I have a really small apartment. I recently had a small get-together, and at the last minute multiple people requested to bring friends and significant others. In about an hour, my headcount doubled! I don't want to be mean, but I only have so much space, and I had already purchased all the food for the party!
What do you do in these situations?
This is a thoughtless thing for your friends to do to you, especially if they are familiar with your tiny apartment. Short of pushing out a wall and cantilevering yourself a new porch, there really isn't anything you can do to make more people fit comfortably.
There is no foolproof way to keep this from happening, unless you limit your group of friends to people who live in similarly tiny apartments and can relate. However there are ways you can try to prevent this, and ways to cope once you're thrust into this situation.
1) Form a secret society.
Let your guests know up front that this is a *small* gathering. Send an evite so that the size of the guest list is not a mystery. "Friends: I'm having a movie night next Saturday night, and you're invited! Couch space is limited, so get here early if you want to snag a seat." That should be enough of a clue - if it isn't, in future invitations you can be more blunt. "I wish I could invite 100 people to come watch this movie! But then we'd be sitting 20 deep on my sofa. So please keep this party on the DL."
2) Have a word with your oh-so-popular friends.
First, make sure that you nudge guests for a reply *before* you go food shopping. Let them know the day before you hit the market that you need an accurate head count so you know how much food to make. Not only is this a good reminder that they have ignored your invitation, it's a reminder that you actually care who shows up.
Secondly, if a friend shows up with unannounced guests, it's important that you have a little chat with her. Just find a way to discreetly pull her aside and say, Hey! I'm really glad you brought Barney - he seems fun! But next time please give me a heads up - I'm a little worried that I didn't buy enough beer.
3) Make the most of it.
Uninviting a friend of a friend is not worth the stress and heartache. And the only thing worse than being a thoughtless guest is being an ungracious host. Never make the gate crashers feel uncomfortable - it's your friends who should have known better. Greet everyone with a great big smile and remain calm enough to come up with creative furniture solutions. If you're in the habit of throwing movie or game nights, you may want to invest in some floor cushions. If you're throwing a dinner party and realize with horror that you are five chairs short, embrace the idea that you are now serving it up buffet style. If you're worried about food quantities, plate things yourself to ration them out, or break out your emergency snacks - like popcorn, my perennial favorite - to bulk up the meal.