How to host an appetizer exchange

Oct 27, 2011 at 8:32 p.m. ET

Having a girls’ night is a fun way to make sure you stay in touch with your friends despite your chaotic lives. But painting the town red is expensive! Instead, try a simple no-stress appetizer exchange.

Host an appetizer exchange party

An appetizer exchange is just what it sounds like. Every guest brings enough of their favorite appetizer to share with everyone. Follow these tips to keep it fun and easy for all.

Create a theme

Themes make it easy for everyone to choose which appetizer to bring and help make sure the flavors aren't too different to enjoy them all together. Try an ethnic theme, like Mexican or Jamaican. Other good themes include holidays, colors and emotions.

Or make the theme a common ingredient. Pick something that can be used in several dishes. Crescent rolls, for example, are a good choice because they can be used with a variety of flavors and can be molded into a variety of shapes.

Set-up is key

Set up a table or two where guests can serve their dishes. Make sure there are napkins, plates and silverware on every corner to prevent congestion. If your appetizer exchange is a cocktail party, make sure the drink table is separate from the food table so people don't bump elbows and spill.

If it suits your theme, pre-prepare a tablescape that highlights it. If not, lay your table with neutral colors so everyone's dish shines. Prepare place cards to set in front of each dish so your guests can label their dishes.

Check out these tablescape ideas:

Keep it simple & organized (& fun!)

An appetizer exchange is a great way to have a well-planned party without one person doing all the work. It's important to keep it simple so everyone can have a good time. Fancy dresses and your grandmother's china are for dinner parties.

When you send out your invitations, ask everyone to RSVP with the appetizer they plan to bring. This will help prevent duplications (and unnecessary cat fights over who makes the best stuffed mushrooms). Ask your guests to bring enough recipe cards for everyone so you can all recreate your favorites at your next holiday party.

As the host, you should also have a selection of take home containers on hand so no one has to take home their own (let's face it… you all made extra for the fam).

If you follow these tips, your appetizer exchange is sure to be a hit, whether you have five guests or 15!

More appetizer ideas

5 Creative cocktail party appetizers
Tasty twists on Thanksgiving appetizers
New ideas for Christmas appetizers