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Top Tips for Throwing a Super Bowl Party Everyone Will Enjoy

By Jennifer Hassan in Super Bowl
| January 22, 2020 10:41 pm PDT
How to Host an Awesome Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is practically a national holiday. But it’s unique in that the players and the halftime entertainment do most of the work.

Other holidays require you to bring tubs of decorations out from the garage and set about creating the mood with pinecones, menorahs, stuffed elves, greenery, and whatever else suits your traditions.

The Super Bowl is a bit different. You want to give a nod to the game with team colors and food that says “Calories don’t count today” and “Drink up!” You’ll also want to set out a few items that let guests know that they are arriving at a party (see: How to throw an upscale Super Bowl party).

However, when planning a party for Super Bowl Sunday, remember that the focus should be primarily on the game.

If you’ve invited hardcore football fans who require an absence of chitter-chatter during the game, as well as your sorority sisters who want to catch up on each other’s lives, then consider separate viewing areas and multiple TVs.

The party can be any style you want. Your creativity is the limit. Just remember to focus on the keys to hosting a successful Super Bowl party — greeting, seating, and feeding.

Here are my best Super Bowl party tips to help you throw a bash that everyone will rave about.

The Initial Super Bowl Party Planning Process

Before you can determine which direction to take your Super Bowl party, it’s a good idea to take a moment and consider your guest list. Are your friends wine and cheese types? Beer and pizza types? Vicious team rivalries and general mayhem types?

Even making a general categorization of your guests will help you determine the type of setting (are glass coffee tables going to be safe during the game?), the type of food (and the amount), and whether or not you should separate fans of different teams.

What Mood Will You Create?

The reason people love parties is because when there is a new atmosphere and ambiance, then attitudes shift, energy shifts, and people feel a lightening of mood. Deciding what mood you want to establish can help you decide things like what décor to provide and how to handle seating arrangements.

Do you want an all-lights-off except for the TV, home theater, serious football feel? If so, draw the curtains and consider providing a computer before the game so your guests can make some online prop bets to keep the game thrilling (or suggest a list of NFL betting apps for those that would rather wager from their own phones).

Are you inviting a lot of singles and want this to be more of a mix and mingle party, with the game on in the background? Then consider mixing up the seating with our numbered seats game, described below.

The best host is a thoughtful host, and it doesn’t cost anything to take a few moments to do a little pre-party strategizing.

Greeting, aka “Setting the Mood”

Your friends arrive for the big game, wearing jerseys and sporting foam fingers.

Does your house look like a party is about to start, or does it look like every other house on the block? Your guests should have no problem knowing that your house is the one hosting Super Bowl Sunday.

Team flags fluttering over the garage are enough to set the stage, or even balloons in team colors tied to the mailbox.

You don’t need to extend the decorating to bunting or lights, of course, but a banner would not be amiss. “Welcome, Fans!” works, as does, “49ers Fans Enter Here!”

In the latter case, make sure all your guests are fans of the same team. Otherwise, a more generic greeting is best.

If your budget extends to it, you can hire two male models to stand in the street and toss a football back and forth. (Okay, that was a joke. Kind of. But seriously, that would make your party unforgettable. I’m just sayin’.)

If you are wearing a team jersey or team colors when you open the door to your guests, it lets them know that you are serious about the game.

Facing the Music

Have some lively pre-game music playing, unless your friends would rather tune right into the pre-game commentary. You can have both playing at once; on Super Bowl Sunday, people expect a bit of a cacophony, so competing TV and radio are par for the course.

You can even ask Alexa to offer some Super Bowl trivia to get the conversation started.

Checking out the latest betting odds on the teams also gets your guests going on their predictions (and their trash talk), starting the festivities ASAP.

The First Sip

This Super Bowl party tip can double as a bit of an icebreaker. Offer your guests their first drink in a cup that represents their team’s main color.

This will give the guests instant clues as to who is already on their side and who needs to be the subject of some ribbing. It will also give fans who don’t know each other a reason to introduce themselves.

If you prefer glass to plastic cups, use colored straws to denote team loyalty.

For another fun twist, you can easily have colored cocktails prepared in team colors.

Indoor Décor

A comfortable chair and a big television are all that most football fans need in the way of décor, especially if their favorite team is playing. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to spend a huge amount of time and money on football-themed centerpieces and food coloring for your deviled eggs. Unless you want to, that is.

Most peripheral decorations will go unnoticed on this loud, boisterous day. Your outdoor decorations and a tablecloth in team colors are enough to set the mood.

Of course, it’s your party, and if you want to get your ornaments on, go ahead, but veer away from the breakable and the fussy. Take this Super Bowl party tip to heart: Don’t let anything come between the guests, the food, and the TV.

