It’s that time of year—time to celebrate! But more often than not, planning a party can be so stressful for the host. Want to create a wonderful memorable party without being so overwhelmed that you don’t enjoy the planning or the event itself? Luckily, I love entertaining, and I will share my secrets for stress-free party planning!
Entertaining is truly an art, and the key is straightforward. Plan and chunk out the tasks that need to be done. Many parties are derailed by not allowing enough time for all the necessary steps. Allowing yourself the time to organize tasks will allow you to tackle issues before they become problems.
Here are my step-by-step instructions to achieve a great event:
Party Planning Foundations
- Create a purpose
- Different events need different elements. Are you throwing a birthday, anniversary, or engagement party? A bridal or baby shower? Or maybe you’re planning a holiday party, dinner party of going away party. Deciding the purpose guides your next steps.
- Set a design theme
- If you have a theme, it’s easy to pick elements that work together, including color scheme, menus, and entertainment. Some favorites include tropical, black and white, reggae, barnyard, classic, or a time period (80’s, etc.).
- Make invite List
- Carefully put a list together of people that would enjoy being together based on either prior relationships or on the event. For example, a dinner party may have a more diverse guest list than a birthday party. The people make the party! This creates the right vibe.
- Decide on entertainment that matches your theme
- Hire entertainment: impersonators, magicians, or fortune tellers can make great interactive entertainment.
- At the minimum, decided on what kind of music you want—a live band, DJ, string quartet or even a well curated playlist can really character, band, orchestra, DJ-music is the key to keeping
- Hire a catering company and helpers if needed
- If you love to cook, you can certainly do the food yourself, but for large events, a caterer takes so much stress off your shoulders. Ask for recommendations for great caterers at other events that you’ve enjoyed.
- Create your menu
- Decide what type of menu you want—passed appetizers, a buffet, a seated dinner, finger foods? Also plan out your drinks. If you have alcohol at your event you may need different licensing for your venue. A caterer can often help with alcohol service licensing.
- Choose plates, cutlery etc. and order if necessary.
- Choose Centerpieces, Flowers, Décor, Photographer
- Now comes the fun part—decor! Depending on the type of event and theme, decide whether you need centerpieces, where to place fresh flowers (a must!), decor elements, and a photographer to capture your event for posterity.
- Choose games if necessary
- Icebreaker games are a fun way to get your guests to open up and meet others. Games are always very rewarding!
- Choose invitations based on theme:
- Choose what format is appropriate—email for an informal gathering or paper invites for a more formal event.
- Email-put list together of email addresses. Services like Evite can be very helpful for this.
- Mailed-gather all addresses and order invites in timely manner.
- Send a RSVP and include a date for response.
One week prior:
- Confirm with all vendors.
- Make a to-do list for day of event and assign jobs to specific people. Don’t assume that people will pick up slack without direction!
- Create a playlist if needed.
- Remind guests to RSVP.
- Call catering company with final head count.
- Choose your outift. You want to feel fabulous, so go shopping if necessary!
Three to five days prior:
- Set your tables inside and put a tablecloth over to keep the dust off.
- Get all your serving pieces out, including glassware, platters, silverware, plates, serving pieces, napkins etc.
- If hosting at home, set up guest rooms or roll away beds, put towels out and flowers in rooms w/Wi-Fi information for guests. Create a cozy B&B vibe for guests!
Day of the party:
- Do as much as you can prior to guests arriving.
- Go over your list with helpers and let them know your expectations for day. Make sure to thank them for their help!
- Give yourself enough time to get ready and relax beforehand. A few deep calming breaths can really help you center yourself and prepare for enjoyment.
- Practice any speeches.
- Review guest list so you can introduce guests to each other. Many long-standing friendships have been made off of the introductions of thoughtful hosts.
This holiday season, let’s celebrate! And with a little careful planning, you can show your loved ones you care without losing your mind. Happy party planning!