Sip 'n' Swap parties are becoming wildly popular among budget-savvy and environmentally-conscious women everywhere. Ready to switch out your stuff for the colder seasons? Try hosting one of these smart events. We'll show you how.
The concept of a Sip 'n' Swap is simple: Trade clothes
and household items with your friends while drinking cocktails
. It's a "bring what you have, take what you want" arrangement.
The first such event I hosted was very casual -- and very disorganized. My friends came over and unloaded their bags of clothes into piles and rooted through each others' belongings among maddening chaos. Sure, it was fun -- but it could have gone so much more smoothly, I realized in retrospect.
Before I host another Sip 'n; Swap, I thought, I'll have come up with some guidelines to ensure successful event, season after season. I recently attended a friend's Sip 'n' Swap party, taking notice of what was done just right and what could use improvement.
Here are my tailor-made guidelines for hosting a Sip 'n' Swap.
DECIDE ON THE DETAILS
Thirty women come to a Sip n' Swap, each with different expectations. Enter chaos and argument.
It's helpful to decide on the details early and communicate them to your guests.
There are a number of ways your Sip n' Swap can work. Here are some things to consider:
In the original Sip n' Swap concept, no money changes hands. Some people choose to introduce money as a way to raise charitable funds. If you do decide to add a fundraising element, hash all the details out in advance and make sure everybody understands what to expect. Here are some suggestions:
-- Collect admission from guests.
Even a small door fee can add up over the number of guests.
-- Enforce a pay-per-piece policy.
This encourages guests to be a bit more discriminating about what they take home. This can be as simple as $2 per item or $20 for "all you can carry". Set a jar out on the table and let people add donations. Be clear about which charitable cause will benefit from guests' donations.
-- Have a silent auction for the higher-end goods.
Let people bid for the best items or the first pick of items. Knowing the money goes to charity might prompt guests to donate and bid on the higher end goods.
Or does it? In my experience, there isn't any need to give instructions about the quality of items people bring to the Swap. It's likely that your guests all share similar norms and would have the same ideas about what should and shouldn't be included. Let guests know if you want to limit the type of item, otherwise tell them all clothing, accessories and housewares, are welcome.
Provide Something to Sip On
In the spirit of sharing, it's totally acceptable to ask your guests to bring an appetizer
to share and something to drink. Include these instructions on your invite. Have some on hand, but let your friends help out too!
Make a Plan with the Leftovers
Be clear with your guests about the fate of the leftover items. Will you be taking them to a charitable thrift shop
? A local women's shelter? Find out a bit about the organization you plan to use and share that with your guests so they all know how their items will be put to use in the community.
Give your guests up to three month notice. This doesn't have to come in the way of a formal invitation, but a "heads-up" of sorts so that they know a Swap is coming. This will help make sure those chronic purgers in your group have some notice to let their castoffs accumulate for a bit.
Follow up again with a formal invitation about six weeks before the event. This invite should include all pertinent details about the event. In the spirit of keeping it green, opt for an email invite -- or, better yet, a Facebook event or other evite service that make tracking your RSVPs and send reminders effortless.
Ask your guests to drop things at your place a few days before the event, or at least arrive early so that everything is organized and ready when the Swapping starts. Here's what you'll need to set up a successful Sip n' Swap:
-- Clothing racks
-- Extra hangers
-- Table for housewares
-- Extra bags, labels and pens
-- Room dividers
-- A jar for collecting money (if you choose)
-- Bowl or jewelry hanger for accessories
Organize clothes by size. It's easier to be tempted by a style you wouldn't have chosen than to will yourself into a dress that's three sizes too small. Loose organization is fine (S,M,L) items hanging on separate clothing racks. Sportswear and other folded items can go on a table, with accessories displayed around the room on jewelry hangers or in glass bowls.
Organize housewares by size and room. All countertop appliances can go together, all utensils can go together, all dish towels can go together. All of these items can be grouped on one table, marked "Kitchen."
SET UP DRESSING ROOMS
Make other rooms available for people to try on clothes. If you have room dividers, set them up around the Swap area so people can make use of them if they want to.
PREPARE FOOD AND DRINK
Set up a central area for food and drinks. Include disposable cups, dishes, utensils and napkins. People will certainly walk around with their plates and glasses, but it helps to have the serving area separate from the clothing area.
Put out your cash collection jar and a basket full of extra bags. Include a few pens and labels so that people can lay claim to their items and enjoy the rest of the party.
THE DAY OF THE EVENT
Expect guests early:
Your friends will arrive on time. I always laugh at this little phenomenon, because those who are typically late tend to arrive promptly. They don't want to miss the best goods. Avoid the temptation to start early, even if some guests have arrived; respectfully wait for the official start time.
Lay out the ground rules:
Before you get started, it's helpful to remind your friends how it all works. Rehash any guidelines you laid out in the initial invitation and welcome them all to have a great time sipping and swapping.
Let guests go with the flow:
It isn't really necessary to organize a selection order, as people are generally considerate of each other and keep the tone friendly (unless you've decided to formalize this part in an effort to raise funds for charity). I have yet to see a shoe-crazed friend hit another with a designer bag to get to coveted footwear! It's all in good fun; finding new-to-you clothes and helping your friends find fabulous stuff too. Don't worry about keeping order through the night. Items will inevitably end up everywhere and that's just part of the fun!
Provide bags for guests:
Encourage guests to gather their items in a labeled bag so that things don't get mixed up. Leave the clothes set up for the duration of the evening. People typically grab their favorites first, visit for a bit, then make their way back for those items they weren't so sure about. The best mock-runway shows and hilarious outfit combinations happen later in the night!
The leftover items will likely be found in every corner of your house as guests decide what to keep and what to cast off. At the end of the night, guests are welcome to take home any of their items that didn't find new homes, but most will opt to leave them with you for donation.
Follow up with your guests by letting them know how much money was raised for charity (if any) and how much clothing was donated.
Got any other tips for hosting a sip and swap? In the spirit of sharing, let us know!
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