By: Terry Kaye
Party planning and stress seem to go hand and hand these days. Blogs, IG and Pinterest all add to the pressure to host over-the-top fetes that not only break the budget but can sadly also break your party-planning spirit. Planning a party shouldn’t be stressful or intimidating. I have put together some of my helpful tips and tricks which, when put into action, can make it possible to create and host a memorable affair with ease.
Create a theme
The theme or inspiration behind your event will impact every aspect of your party. It will determine the date, time, menu, décor – even your attire. Selecting your theme is the key to a cohesive event. For me, the theme is usually what drives my inspiration to host an event. Inspiration for your theme can come from anywhere: nature, food, people, patterns, colors, magazines, Pinterest and trends. Sometimes the person you are celebrating is inspiration enough, and the theme revolves around that person!
Pro-tip: Select your theme and stick with it to ensure everything ties together in a professional and unified way.
Create your checklist and stick to it
A checklists is a critical tool for stress-free event planning. Not only does it keep you on task, it tends to keep you budget (which certainly reduces my stress level). My checklist typically begins one month prior to the event date. This allows me plenty of time to plan, shop and prep; it also builds in a buffer for any unexpected hiccups along the way. I rely so much on my checklist, that I created a template that I personalize for each event. In addition to keeping my timeline on track, I also find it very therapeutic to check things off of my list!
Pro-tip: Make two copies of your checklist so you have one at home and one in your purse/on your phone. You never know when you will need to reference it.
Design your menu and prep, prep, prep
Menu planning can be daunting and super stressful, especially if you don’t know your way around a kitchen. Clients often confess that they want to host a party but are afraid to cook for their guests. Don’t ever let the fear of cooking stop you from hosting an event. There are so many convenient catering options available to us that you don’t have to shy away from being the host just because you don’t feel your strength is in the kitchen. In fact, if cooking is not your thing, you can easily cater your entire party through your local grocery store or by going the potluck route and asking your guests to bring their favorite dish to share. I have also learned along the way that not everything has to be homemade. Focus on what you enjoy and collaborate with someone who loves to cook or cater.
If cooking is one of your strengths, then relish spoiling your guests with your home-cooked dishes and baked confections. Just remember to add meal prep to your checklist so nothing is overlooked or forgotten. I would also recommend that you select a menu that allows you to pre-bake, pre-chop and prepare all ingredients prior to your party. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen while your guests are in another room enjoying your event.
Pro-tip: When taking on the daunting task of cooking and baking, always have a couple back-up items on hand just in case something goes awry – better to be safe than sorry!
Dressing for dinner
If you are anything like me, picking out the right outfit can take hours. I try on half my closest, think I’ve found the right combination, until a couple of hours later when I go back and settle on my go-to black party dress. Picking your outfit can lead you into a time warp; to avoid that, I select what I am wearing the night prior. To ensure I don’t change my mind or get sucked back into my closet, I lay everything making for an easy and quick wardrobe change. I typically dress one hour prior to guests arriving to help mentally transition from “planner” to “hostess”.
Pro-Tip: Always wear an apron prior to your guests arriving. The last thing you need to add to your to-do list is a last minute wardrobe change.
Leave the mess
Dinner is over – now what? Most would assume that the planner in me would suggest that it is time to clean up but that is not the case anymore. I have learned that it is important to be present as a host/hostess and not disappear into the abyss of dirty dishes. Your guests are there to see you, so be a gracious host and stay present. The clean-up can wait.
Pro-Tip: If the idea of leaving a dirty table drives you crazy, clear the table and stack the dishes in the sink filled with soapy water. They can soak overnight and will make for easy work in the morning.
Be present; you are the host
Transitioning from planner to party hostess can be a difficult task but it is an important one. For the past month, you have planned and prepped; now it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Shift your focus from your checklist to your guest list. Hospitality should give you as much joy as it gives your guests so take a deep breath, relax, connect and enjoy your party.
Pro-Tip: Turn on your favorite music, light a candle and enjoy a glass of wine or flavored seltzer prior to your guests arriving; it is a great way to enjoy the calm before the storm and ease into the switch from “planner” to “hostess”.