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What to Do if You’re Running Late for Your Own Party


Running late to your party? Ana Pierce shares her tips on how to be the best hostess even when you don't have all the food prepared or your home perfectly arranged.
Photo by Nadianb/


It’s not the end of the world if you’re running a little late for your own party.

It’s 6:37 p.m. and your guests are arriving at 7—but you still have to clean the living room, make the appetizers and your phone is blowing up with people asking for directions and parking details. Stressed? I know. What if you don’t finish everything before that first knock on the door?

The good news is: it’s not the end of the world if you’re running a little late for your own party. I’ve been running late for my own party more often than I’d like to admit—so as a seasoned professional, I have some helpful tricks and tips to get your party up and running in no time.

1. First Things First


Photo by Ana Pierce/

Here are the crucial things that should be completed before your guests walk in the door. They should have a tidy place to mingle and the guest bathroom should be cleaned. There are a few things that are socially acceptable to fix after friends arrive, but Clorox-ing your toilet is not one of them. If you’re frantically trying to get things done before the party, make sure you switch your cleaning playlist to an appropriate party playlist at least 20 minutes before “go time.” Music is a huge part of ambiance, and it’s one of the first things your guests will notice when they walk in the door, so you want it to be right—even for the person who shows up early! If you don’t have time to put together the perfect, customized playlist, there are lots of options on Spotify or Pandora that will set the right tone in just one click.

2. Prioritize

OK, let’s be real. While a lot of us have goals to clean the whole house or apartment before having people over, that’s not always realistic. If you’re running behind, prioritize the areas that guests will definitely be using. That’s usually the living room, guest bathroom and maybe the kitchen if you have an open floor plan. Unless you’re having a housewarming party, nobody has to have a tour of the whole house. There’s nothing wrong with closing the door to a bedroom, office, etc.—even if that’s where you plan to put guests’ coats and personal belongings.

So, quick, start cleaning the places that actually matter!

Late party.

Photo by Ana Pierce/

3. When Guests Arrive

Hopefully by the time people arrive, you’ve decluttered the areas they’ll be using and made sure the bathroom is clean. In the kitchen, make sure you’ve finished setting out the drinks first—because that’s what guests will expect immediately—but it’s fine if you’re still preparing some small bites. If possible, do the messiest food prep first, so you get that cleaning done or have it soaking in the sink. If you’re still chopping up some veggies or setting cookies on a tray at 7:05, nobody will blink an eye.

4. S.O.S.

It’s possible, that in your busy life of party hosting, you will have an S.O.S. occasion. “Help!,” you cry, “I got stuck at the office and don’t have enough time!” In this situation, I recommend calling a friend (a good friend) who doesn’t mind lending a hand to the party prep cause. For a really quick, emergency-style cleanup, toss all the unorganized stuff into a closet and clean it up after the event.

And when worse comes to worst, just scrap the fancy food ideas and order pizza. After all, who doesn’t love a pizza party?