Let's get the Party Started!
I love to entertain in my home! Whether it’s a birthday party, or just a fun night to get friends together, here are my top 15 tips to make your party a smashing success (FYI step 12 is the most important!)
- Pick a date. A few weeks from now is usually best! Nothing too rushed but not too long of a wait either. You can “vaguely” suss out your invitees as to their availability without spilling too many beans. Let it be a nice surprise for them when it happens!
- Pick a theme. Themed-parties are fun to organise and help tie all aspects of your party together – the food, the décor, and the entertainment! Throw a tried and trusted party (Italian Night or Mad Hatter’s Tea Party) or think outside the box for your unique theme! Look at my Photo Album for some fun ideas.
- Play to your strengths! Be realistic about your limitations, be they spatial or financial! Keep it simple, with a few special touches and success is guaranteed. Decide what you’re going for and stick to the plan – sit down meal, drinks & bites, a barbeque, the choice is yours.
- Write your guest list. More than likely you will immediately know who you want to invite, however, don’t be afraid to throw a few curve balls into the mix! Do you know someone new? Or someone who is the life of the party in any setting? Don’t be afraid to add them on! While it may be comfortable to host friends you know well, a party is always an easy way to make new acquaintances, and a few new faces make for a more interesting gathering.”
- Build excitement. Use social media to your advantage: create an event in Facebook, tweet about it with a customized hashtag or send out invitations via email. I personally still love to create and post invitations the old-fashioned way! There’s nothing better than receiving mail that’s not a bill, right? Just make sure to request an RSVP!
- Be creative. From invitations to menus to décor… let your creativity loose! When you have a theme, you’ll know which direction to follow. Need inspiration? Go online! There are infinite resources that you can cut and paste (literally!) to suit your needs. Add pictures to your invitations, have fun with the wording, and start visualising the party!
- Plan your food menu. In some cases, your menu can link nicely with your theme (e.g., Italian Night). But in other cases, a few décor and music touches are sufficient, no matter what’s being served. Again, keep it simple. Choose dishes you are confident with and ideally, ones that may be prepared in advance and re-heated on the day. And there’s nothing wrong with enlisting the help of your friends, with either salads or desserts, especially if you’re hosting a large crowd – it adds variety and saves on labour (and costs!). If you do go this route, however, assign, or find out in advance, what they plan on bringing, otherwise you’ll end up like me one time, with three identical couscous salads…
- Plan your drink menu. Beer and wine usually do the trick, not forgetting of course lots of water (still and sparkling), as well as some interesting non-alcoholic options too! Beyond that, your only limitations are your imagination and your credit card limit! In general, though, I find the fewer options the better, which is not to say that you can’t stretch it to include a welcoming glass of Prosecco, or the odd after-dinner whiskey after dinner. Cocktails can be a popular option too but perhaps not too practical for larger crowds. You can of course just choose one to add some panache to your gathering, especially if it complements the theme, without putting yourself under too much pressure.
- Plan your ambience. You don’t need to go overboard here, just a hint of decoration is enough to create an atmosphere. And think not only “objects” but colours and sound too!
- Time to be Cinders. Do as much as you can in the days before the party. Shopping, clearing/cleaning, and decorating. Delegate tasks if you can and be systematic – entrance, party space and bathroom are a must. Garden too if the weather’s nice! It may seem like a lot of work, but chances are you have to do it anyway. I always find a party focuses the mind and gives you just the right type of encouragement to stop “leaving it for tomorrow”!
- Write your shopping list. Think about what you will be eating and drinking and check your cupboard/fridge as you do it, to avoid duplications. Don’t forget the non-eating items such as napkins or cocktail sticks, candles, firewood and of course… toilet paper!
- Call me! Again, think about what you will be eating and drinking and how you will be serving it. Will you need extra plates, cutlery, or glassware? Don’t even think about paper or plastic options, I know someone who can help with all your needs! 😉
- Get prepping. If possible, don’t be in the kitchen cooking the day of the party – that time is best spent in the hairdressers, I find! Start a day or two before the big day but make sure you have sufficient space in the fridge to store it! For salads, get the different components ready but don’t assemble until the day. Pastas and rice will have to be made last minute, but they don’t take too much time.
- Get yourself ready.You’ve worked hard this far, so now’s the time to enjoy the moment. Stop fretting and look forward to having a good time. Throw a last minute look around the area (and bathroom!) just in case and make sure any pets are outside or under strict control. Plan to be ready about 30 minutes before the starting time, turn on the music, pour yourself a glass, and be prepared to greet any early arrivals!
- Play host/hostess.It’s party time! You (and the place!) looks fabulous and the food smells great too! Make sure to greet all your guests and introduce them to each other if necessary. Give them a drink and relax, very soon the conversation will just take over. Don’t forget to serve your meal and be gracious in accepting all the compliments. Enjoy!