Maybe I have an advantage to this party planning/throwing business. My parents own a catering business, so I've got lots of experience with food. And they also love to entertain. Any reason for a party and they were planning!
So here are some tips for those that want to throw a party that will be talked about weeks later:
- Pick a "theme" for your party, or something to "build" the party around. The theme will help determine many other aspects of the party, such as the type of food, decorations, invitations, etc. Example: For my Christmas party, the idea was to have a wine and cheese party, which to me means something a little nicer, something a little more elegant.
- Now that you have a theme or idea, now it's time to plan a menu. Wine and cheese to me, meant having a variety of wines for people to try/drink, a variety of cheeses that pair well with those wines (besides cheddar and jack), and finger food appetizers. I admit, I didn't branch out too much from what I already know how to make. But I also knew that what I do know others like.
- Decorate accordingly. I was lucky, when you throw a Christmas party at Christmas time (orwhen you decorate for any holiday) you're about done! I rearranged some of my furniture to allow for more standing/talking room. I got a bulk pack of candy canes to use all over (and they doubled as a treat!). I got 2 bunches of flowers from Costco (inexpensive) that I mixed and arranged. Oh, and I lit candles. Candles add nice mood lighting and just add that much more. You have to watch out though, there is a fine line of over and under doing it.
- Send out invitations. And I don't mean text, e-mail or evite people. I mean like go to Staples, or you local office supply store, and get some invitation paper or templates or whatever. Mailing the invites is that much more personal and inviting. By the way, for RSVPing, I like "regrets only". I find that if you say RSVP, people that are planning on coming don't RSVP, but if you say regrets only those that can't attend will let you know. Plus then you don't get a bunch of phone calls saying "I'm coming."
- Plan ahead. I'm a planner. I like a plan and I like following a plan. So here's my advice, don't throw it together at the last minute. Make a budget. Make a shopping list so you're organized when you go to the grocery store. Prep as much food as you can ahead of time, this way you'll be able to interact more with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen, and you'll be less likely to stress. People will be able to tell if you're stressed and not having a good time because of it. When you're relaxed, your guests can relax and everyone has a good time. In order for me to feel less stress and more ahead of the game, I took the day before off from work. That way I didn't have to do all my grocery shopping late after work, as well as cleaning, and decorating, and prepping. And it was perfect!
- As far as during the party, unless it's a dinner party, or a baby or bridal shower, don't have an agenda. I don't know about you, but when I get together with friends in a fun, casual atmosphere, I just like to visit and socialize. I don't want to have to watch a clock and rush guests. I'm not much of a game person, so I don't want to have to coordinate and organize those. Plus it I don't want to disrupt conversations that are going on. And honestly, unless I'm falling asleep standing up, I'm not gonna kick anybody out. Hence why a few guys stayed until after 1am.
- It's the little things. People will notice the little extra touches you do. Like the 3,000 candy canes I had scattered around my house, people noticed. If you have music playing, keep it the volume high enough to be heard, but low enough that you don't have to yell over it. I even put a massive jar full of M&Ms out (4 bags fit in the jar...), it was fun to see people eat the M&Ms and others tell him that it was a guess how many are in the jar game and that he just threw it off.
- If all else fails, have fun! And don't sweat the small stuff. If something doesn't happen according to plan, don't worry about it. Half the time your guests won't even know. Just relax and enjoy yourself and enjoy your guests.
How about some pictures? Pictures are worth a thousand words, right?
Disclaimer, I'm no Martha Stewart, or Sandra Lee, or any other food/party planner person guru. I'm just a simple person who has ideas and ideals and follows through.