I often get asked what my "very best" or "top 5" party planning tips are, and sometimes advice will vary based on the type of party or theme of the article being written (stress-free, on a budget, new trends, etc), but there are a few tips that are applicable no matter what type of party you’re planning, so I thought I’d share those with you today. Here goes with my personal favorites:
1. Pick a Theme
Choosing a theme will make the party planning process so much easier because you can use it as inspiration for selecting and creating everything from invitations and decorations to food and signature drinks.
Whether it’s very specific – such as a "Modern Moroccan Birthday Party" or as general as a favorite color palette, having a theme in mind will help guide your decisions and keep you from getting overwhelmed by too many options!
2. Start Early & Set the Stage
Once you’ve decided on your theme, start shopping for what you need right away in order to avoid rush shipping fees – and also to save yourself from worrying about everything arriving in time.
Set a mock table – including the centerpiece – at least a week ahead of time so that you can make any last minute adjustments or shopping trips with some time to spare. When you’ve visualized everything ahead of time, you’ll feel much more confident the day of the party when you’re actually setting everything up… which means you’ll probably sleep better the night before, too!
3. Shortcuts Are Your Friend
Instead of slaving for hours in the kitchen on a fancy full course meal, opt for festive finger foods that are easy for guests to munch on throughout the night and make sure to choose simple, fuss-free recipes. (Simple can still be delicious!)
Another option is to pick up takeout or pre-prepared foods, then transfer them to your own dishes and focus your efforts on a pretty presentation. For larger events like bridal and baby showers, I often order takeout from the guest of honor’s favorite restaurant for the main meal. It always saves loads of time, and I don’t have to worry about whether or not it will taste good!
If you love to spend time in the kitchen and cooking is your thing, then by all means go for it! The point is to give yourself permission to take shortcuts somewhere, whether it’s relying on takeout, hiring a cleaning crew, enlisting your BFF to help with the centerpieces, or all of the above.
4. Set Up Stations
Don’t put all of the food and drinks in one area – or guests are likely to form a traffic jam, which will instantly boost your stress level! Instead, spread everything out into a few different stations throughout the party to encourage mingling and a good flow of traffic.
For cocktail parties, I like to set up one special station with pre-made "signature drinks" that guests can just come up and grab quickly, and create a separate area for the actual bar, where drinks need to be mixed.
5. Take 15 (or 30) for Yourself
Pretend that the party starts at least 30 minutes before it actually does so that everything is ready a little early, then take a few minutes relax, enjoy a glass of wine, and let yourself be a "guest" for a bit. One of the most important elments to any party is a charming host/hostess, so if you’re relaxed and happy when you start greeting your guests, they’ll take a cue from you and it will be a great start to the night for everyone!
What are YOUR favorite party planning or home entertaining tips? Are there any tips or tricks you find yourself relying on time and again that might be helpful to others?