Just because we don’t associate the Super Bowl with the elegance and charm of proper dinner parties, this doesn't mean you get to fumble your manners. Even though your Super Bowl Party will likely feature more wings and less wine pairings, hosting still has its proper do's and don'ts.
The Holiday lights have come down, the menorah has long been put away, and not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse…because it's time for the grandest holiday of them all: Super Bowl Sunday!
For those of you who think it's only a holiday if Hallmark makes a card for it, you're dead wrong. The Super Bowl is in fact one of the biggest celebrations all year. Don't believe me? Try going to your local grocery store and liquor store the day of the big game and let me know if you can't sense how important this holiday is to Americans. And like any other celebration, many fans will spend the day at a big party with friends and/or family to root, scream, cry, curse, and, of course, eat to our heart's content.
However, just because we don’t associate the Super Bowl with the elegance and charm of proper dinner parties, this doesn't mean you get to fumble your manners. Even though your Super Bowl Party will likely feature more wings and less wine pairings, hosting still has its proper do's and don'ts. So with that, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for Super Bowl party etiquette.
Tip #1: Don't stress about being fancy
When I was a senior in college, my roommates and I hosted a Super Bowl party to watch our beloved Baltimore Ravens stomp the New York Giants. It was a glorious night that I hope to revisit again. That party took all of an hour to plan. Beer? Check. Pizza? Check. Chips? Check. Shoving all of the trash in our disgusting apartment under the couches so any girls who came over would not want to want to vomit? Double check! Yes, we had a blast but I was catering to a much easier audience.
I'm going to assume that if you’re hosting a party now, you probably have higher standards than four 20-year-old college dudes. I mean, please tell me you do!
When hosting a party, it's always proper to cater to your audience – be it a kid's birthday, a dinner party with friends, or an office party. So tailor your Super Bowl party to the crowd that's coming to your house. And just because this is football, does not mean it has to resemble some Neanderthal tailgate. (Check out my episode on What Are the Rules of Tailgating for more).
Whenever you have a party, you always go through two lists in your head. One list is "What I really want to have" and the other is "What my guests really want to have." It's like a Venn diagram where two opposing issues overlap on some similarities. And that's how you should plan your Super Bowl party. For this you need to think of who will be coming and figure out how to incorporate what they really like into the mix.
Is this an elegant affair with a hired pianist entertaining your guests? Absolutely not! The luxury of a Super Bowl party is that it doesn't have to be luxurious! It's a casual affair, meant for people coming together and cheering on their team, so don't think of this party as something that you need to rent a party planner for. A caterer, maybe, if you are having a lot of people, but don't break the bank.
A Super Bowl party works best as a potluck. From dips, to chips, to appetizers, the casualness of a Super Bowl party allows even the most inexperienced chefs to contribute something. And there is no reason why you can't throw that option out there in the invite.
Unlike other dinner parties which tend to have a "surprise" or "wow” moment when guests walk in, a Super Bowl party already has a main event – the game.
Save your extravagant display of dinner plates for another evening and don't stress out about using paper napkins. This is the one holiday party where casual is King.
Tip #2: Separate party areas
There are two types of people who watch the Super Bowl: diehard fans…and everyone else. That's it. There are those who don't even know which channel the game is on and then there are those who have been up since 6am watching around-the-clock coverage leading up to the big game.
When you are hosting a Super Bowl party, you’ll find that some people will be more focused on the game than what is happening around them.
At one party I went to, the owner's dog went to the bathroom right on the living room floor (the dog found his way into the salsa dish when no one was looking. Nasty!). And despite this accident, the dog's owner couldn’t have cared less…until the play was over. He was so focused on the game, I'm pretty sure that if the dog peed on him, he wouldn't have cared either.
This illustrates the difference between the types of people you’ll have at a Super Bowl party. Some want to just party, and some view the party as a side event to the actual game. And for this reason, I recommend making sure there are different areas of the house for the different types of guests.
Whether you live in a cramped apartment or a sprawling mansion, there are always ways to separate a party room. For example, in my hole-in-the-wall college apartment that hardly fit two couches, people would naturally congregate in different areas. Yes we had to be more creative and open our bedrooms as alternative places to hang out, but not everyone wants to be around the noise and ruckus. It's similar to any other party you have at your house when people split up in different rooms and a variety of conversations.
Clearly the area where the TV is will be the loudest and most game-focused spot, which is why you must allow access to other areas of your house for people who want a more relaxed environment. Usually this is the kitchen, but I'll let you make that call (yes, a little football humor).
I recommend offering an alternative area to guests as they come in, so that the folks who aren’t as interested in the game (but of course want to see the commercials) can chill out and socialize at normal decibels.
Tip #3: Kids v. adults
The Super Bowl is a family affair. It brings together kids of all ages. And I for one can't wait to introduce my 7-month-old son to the game. My 4-year-old daughter already loves football so I’ve done my job there.
The Super Bowl is the single biggest day of the year for hardcore football fans and, aside from a tragic event, nothing will take away their focus from the game…not even kids running around and yelling at the top of their lungs. However, sometimes kids can get a bit carried away and this can be very distracting to others who want to watch the game. So when you are expecting kids at your Super Bowl party, you must come up with kid-friendly, age-appropriate activities for them to partake in.
Tailor your Super Bowl party to the crowd that's coming to your house.
Now, I'm not saying that you have to run out and rent a giant bouncy castle. However, let's face it, kids get bored pretty darn easily and having something for them to do will save you a night of, "Mommy, when can we leave?…Daddy, I'm bored!…"
Any fun ideas that will keep the kids occupied mean more time for the adults to enjoy the main event.
As I said in Tip #1, it’s essential to look at your guest list and consider what everyone enjoys doing. With kids, that usually means food and activities. Sure, that 10-foot sub will be a crowd-pleaser for the adults, but the kids may not be able to wrap their hands around that huge sandwich, so you might want to have some bite-sized chicken nuggets or bags of pretzels for the little ones. (I know Nutrition Diva wouldn’t approve of these food choices, but maybe she can let it slide just this once?)
Also, make sure the kids have something to do other than watch a football game for 4 hours. Here’s what I recommend: When sending out your invitation, along with asking people to bring a contribution to the potluck, ask if everyone can bring a game or some activity for the kids. Crayons, Legos, play dough, coloring books, trucks, etc. can provide hours of entertainment.
And that way, everybody wins!