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Austin-based lifestyle blogger Camille Styles knows a thing or two about throwing a party. If you read this post on last month, you know she also knows how to host an amazing FEED Supper.

When she agreed to take over the blog as a guest editor to share some tips on how to put together a meaningful and unique gathering for good, we knew we were in the best of hands. If you’re thinking about hosting a Supper this fall, this post is for you!

Photos: Kate LeSueur

There are few things I love more than throwing a dinner party surrounded by good friends and great food — in fact, the only thing that trumps it is a party that gives back to a cause I’m passionate about! Which is why I couldn’t wait to start planning my FEED Supper this year. The evening turned out to be as unforgettable as I’d hoped. We teamed up with our friends at Josephine House in Austin for a late-summer family style Supper served straight from their grill. Our theme for the Supper was Texas Farmers’ Market, and the patio setting and colorful veggie-driven menu made it feel like a true celebration of the season. 

As a frequent party host (and professional event stylist), I’ve learned that the key to throwing a beautiful party that’s stress-free is to focus on a few special details, and find ways to take shortcuts with the rest. Here are a few ways I kept things easy on myself, while infusing the event with some simple touches that elevated the evening:

The toolkit. My first shortcut for our Supper was to incorporate pieces from FEED’s gorgeous Indigo toolkit! The placemats and banner were easy ways to add a pulled-together touch to our feast and remind guests why they had gathered. They also provided a jumping-off point for the rest of our decorative details.

An inviting space. Even the smallest venue (yes, that means your tiny apartment!) can be the perfect spot to host a party. Just use a few strategic moves to make the space work for you. Set up a self-serve buffet and bar on the kitchen counter, clear any large pieces of furniture out of the main room (stash in the bedroom) to make room for mingling, then dim the lights, light some candles and have a blast with your guests. And remember — successful entertaining is SO not about the setting — it’s all about the people who are gathering together! A party at a lavish mansion is no fun if the company stinks, and it’s just as true that a tiny space can make for an unforgettable party if it’s filled with laughter — and maybe a few bottles of wine!

Get prepped in advance. There’s only one way to ensure a stress-free Supper: detailed planning. Create a timeline counting down the 24 hours before mealtime, listing exactly when all menu items should be prepared or picked up. Then put that list on the refrigerator door and follow it.

The night before, you can set the table, arrange flowers and get out the serving pieces you’re planning to use. Also, examine the menu to see what items can be prepped in advance. Mix up the vinaigrette for a salad and store in the fridge, chop veggies and keep in gallon-sized ziplock bags before roasting the next day. 

A clean canvas. When the flowers and food are super colorful, I love the look of a simple palette of white plates on a white or wood table to let them shine. The centerpieces at our Supper were loose bunches of vibrant Texas wildflowers and sunflowers, casually gathered in mason jars and ceramic pitchers. Don’t worry if you don’t have the skills of a florist — luckily, an organic, slightly messy look for centerpieces is totally “in” right now! 

Make it a potluck. A great way to host a meal on a budget is to ask your guests to bring their signature dish. A potluck has a fun, throwback vibe, lightens the load on the host and is a completely acceptable way for guests to help foot the bill on food. To save costs on drinks, it always helps to limit the options instead of offering a full bar. At most of my parties, I serve one white or rosé wine, a crowd-pleasing beer, and then a big bowl of spiked punch! Just make sure and have plenty of what you do offer so you don’t run out.

All in the family. Not only is serving food family style easiest on the host; passing around big platters feels like a real celebration of the season’s abundance. There’s something really meaningful about everyone coming together to share a meal knowing that it is helping feed people in need, and breaking bread from shared platters highlights that vibe.

Ask guests to give. To remind guests of the fundraising aspect of the event, we created these pledge cards that we passed around to guests so they could make a donation commitment of the number of meals they’d like to give. Can you believe that just $1.10 provides 10 meals to people in need? It’s inspiring that such a small amount can make a really big impact. Use our templates to create your own pledge cards: download the individual pledge cards here and print our card holder template onto brown card stock to create the decorative envelope. Or send the link to your host page (create one here) to guests in advance of the Supper to allow them to give online in advance. Either way, be sure to celebrate the collective impact you had by coming together.

Cheers to hosting an unforgettable FEED Supper and coming together with the people you love to celebrate the act of sharing a meal. And remember: the more people who host, the more people we can feed together!

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