Friday, November 6, 2009

The Art of a Fabulous Party

I love the creativity that party planning involves and the art of the whole process. It takes time management, strategic organization and lots of improvisation. No two parties are ever the same, and there is never a dull moment (at least not when you are the one planning and hosting). Parties are dynamic... or should be. One way to ensure that your party is memorable and successful is to have a wow factor and an inviting ambiance. Food, beverages, decor, entertainment and sometimes the attire are essential elements to any fabulous party.

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.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at

Have a fabulous day! Cheers.

(c)2009 CS

Throw the Ultimate Holiday Party

It's that exciting and stressful time of year when the extra hustle bustle commences and the holidays are just around the corner. Holiday parties can be stressful to plan, cater and host, but let's take a moment to think about why throwing a soiree is so stressful.

Throwing and hosting a party takes planning, brainstorming, shopping, creating a guest list, sending invitations, being extremely organized and being confident to pull the whole thing off. If you plan ahead with plenty of time to spare, have fun while planning and attending your own party and throw a party of which you are confident and proud, then you are more likely to enjoy your party more and be less stressed out at your party and the days before.

The first few steps of planning any party are technical. When and where will the party take place? Decide on the date, time and location. Think about how realistic the date, time and location will really be for you to plan, cater, decorate and host. Also, how accessible will the location be for your guests? Will there be enough parking, seating, etc.? Keep in mind that if you throw a party outside of your home, your strategy and timing is even more important than if you throw a party from your home. If you throw a party at your home like many of us do, then strategy and timing are still important, but you have a little more wiggle room. Parking may be an issue though if throwing a home-based party.

The tips here are focused on throwing a home party (as there are a few different steps involved).
Once you have a date, specific time of day and location, it is time to brainstorm the rest of your party plan. Creating a guest list, thinking of decor/theme/entertainment, creating a menu, deciding whether to hire a caterer or to whip up a delicious spread with your own fabulous cooking skills, deciding on a maid service or cleaning yourself (maybe with the help of family) and creating a budget for the special occasion are all important parts to the party plan.

Create a budget. What are you willing and able to comfortably spend on your party? Create a budget spreadsheet and/or start a party plan binder that includes all of this important information. Break your budget into categories, such as: Food (Catering), Beverages, Decor, Maid Service (if desired), Supplies (plates, napkins, glasses, etc.), Invitations (and stamps), Other and so on. Include contact information if you are hiring caterers and/or using rentals.

Create a guest list. Once you have created a budget, creating a guest list is incredibly important if you are sending invitations by mail (or hand delivery). Email invitations are acceptable and more eco-friendly, but traditional invitations are classy and fun. If you send traditional invitations, you can always request that invitations be recycled or ask your guests to bring the invitations to your party and you can recycle them. You can even create a raffle or game using the invitations. If your invitations are word of mouth only, be prepared for an unknown number of guests. By sending out a traditional invitation and requesting rsvp, it creates hype, and it lets your guests know the theme and mood of the occasion. In addition, the social expectation is to rsvp with a number attending so this is helpful with planning for food, seating and parking (if needed).

Decide on a decor theme. Brainstorming decor and a potential theme (without being too matchy-matchy and cutesy) is an important step for throwing a successful, memorable and buzzed about party. Be creative and have fun. If you have questions, email me at Also, keep reading my posts for ideas. There are also plenty of other fantastic ideas online. Think outside the box, especially with this step. You can do so much with a little money and a lot of thought.

Decide whether to hire a caterer or supply the food spread yourself. Think about food items you would like to serve and dinnerware you would like to use. Do you own enough plates, glasses, utensils and such for your party? Could you easily rent or purchase more pieces if needed? Would catering decrease your stress level, fit in your budget and be worth the money?

Now it's time to decide what to serve. Would you like a sit down dinner or hors d'oeuvres? What will be comfortable to serve in your home? Keep in mind the mood you are trying to portray with your party. If you are going to serve 20-40 people or more, hors d'oeuvres are probably a better option (unless you have proper seating for a more formal dinner). Hors d'oeuvres can be presented with class and fabulous flare so you will not lose the mood. However, hors d'oeuvres can be done in a fun and casual way also. Creating the mood of the party does include food choices, food presentation, beverages, decor, entertainment and attire choices.

You now have the tools to create and organize your party plan. When you have a clear direction for your party, you will feel more relaxed. Enjoy the planning process, be flexible (open-minded) and have fun at your party. You are an amazing hostess, and your guests will love your party. Cheers!

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

(c) 2009 CS