, and wine.

Overhead shot of a hand holding a spoon and placing a maraschino cherry in a glass of Kirsche Colabierbowle, with two more glasses and a pitcher filled with the cocktail, on a blue and white cloth.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Cherry Cola Beer Punch – Get the Recipe Now

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.

Items like water, hot chocolate, kombucha, fresh lemonade, sodas, iced tea, and tea or coffee should accommodate most desires.

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.

Zilpoo 18-Liter Clear Plastic Tubs, pack of four

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.

Horizontal image of an excited group of friends watching football at home while eating assorted food and drinking beer.

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.

Horizontal closeup image of a group of friends drinking beer on the couch while watching sports on tv.

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.

Horizontal image of a child and grandfather cheering from the couch watching football.

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.

Eco Soul Compostable 6-Inch Palm Leaf Plates, pack of 50

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.

Horizontal image of an excited group of friends watching football at home while eating assorted food and drinking beer.

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:

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.

23 thoughts on “How to Host a Game Day Party”

  1. I do enjoy making a game day buffet but chips and dips are the number one thing to avoid. You can pack away so many calories without even noticing that it’s better to give them a wide berth and concentrate on slightly more substantial, but less fatty bites.

  2. BBQ, drinks and snacks up for grabs are essential for the game day! I had this big “meeting” with my friends this week where we gathered to watch a local football match on TV and all that has been mentioned in the article was present! Host probably was a writer at Foodal, haha!

    • Lol! It’s a great way to get together with friends and have some light- hearted fun. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

  3. These are the best events to prepare for as there are lots of small bites. I also make pizza and flatbread slices so people can snack on those and sweetcorn and polenta fritters.

    I always have a couple of bowls of the same dip and try not to make them too big, because they tend to get messy. One of my best dishes is the cold pasta salad where I use penne and everyone loves it as I add some mayonnaise to the tomato sauce to make it creamy.

  4. Home made mini-pizzas are great for this type of party, and I like your idea for the cold, creamy penne salad. Any sun-dried tomatoes or olives in that?

  5. My favourite parties to have are associated with sports. Firstly, I get to make tons of miniature foods & portable snacks. I love when I can make a ton of different things as opposed to a lot of one thing. Secondly, I get to enjoy sports. Which would happen without the cooking but now two things I enjoy are together at last. I like to switch things up to create a healthier atmosphere are well. You’d be surprised how often you can do that as long as you keep main flavours as the star.

    • It’s a fun way to entertain, isn’t it? And you’re right Joan, you can slip in a lot of healthy snacks behind a main dish… it’s like planting a seed of health in people’s minds.

  6. Brilliant ideas i must say… they will definitely come in handy one day…not now though…maybe after i buy that house that has been on my mind for like forever… i’ll unleash this very idea…oh, can’t wait 🙂

  7. Preparing healthy snacks for the gameday crowd is a great idea. My first thought was that they might form a minor revolt if you take don’t supply pizza and chips, but when do guest actually complain, right? They don’t. They are a captive audience for us to introduce tasty, but healthier, options. I particularly like the idea of the lean meat kebabs. The mango chutney caught sounds good as well. I can’t wait to give them a try.

    • I know, it’s a fine line to walk between traditional snacks and introducing something healthy… but you’re right. Most guests won’t complain, and they don’t seem to leave a lot on their plates, healthy or not! And the mango chutney is a great accompaniment to meat or veggie kabobs or chicken satays.

    • Yeah, guests are hopefully pleasant and are willing to eat anything if it is made beforehand and set out in front of them, so why not use it as a sort of test run to test out some of your ideas? I am pretty sure this is the case at some of the games and things that we watch at people’s houses, and I am perfectly okay with it and would encouraged more diversity and healthy options.

  8. That is so true. It’s way too easy to gobble down tons of empty calories before you even realize it. This is one of those “do try this at home” things. I try to do it with my kids. For example, instead of sitting with a bag of chips and mindlessly eating them, I put a few in a bowl or on a plate. I tell the kids to do the same, so I like you’re idea of creating a more conscious choice about what and how much is being eaten.

    That buffet looks really good. What are the things in the silver bowls?

    • Great example Zyni, a little awareness goes a long ways in breaking those mindless habits… and its a great guilt buster too!

  9. I was just about to mention “mindless” munching. We are so excited about what is going on we don’t pay attention to what and how much we are eating. It is also a great way to have extra pounds sneak up on you and then you wonder why you tend to gain a little more during the super bowl. Keeping the kitchen free is another pet peeve of mine. Having people constantly go into your kitchen is a hassle and then you can’t keep track of all the food and drinks.

  10. I think having a barbecue is a great idea. When we have huge matches over here, the first thing I do is make a list of what would be best to prepare.

    Barbecue or baked chicken is always a hit. Usually, I try to prepare everything myself, so I opt for the baking method. I marinate my chicken in nice, juicy sauces and set them aside for a couple of hours. Then I wrap them up in “tin foil” and set it in the oven. It’s healthy and extremely delicious.

    Another thing I prepare is some salad with mayonnaise. It’s usually sliced cabbage and some carrots. I make it a point to store it in the fridge because everyone seems to prepare “cold salad”. It goes very well with the baked chicken.

  11. Those are excellent tips, I love to have and go to small reunions, and games seem to be the perfect option to make one out of nothing.
    Probably my favorite part of this post was the fact that you mentioned fruits and veggies as a form of snack, I only have been in one reunion that has healthy things as snacks and I can’t really know why this isn’t considered by other people, with some dressing they can become a perfect option.

  12. Exactly! Healthy doesn’t have to be bland or tasteless, and snacks don’t have to be unhealthy! Thanks for your thoughts anorexorcist.

  13. Well I think that avoiding mindless snacking is really a key point here. Aside from the general health reasons, I think that it also forces you to have more reactivity and actually prepare your own things, versus just buying some chips and pre-made dip or things of that nature. I really like the kebabs idea, and I usually try to feature a chili like dish too, which is always a hit. Very interesting stuff, and good tips, so thank you for sharing.

  14. Thanks for a really great article. I know my husband will really appreciate all the tips and tricks that I’ve learned from it. My favorite tip is to keep the kitchen free and clear. I always have a problem whenever we’re entertaining because everyone does seem to gather in the kitchen, where the food is. Setting up a buffet table in the dining room seems like a simple and effective solution.

  15. Everybody loves to gather in the kitchen! Which is great, unless you’re the host… but moving the food usually moves the people too. Glad you enjoyed the tips clair!


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