Housewarming parties have been going on for hundreds of years. In fact, some believe the term “housewarming” literally comes from the act of warming up a new home. In the days before the furnace, guests would bring firewood as a gift and build fires in all the available fireplaces. This not only warmed the house, but was also believed to repel evil spirits. Uninhabited houses were thought to be attractive to evil spirits, and therefore required a certain level of spiritual cleansing before a house was considered safe for a new family.
Because most houses now come with central heating (and without evil spirits), housewarming parties have changed over the last few centuries. If you just moved and are thinking about throwing a housewarming party, we’ve answered a few of the most frequently asked questions.
What’s the point of a housewarming party anyway? Moving can be pretty stressful. So now that all the packing and planning and unpacking is over, it’s time to celebrate. A party is a great way to meet new neighbors, let your old friends know you still love them and thank those kind souls who assisted you during your move. Okay, and maybe to show off your new space (just a little).
Can I have a housewarming party if I rent? Does a big renovation count? If the house or space is new to you, then you can have a housewarming party. If you just got married and moved into his house, you can still throw a shindig. However, if you’re feeling uncomfortable about the idea, then call it an “open house” instead. Open houses are traditionally more casual, where guests can come and go, and gifts won’t be an issue.
I should wait until the kitchen is painted, and I buy that new dining room furniture, right? If you wait until your house is totally unpacked and perfectly put together, then you’ll never have a party. A home is always a work in progress. Your guests really won’t mind if everything isn’t quite together yet.
What should we serve? Keep it simple. Housewarming parties are generally laid back affairs, because you’ve just gone through the major life complication of a big move. Also, the invitation list tends to include a lot of people, so nobody’s expecting a formal sit-down dinner. Housewarming parties are frequently just cocktails and appetizers. Maybe consider a breakfast brunch if you’ve redone your kitchen or have a fabulous new cooking space. Finally have that big backyard or even just a functioning patio? Then a barbecue might be the way to go.
How should I handle invitations? This one really depends on time and budget. If you have several weeks and don’t mind paying a little more, then you might consider getting invitations printed that can also serve as “new address” cards. But an e-vite or store bought invitations are perfectly acceptable. If you don’t know your new neighbors, just slip a note in their mailbox. Also, you should give your guests anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks notice before the party, so they can plan ahead.
Do I need to invite my new neighbors even if I haven’t really met them yet? You might want to extend an invitation. It’s the neighborly thing to do and the best way to get to know them.
Should we play games? We think so! Games are fun and help break the ice, especially if you have groups of people all congregating together from different parts of your life. Here are a couple ideas.
Scavenger Hunt: One way to make sure your friends get the lay of the land in your new place is to plan a scavenger hunt. Hide clues and treasures throughout your home and split your guests up into teams. Make sure to have a good prize on hand for the winning group.
Paint Chip Pairs: Get pairs of those hardware store paint chips to hand out as everyone arrives. Then instruct each guest to find their matching chip during the party. If you have a lot of guests who don’t know each other, this is a great icebreaker.
Old Keys: Buy vintage keys at the craft store, or regular cheapo keys at the hardware store, thennumber or paint each key. Hand them out as guests arrive, then draw a winner during the party and give out a door prize.
Are housewarming gifts required? Gifts are traditionally given but are, actually, totally optional. Therefore, it might not be wise to add the link to your registry at the bottom of the invitation. However, if you’re just starting out in life – first apartment, recently married – you will likely get more loot than, say, your great uncle who just moved from his million dollar house to a two million dollar house. Bread, salt and coal have long served as traditional housewarming presents. Bread is given in hopes that the homeowner will never know hunger; salt symbolizes flavor or spice of life, and coal represents warmth and prosperity. Other traditional gifts include sugar, honey, wood and brooms. In today’s world, you’re more likely to get a houseplant, a great bottle of wine or a pretty candle.
Do we have to give tours? Yep, give the people what they came for. If you have a large guest list with people coming and going throughout the party, then organize tours every half hour so you can take people in groups. Another option is to let guests wander freely to look around on their own. Signs posted in each room answering the most obvious questions will save you from having to answer the same questions over and over.
What’s the most important thing about a housewarming party? Have fun, enjoy your new home and be grateful for your friends and family. Cheers!