One useful way to decorate is to have multiple televisions in the room for a “sports bar” look. You can bring in TVs from other rooms in the house, borrow them from friends, or rent them for the day.

If you have enough fans from each team visiting, you can split the fan seating, one team on the left, one on the right, the teams denoted by colored ribbons tied around the chairs.

Alternatively, you can have a chalkboard at the entrance to the living room with Team 1’s name and an arrow to the left, and vice versa for Team 2. The Undecideds can sit in the middle.

If you want to go all out with the Super Bowl themed accessories that you see at Party City or Party USA, but you don’t want to clutter up the TV area with these items, consider making a “selfie corner.”

Decorate a corner to your heart’s content with banners, streamers, team flags, wigs, hats, mascot masks, etc. Let your guests have fun taking Super Bowl-themed selfies during halftime and after the game, and let this Super Bowl party planning tip make you the coolest host ever.

Amping Up the Energy

If your guests are on the conservative side or are shy of one another, you can hand out pom-poms and noisemakers to guests as they arrive. These will increase the likelihood of boisterous—and loud—behavior. No one (well, very few) wants a well-behaved Super Bowl party.

Mix and Mingle

We’ve all been to those parties where guests arrive in their own small groups, stay in those small groups for the duration of the event, and go home, having met no one new and not having circulated at all.

This is a party killer, creating a cliquish, awkward event.

If you are inviting friends who belong to different groups, such a work friends, college friends, and family, you can mix it up with this Super Bowl party tip.

Number the chairs in the room with Post Its. Next, number small slips of paper, drop them into a bowl, and have each guest take a number when he or she arrives. This will be the guest’s seat.

There may be some good-natured groaning at first, but friends will be made. I guarantee it.

Note for Family-Friendly Super Bowl Parties

Kids get bored. Easily. Have a movie set up in another room, games in a basement or spare bedroom, and a video game console close at hand, if possible. Make a table just for kids’ food, sodas, etc., near their play area.

If nothing else, give them blankets, pillows, and chairs to make a fort in another room. You’ll be grateful that they have some way to entertain themselves, especially during critical plays in the game when you really don’t want to be distracted.

Please Be Seated

To keep the game front and center, the theme of your viewing area should be “ease.”

Do you have comfortable seating? Do you even have enough seating?

People don’t want to be squished—not with greasy food in hand.

Furniture can be rented for the day, but it’s more wallet-friendly to just bring in all of your chairs and loveseats from other rooms of your home.

Folding chairs will work in a pinch, but it’s a three-hour game, so cushions or pillows are a must.

If you have outdoor canvas chairs (camp chairs) in storage, pull them out and bring them into your living room. These are great game-watching chairs, flexible and comfortable enough for a long game. You can find these at Walmart for around $15.

The fun thing about camp chairs is that they lend a festive, game-day feel to the room. It’s a win-win.

Equal Opportunity Seating

I like to bring my patio furniture into the living room on Super Bowl Sunday. Outdoor furniture is comfortable, and you needn’t worry about anyone staining the fabric; it’s designed to wipe clean, and who cares anyway? What’s outdoor furniture without some weathering?

Arrange your seating in rows, rather than traditional conversation areas. No one wants to crane their neck to the side for several hours to watch the game.

If your guests are lively and willing, you can force everyone to change seats every quarter, encouraging conversation. This party trick gets a lot of laughs and makes a gathering memorable.

If the weather permits, you can have a television set up on the patio and either have the entire viewing party outdoors or simply offer that as alternative seating. If you have teenaged guests, they may appreciate their own viewing area, and you won’t have to worry about spills and breaks outdoors.

If kids are watching the game, they can relax on an inflatable mattress strewn with throw pillows. It’s an easy way to accommodate five or six kids without having to find extra chairs. Just be prepared for the pillow fight.

A Room With a View

In addition to using multiple televisions around the room, you may want to consider raising your television. What is a reasonable height for when you are watching at home alone or with family may not be visible in a room full of people.

Consider raising the TV a foot higher with another shelf or even a stack of coffee table books. A sturdy shoe rack can work in a pinch, as can a computer stand.

Once you’ve made sure the focus is on the game, then consider the next most important facet of the party: food and drink.

Food Right vs. Food Fight

One long buffet table ($60 at Costco) with a themed tablecloth is a perfect way to display all the edibles. This keeps people from wandering all about the room, dropping chips and dripping salsa, as they try to load up their plates at various stations.

Also, arrange the food in one direction, ending with cutlery and napkins. Taking cutlery first makes it difficult to have a hand to hold the plate and another hand to serve the food. Just a quick tip to make trips to the table easier.

Dedicate one large serving spoon for every dish. It gets pretty unpalatable when one spoon has a mélange of several food items clinging to it.

