Are you hosting a big party? Are you anticipating a large crowd? Throwing a party for a crowd can feel a little intimidating. The key is breaking it down into smaller steps. Here’s how:
The first thing is to set the “tone” for the party.
- Is the party to celebrate a special event?
- What time will it be?
- Will it be an open house or a sit down meal?
- Will it be potluck or will you provide all of the food?
- Are children invited or is it adults only?
- How many people will you have?
Once you set these parameters, you can prepare the invitations. Electronic invitations are a simple and affordable way to reach a crowd. Online sites like Paperless Post and Evite make invitations easy by providing templates, sending reminders and allowing you to easily add more guests. (You will need email addresses if you go this route.) Even if the event is just for family, sending an invitation with these details ensures everyone has the right expectations. Be specific on in the invitation about things such as dress code, gifts, whether guests can bring anything, parking, etc.
Now you can plan the menu. Decide what food you will provide. Be sensitive to any food allergies and dietary needs.
- Main dishes
The next step is to design the set up. Keeping in mind the format and number of guests, you need to decide:
- Will the guests serve themselves from a buffet? Snack casually on appetizers? Be served once they are seated?
- Where will everyone sit? Will the seating be assigned or can guests seat themselves?
- Will you use paper products or traditional dishes? Likewise, what will you use for for drinks? What serving dishes will you use?
- Will you serve alcohol? Will you have a bar? Where will that be set up?
- If appropriate, where will you put gifts?
- If appropriate, where will you put food people bring?
- Who will tend your pets? Where will they go?
- Will you hire help to serve food/clean dishes/empty trash? To oversee children?
- Who will be taking photos?
In light of the event’s theme, decide if you will have any special activities:
- Will there be some activities set up for kids (e.g. crafts, games, movie?)
- Will there be any planned activities for the adults, such as a speech, gift opening, dancing, games, etc? Where will this take place?
- Will there be music in the background? Will this be live, streamed, or played from a playlist?
Consider what special touches you might want to add:
- Table centerpieces
- Party favors
Once all the decisions are made and you’ve collected RSVPs, you can get ready for the countdown. Here are some milestones to follow:
One week before:
- Prepare table decor (e.g. iron linens, assemble placements, purchase plastic tablecloths)
- Purchase any needed paper products
- Purchase beverages/beer/wine/etc.
- Purchase non-perishables
- Declutter the entertaining space
1-2 Days before:
- Purchase perishables
- Prepare any food that can be made in advance
- Chop/pre-measure ingredients
- Prepare your music if necessary
- Designate a place for coats, umbrellas, etc.
- Set the table if you are having a sit down dinner
- Clean the house
- Prepare/pick up food
- Set up coffee/tea service
- Set out glasses, plates and other elements of the set up
- Empty trash
- Light candles
- Turn on the music
- Fill ice bucket
- Isolate pets if that is the plan
- Check the guest bathroom to make sure its clean
Most importantly, once the event begins, relax and enjoy it. Even if things don’t go as planned, your guests will have a great time if you are having a great time.
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What is your best “party planning” tip?