The food says a lot about the mood and theme of a party. Are you going for a formal, elegant evening or a casual, afternoon BBQ or somewhere in between?
Your choice of food and beverage should complement each other and make sense as a combination. If you plan to serve the food yourself, then remember, the way in which you serve the food and drink adds to the atmosphere. Serving trays, platters, chargers, dipping bowls and so forth all add to the overall flow (and conversation) of the party. Try using serving items in nontraditional ways for a unique touch, like using stemware and tiny spoons for dips or small food items, like olives. Clean vases are great for displaying utensils and fruit kabobs. Baskets are a great way to display napkins, or add a napkin to a pretty basket for a wonderful way to serve breads and muffins. Opportunities for fabulous serving dishes are vast.
Once you decide on food, beverages and serving dishes, the really fun part is planning the decor. Start with a clean slate, that is a clean home/party location. Then, evaluate what you already have going on at the party location as far as decor is concerned. Think of what mood you would like to set and how you would like your guests to feel. How do you picture your ideal party? What are your guests eating? What are they wearing? Are they standing, sitting, mingling, playing Cranium...? Your imagination is your limit. Write down your brainstorming, and mark your favorite ideas in your party plan binder (with the rest of your party information, like your budget). Draw pictures or clip magazine pictures for inspiration. If you are interested in renting some pieces (like dishes or chairs, etc.), then get quotes from a few rental stores to find the best value. Start early to ensure that you get what you want, not just whatever they have left in stock.
If you have already figured out the ambiance, or theme, for your party, then decide on the entertainment. Is this a mingling-focused party, a networking party, a dinner party for old friends, a co-workers-only party, a family-friendly party or something entirely different? Entertainment can range from simply dinner conversation to caricature art to photographers to a live band.
As the hostess, you hold the cards for much of the entertainment and for ensuring that your guests enjoy their time at your lovely party. If you feel comfortable enough with your guests simply eating, drinking and mingling, that certainly can be wonderful entertainment and most likely means that your party has natural flow. However, if you would like additional excitement or are throwing a milestone party, it is best to plan at least one option for entertainment (even if it is just as a backup plan to the eating, drinking and mingling goal).
Special milestone parties like bridal showers typically include a few fun games, a gift opening and a toast, in addition to a spread of food and beverages. A graduation party typically showcases the honored graduate through photos or even a slide-show. It may help to think of the entertainment as the climax of the party's storyline. When a party has natural flow and an implied time line, it is more likely that you and your guests will have a better time and your guests will know when it is appropriate to head home.
If you have a specific theme and special attire is desired, simply state attire requests on the invitations. Your guests should happily comply as a party is meant to be fun.
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Have a fabulous day! Cheers.