Throw the above “rule” about using a single long table out the window if your guests don’t know each other. Although I said the game is the main focus of the game, this isn’t true if your guests need to get to know each other. The game won’t be fun at all if people sit in awkward silence. You need a convivial, team-spirit or friendly rivals feeling on Super Bowl Sunday.

So consider this tip for throwing a great Super Bowl party: On this occasion, you do want to place the food around the room on smaller side tables and even the coffee table.

This will encourage mingling, people will bump into each other, they’ll have to ask each other to hand them the dip, the breadsticks, a beer. The ice will be broken, and the party can start. 

Now, as to the Food Itself…

If you want a good Super Bowl party food tip, the key to remember is “finger friendly.” Some people serve chili or casseroles on Super Bowl Sunday, particularly in the colder parts of the country. But foods like chicken wings and pizza are Super Bowl standards for a reason.

People like wings and pizza because you can eat them while your attention is elsewhere. You don’t have to look at your plate, nothing will fall off your fork onto your lap, and you can find your way to your mouth on a pretty consistent basis.

But your finger-friendly foods don’t have to be confined to these same old choices.

Egg rolls, samosas, sliders, and taquitos can also be solid Super Bowl nibbling options. Mini quiche, baklava, and devilled eggs are also good choices.

If you love pizza and your guests expect it, order pizzas in non-traditional flavors (such as BBQ chicken or red pepper and feta) and ask the pizzeria to cut it into appetizer squares rather than large triangles.

Hummus and pita, crackers and tapenade, stuffed olives and salami wedges are all non-traditional yet easy to eat options.

Summer sausage and flavored mustards on a board with cheese and grapes makes an elegant finger food sampler that works well if you are serving wine.

Apples and caramel dip make a fun dessert option, as does my Vince Lombardi coffee “cocktail.”

Here’s a Super Bowl party tip that can make you a hit with kids and adults alike: An ice cream bar with various toppings, such as chocolate-covered cranberries, coconut flakes (found on any baking aisle), and M&Ms will please everyone, and you don’t have to do any of the work. Let your guests scoop and top to their hearts’ content.

Super Bowl on a Super Budget

If the above food ideas have you blinking in dismay…if you can feel your wallet squeezing tighter and tighter in your pocket as it tries to hold on to your last $20, have no fear. There is another way to feed all your friends without breaking the bank.

You can make the party BYOB and potluck. But instead of just saying, “I’ll provide the TV, bring your own food and drinks,” which doesn’t sound very gracious, you can make it fun.

Ask everyone to bring a six-pack of their favorite craft beer or the ingredients for their favorite cocktail.

People like to share, and craft beer people love to introduce others to a new label or a hard-to-find double IPA (but be prepared to listen to them wax eloquent about the qualities of the beer. Craft beer people are like Trekkies when it comes to detail and nuance).

Alcohol is by far the biggest expense in any party budget, and this takes the burden off of you right off the bat.

If you want to cut corners even more, ask your guests to cook up what they consider to be their best, signature dish. There will be a contest as diners place a tick mark on a pad next to the dish they love best. The prize can be a $20 gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Your guests will have fun, you will have invested your $20 wisely, and best of all, your party prep is kept to a minimum.

If the Super Bowl Party Lags…

It’s deep into the second quarter, and no one is scoring (or else one team is so far behind that the game is pretty much done anyway). Your guests are morose, or just bored. People are getting restless.

This is when drinking games come in handy.

  • You and your guests take a ½ shot for every fumble
  • During a time out, each person chooses a cocktail for someone else in the room to drink
  • When either team scores, fans of the non-scoring team have to hand out drinks to fans of the scoring team

One fun game to play that doesn’t involve drinking requires giving all the guests a marker and a stack of 5×7 cards. They will rate each commercial on a scale of 1-10, in the style of Olympic gymnastics judges. This activity keeps the energy and conversation lively when the game is on pause.

Wrapping It Up

People like to get together, and they want to have fun, especially on Super Bowl Sunday. This is one day when even non-football fans acknowledge that the game should take center stage.

You are providing the venue, the NFL is providing the entertainment, and your friends will provide a convivial atmosphere.

Ensure your friends are greeted, seated, and fed. Don’t let anyone arriving alone remain a loner; introduce him or her to another fan of the same team. Ensure that everyone who wants one has a cocktail. It doesn’t take much more than that to create a memorable and enjoyable game day.

How much effort you want to put into preparing your home for a Super Bowl party is up to you. A few seating games and some Super Bowl inspired cocktails will elevate the experience into an actual “party” and keep things fresh, especially if you are the host year after year.

As long as the drinks are flowing and there’s enough food to keep people just this side of stuffed, your party should go swimmingly. Hopefully these tips for throwing a great Super Bowl party have gotten you well on your way to legendary host status.

Enjoy the game!

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