An Affair to Remember
I love a good party and, more than that, I love to host a great party. Even more than that, I love to plan a grand party! I’ve been planning parties since I was in third grade, giving my mom input on what I wanted to do for my birthday and an annual Halloween party I used to throw – consulting books published by American Girl right along with articles from Woman’s Day (the internet wasn’t quite the thing it is now yet).
All that’s to say I am always shocked when people tell me how they hate throwing parties or get overwhelmed by the planning of them!
The key to excellent, low-stress (I haven’t quite managed to achieve the zen of stress free yet) party planning is to have a plan. Know what you want to do, when you want to do it, who you want to attend and how you want to execute your vision. That sounds very buttoned up and kind of boring... blegh. So, let’s break it down:
What You Want To Do:
Why are you having this gathering? Some are obvious – birthday, holiday, new season of The Crown released on Netflix. Others may not be, but know your reason and then picture how you want the event to go. Is it a laid back pizza and beer occasion with people scattered on your couch and around your place? Or maybe it’s a decadent formal dinner around your dining table. Whatever you want, have a picture of how it looks and feels in your head – this will steer your judgment as you make the rest of your decisions.
As an example, this past September I had a just because party to close out the summer with a bang and I decided I wanted it to be a lavish, Mediterranean inspired outdoor affair and that vision guided every other decision.
When you want to do it:
This is kind of the obvious part of the process but pick a date and time you want this shindig to go down. If you’re planning outdoors, consider the weather; and if you’re planning a big meal consider your timing – too late and people will come already having eaten and you’ll wind up with a lot of disappointment and leftovers. If there are specific people you want in attendance, reach out with a range and have them tell you their availability, then pick a date they are free.
For my party, I knew I wanted it to be outside before summer ended and that I was going to be serving a lot of food. So I sent my inner circle a note asking what Saturday nights they were free in September before reaching out to a wider circle.
Who Do you want to attend:
Is this a small gathering of intimate friends? A mixer of friends old and new? A college crowd reunion?
Determine who you want to invite and then invite them. Again this could be obvious or if you’re trying to establish a specific vibe, might require some thought. I don’t get too hung up on the actual method of inviting; usually I just txt people – if it’s a larger crowd I’ll set up a private Facebook event just to help me keep track (followed up by a txt since lots of folks don’t check those). If the occasion calls for some formality or grandiose a paper invitation is a welcome piece of mail most love to receive.
For my party, I knew I wanted it to be a good mix of people and larger then my regular crowd so I had my family invite some people and we had a nice mix of ages and personalities and it was perfect. Always consult your vision.
How do you want to execute:
Ok! The dates set, the crowds invited; now, let’s make some magic! I think the how is where most people get tripped up but if you consult your vision there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to pull off a fantastic fete!
The first thing I do is think through my vision like a movie: what does the space look like, what food is being served, what music is playing. What’s happening when people arrive; when food is served; while they linger and then eventually leave? Jot down every thought. It doesn’t need to be organized and nothing is set in stone at this point. This type of free thought, moving through the timeline of the event, will open you up to the scope of what you really want and what you need to do to achieve it; looking at each phase of the party also helps you look out for pitfalls you might otherwise overlook (like not having coffee cups for dessert when you have an abundance of wine glasses for the early part of the night).
Once you have all your notes, organize them into categories (food, décor, etc.); is there way too much of anything? Make some eliminations, zero in on specifically what you want to do (which I’m guessing is not cook for an army or make your space look like a craft store threw up) and then see what makes sense with your other choices, as well as your budget. Once you have your plan, make a shopping list and get what you need to bring it all to life. In the days leading up the event do what you can ahead of time and set up your vision to your hearts content!
There’s one last rule for an awesome party – have fun! Don’t stress, and plan to throw away the plan if you need to…things happen! This was a hard one for e to learn (reduced to crying as a kid when my guests didn’t want to follow my timetable haha) But as long as you have a great time and enjoy the festivities you’ve put together, you’ve succeeded!!
Happy Party Planning!
Stay tuned for posts on a fool proof time table, decorating on a budget, menu creation and more!