Party Planning

A guide to planning a successful party: from inviting your guests to the menu to the day of the party

Some people are born party planners while others dread the thought of planning and hosting a party. Planning a party can be a huge job, but keep in mind that the most successful parties focus on making the guests feel relaxed and comfortable. Your main goal as a host or hostess is to make each guest feel welcome and at ease in your home.

What kind of party?

Your first step is to decide the type of party you want to host and the number of guests to invite to your party. Your party may be a casual affair, such as a barbeque, or a more formal dinner. Throwing a formal or elegant party and inviting many guests will require you to invest more time and expense in your party planning and preparations. You may want to decide on a budget at the onset of the preparations as well.

Inviting your guests

No matter what type of party you are hosting, you should always personally invite your guests. You can do this by sending out written invitations or by calling each guest. Never ask someone to invite another guest; each guest should receive a personal invitation from the host. When preparing your invitations, your guests will need to know the following information:

Date of party

Time of party

Location of party

Whether you need an RSVP

The occasion or formality of the party

Who is invited (Is the invitation for the entire family or the parents only? Is it for the children only?)

Handling RSVPs

Always send out your invitation two weeks prior to the event. This will allow your guests enough time to make necessary plans. If you are hosting a formal sit-down dinner, you will probably want to ask your guests to RSVP to your invitation. This means they should let you know whether they will be able to attend or not. Keep a list handy with all of your guests on it and check off each guest as he/she RSVPs. One week prior to the party, you should call any guest from whom you still have not received a reply. Especially when planning a formal party, it is crucial to know how many guests will be attending so you can buy and prepare adequate amounts of food and beverages and set the exact number of needed settings at the table. If you are hosting a casual affair, such as a barbeque, having an exact head count isn't necessary.

Parties for kids

Many parents dread throwing parties for their kids. Kids' parties often get out of hand with many unhappy or crying children. The key to hosting a child's party, whether it be a birthday party or a Halloween or Christmas party, is to have specific plans to keep the children the entertained for the duration of the party. The guests should be close in age to your child. If you have activities planned to entertain six-year-old children and all the guests are three years old, they probably will not be willing or able to participate in the activities.

Planning the menu

When you decide on the type of party and the number of guests you will have, you can start to plan your menu. Try to include a variety of dishes so that everyone will enjoy the menu. Take into consideration any special needs of your guests. For instance, if you are serving seafood, make sure that none of your guests are allergic to seafood. Also, if you have any guests who are vegetarians, you will need to make a special meatless dish for them. Some guests may eat some meats but not red meats. You never want any of your guests to feel uncomfortable because they can't eat the foods you are serving.

An easy way to handle this, if you aren't familiar with all of your guests' eating habits, is to mention the menu when your guests RSVP. You could say, "I am serving shrimp and lobster, is this okay with you?" Or you could ask if they have any menu restrictions.

In general you should plan to serve:

Appetizers (two or three varieties)

A main course (meat)

A salad

Bread (rolls, bread sticks, biscuits)

Two side dishes or vegetables

Several choices of beverages

Also, take into consideration whether you will serve alcohol. Are any of your guests unable to drink alcohol due to age or health? Try not to make them feel uncomfortable about this. If you will have your guests make a toast with champagne, have some sparkling cider available for those guests who do not want to drink alcoholic beverages.

Shopping for your party

One week prior to the party, after receiving all RSVPs, you should begin shopping for your food and supplies. If you plan to hang decorations, you can purchase them in advance. Buy any food items that can be bought in advance and stored. Some foods may have to be bought a day or two before the party to keep them fresh, but you should go ahead and purchase any items that you can. If you are ordering a cake, go ahead and do it a week prior to the party. If you have fewer things to do on the day of the party, you will have less stress.

Preparing the food

If there are any foods that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, this should be done two or three days before the party. You don't want to spend the entire day of the party decorating and cooking because you will be too tired to properly entertain your guests. Many appetizers can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, as well as many entrees.

The day before the event

You should make sure that you have all necessary supplies; you don't want to spend the day of the party running around to buy last minute items. You should clean the house or have the cleaning service come in the day prior to the party. There will be too much happening on the day of the event to be fussing with the cleaning service or having to clean the house yourself.

The day of the event

Again, you want to do as little as possible on the day of the party, so hopefully you will have done as many advance preparations as possible. You will want to prepare any food items that still need it, and set up your table and place settings.

Plan to have all of the setting up and cooking done several hours before your guests arrive to allow yourself plenty of time to get yourself ready. You should never make your guests wait while you are still getting ready.

As your guests arrive, you should greet each one, welcoming them and thanking them for coming. If your guests are sure about parking arrangements, make sure they know where to park. You don't want any of your guests to get a ticket or have their car towed.

As each guest arrives, offer him/her a beverage. When several guests have arrived, start bringing out some of the appetizers. Some guests may not have eaten beforehand, and you don't want them to be sitting there with their stomachs growling. Bring out a few trays of appetizers at a time, so that the last guests to arrive will not have to eat the leftovers.

Once all of your guests have arrived, you can commence with your party plans. Announce each event or that dinner will be served so that all guests will hear you. Make sure each guest knows where he/she is to be seated so that no one feels uncomfortable or unsure of what to do.

Remember, as long as you make your guests feel comfortable and welcome in your home, your party will be a success!

© High Speed Ventures 2011