I’ve found I’ve been asked to help out with the planning of a lot of stuff lately. Something I realized was that most people are terrified when they hear the word “party” or “birthday” because they know that this means they have to throw something. Let’s Breathe! From my experience, our fears of what our guests expect on our big day are way disproportional to their actual expectations.
So here are my pointers / rules:
1. Start Early. It’s horrible running around days before the party. Make sure you begin your planning about 3 weeks in advance.
2. Don’t Just Use Facebook. Use text also. Believe it or not, not everyone bothers to check their event invites on Facebook and it would be really terrible if you are missing guests because you presume they know about the party. I suggest texting and e-mailing if you have their e-mail addresses.
3. Always over-invite. You’ll be surprised at people’s priorities. They don’t all stick to their commitments So make sure you add an extra five or so people to the list in case ‘life’ just ‘happens’ to some. It would be a shame to let all that good food go to waste - or worse, if you planned seating, to have empty seats.
4. Plan on a colour scheme. If you don’t have a specific theme that can guide your decorating, try a nice colour. Colours are great and can provide a nice base for decorating the venue! It depends on what the event is and how personal you want to get, but you can use your colour scheme to guide you when buying plastic cups, plates, bowls, ribbons, banners, balloons, invites and even the clothes if you want people to get into the festive spirit.
5. Arrange for music. Music is a really good ice-breaker and adds ambiance to the environment. Make sure you have some kind of stereo system set up, or even just a plain CD player. You can make a CD of music according to your crowd. It depends what kind of event it is, but jazz is always a great backdrop if you are having a dinner party. An alternative to music systems would be to get a live musician – a singer with a guitar is a great idea.
6. Always over-cater. Try get a nice catering company if it’s a big event. Even if it’s a small one, I recommend you use a local caterer to make the food. Unless it’s a dinner party where you are cooking yourself. Caterers are good with providing a lot of variety and you can use their experience to give you an idea for numbers. Catered food always looks professional, it’s fresh and if you get platters (savoury platters are always a hit), it arrives an hour before the party and there’s no fuss or cleaning up for you. In my experience, people eat more than you think!! You can also always take left overs home to enjoy over the following week.
7. Get wine and champagne. Again, it depends on the kind of event you are having, but (if it’s for adults) a must-have booze is red and white wine and a bottle or two of good champagne. You can also make punch – a great recipe for Sangria punch is HERE. A nice one for a Bloody Mary punch is HERE. Beer is also good if you know your crowd likes beer, as are basic ciders. But make sure you always have a non-alcoholic option like a soda or juice. There’s nothing more awkward than being the guest at a party which hasn’t catered for you. Another option if you’re having something more relaxed, is to tell your guests to bring their own booze. It’s up to you. This works nicely as they know what they like to drink. Most do anyway.
8. Balloons are nice! Okay, so what is a real party without balloons? Try and get 2 bunches of five balloons at least to fill up the room (hey, if you’re gonna do this, you may as well do it right hey?)
9. Give your guests a TIME. One of the worst things in my experience is to not know when the hell to leave. Unless you’re young and you’re out getting very drunk somewhere until the early hours of the morn, chances are you are mature and would like to go home to SLEEP. Or you’re just bored now. But you feel bad to leave, right? So don’t put your guests in that position and give them a legit time to leave. Make it run for like 4 hours and then let them know via the invite your times (e.g. 7pm-11pm). This lets them know that it’s okay for them to say goodbye at a certain time viz. you won’t hold it against them. This time ‘says’ that there’s a designated time they can walk up to you and say: “Thanks so much for the great night, I’m going.” You can all smile and hug and say goodbye and everyone will be much more comfortable and happy. You can end on a high! Don’t let your party drag on, please. Besides your guests, this rule is for you; so you can feel that you’ve done your job and it’s finished. It will also force the stragglers who do like to hang around eating and drinking you out of house and home to leave!
10. Send out thank you’s for your presents. This is a huge rule for me that’s close to my heart because I know what it’s like when you have gone out of your way to buy and wrap a gift for someone with lots of love and thought put into it, and they don’t say thank you. I have had this more time than I care to remember; birthdays, anniversaries, stork parties, weddings – why do people do this? For me it’s the first thing I do when I open my gifts the next day. I write down a list of every gift I’ve received and who it is from. I then make it my personal mission to e-mail, facebook message or text them to say thank you. And I make it personal. I say; “Thank you for the soaps or for the perfume.” I personalize it to what they actually got me. This goes down very well and it makes then think fondly of you an remember the party with kind memories.
Hope these help and that the event you are planning is unforgettable!