Fall has always been my favorite time of year for several reasons. The autumn weather brings great opportunities for fall wear so breaking out your new flat heel boots, or cardigan is a must which is always fun. My wedding anniversary is in September along with mine and my son’s birthday. So needless to say I have a multitude of reasons to celebrate during the time right after Labor Day but right before Thanksgiving. As a planner when I do host an event for my family and friends stress free preparations is a must. In everyday life the stress that I welcome as an event planner for hire is enough of a teacher to teach me how to effortlessly entertain and now I can pass this knowledge onto other event aficionados in the hope of more parties and good times had by all. Check out my top five tips for hosting a stress free party.
Pick your theme as soon as possible.
For some of you who prefer to throw some chips in a bowl, a scarf on the lampshade and a mass message on Facebook thirty minutes before you expect your first guest, then you can skip this tip. For everyone else, six months is not too soon to start planning. That way it will be so much easier to gather all the decorations, especially if your theme is very popular or one that will have colors that are no easy to find. It can take time to find all the pieces you will need like matching plates, napkins, streamed and cups. We had a horrible time finding things that were a solid purple color for one of our parties. If you are renting your venue, it may be less expensive to book months in advance.
Choose your guest wisely.
This tip has always been the easiest for me to follow because I have had the same group of about 10 friends for the last twenty years. Half my guest list is already done before I start thinking about whom else to invite. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing guest is to make sure you have the right amount of time to spend with each guest. The more people you invite, the more complicated you make your party, and the less opportunity you’ll have to connect with each guest. First, invite close friends. You have more than likely seen them in the last two weeks and have been caught up on all the most recent activities in their lives and don’t really have to devote much more than photo opportunities and light party conversation with them. Invite a few people you’ve been meaning to reconnect with. These people will require a little more of your attention. It’s a good idea to allow them to bring a plus one. This will allow you to spend the required amount of time with them while allowing them to have company at your event for their own volition. Only invite a handful of these guests as you open your event up to the unexpected the more anonymous people you invite into your doors. Lastly, invite and a few others you think would mix well with everyone else. These would be your party starters, party clowns, sexy attractions and people who generally know everyone there other than you
Over organize your décor, before and after
Decorations need to happen. They need to be put up and taken down. Those balloons are not going to blow themselves up. This is the part where most people come to their last straw and frustration sets in. It does not need to be a big production headache if your over organize your décor. Make a plan for the décor to happen. Don’t forget the candles! Order what you can online. If it’s a particular size tablecloth or shade of serving tray you’re after, best to scour the web than drive all over town looking for it. After all, nothing’s easier than getting a package delivered to your doorstep. If you do your research you can have your entire party assembled for free and shipped ready to use by specifying your needs in the notes to the seller section of your online purchase or by sending an email to the seller pre purchase. Have your decor delivered a week before the event so any assembly required can be accomplished in a timely manner. Also, resolving any delivery or selection issues will be a breeze if there is time allotted. Schedule your party for late afternoon to give you plenty of time for set up on the morning of the party. We use to do our parties at night to begin around to kick off right after putting the kids to bed. Over the years we figured out that the earlier in the day the party was set to start the more running around like maniacs we did doing set up and last minute stuff. Now we do our parties at 9 pm and have all day to set up and get ourselves ready.
Let the Music Play
Music is essential at a party, and if your budget doesn’t permit a DJ, make a playlist from your own music collection or tune into an Internet radio service such as Pandora or IHeart Radio. Choose a few stations to suit the occasion and appeal to everyone’s taste. Without getting too technical, the music is the life’s blood of your party. It helps to set the ambiance and can be used to move the party in a flow that fits the entire crowd. I like to plan the musical portion of my parties in stages. Stage one is the arrival of guests. This is the point where you want easy listening music with a good beat. Examples may include, Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton and Stevie Wonder to name a few. Once the bulk of your guests have arrived, it’s time to get the music moving with more bass, mingling music. Hip Hop and R&B easily does the trick. Classic Rock and any Reggae playlist will work as well. After an hour and a half of this flow, it is usually time for the event of the evening. This would include recognizing the guest of honor. For a birthday party this would be singing and blowing out the candles. After that you want to pump the party up with high energy and dance hits back to back. Crowd favorites and dance mixes are in order. Lastly, when you are ready for the party to wind down around the fifth or sixth hour, you want to play a slow, relaxing music set aside (in a different playlist or on a separate disc). You can put this music on when you're done hosting the party for the night, to encourage people to wrap up and head home. Letting your playlist set the mood and flow of your party is the most stress free and effortless way to host your event.
Keep the menu simple. A host should never be slaving in the kitchen when guests arrive. Once you are ready for the first guest to arrive your only job for the rest of the night is welcoming and looking fabulous in photos. We like to keep the menu simple by preparing two main dishes that can be refrigerated and warmed up or set out when ready to eat. For example, cold shrimp roasted chicken strips or wings. The best party foods can be eaten off a napkin with a toothpick. Set the food out in splurges. Greet your guest coming in the door with a welcoming treat and side. Once everyone has arrived pause serving to allow them to mingle and then resume serving about an hour before the recognition of the guests of honor. It is a good idea to cater or purchase your sides to ensure you stay in the budget of your event and that everyone has at least one serving of everything as most purchased sides have a serving suggestion. Pause serving again after the guest of honor recognition then end the evening serving a snack for the road to help soak up some of the drinks consumed by guests at your event.
Speaking of drinks, next to the price of the venue, the bar is the next most expensive element of the party. What you don’t want is to spend all your party time mixing margarita’s or making sure that everyone’s drink has that little umbrella or the piece of fruit to compliment the liquor of the drink. To make your bar stress and budget busting free follow these simple rules. At the end of the day, beer is beer. If you drink beer, stock up on your favorite and everyone can have that or byob. For the most part, there are two kind of wine, red and white, Get a couple of bottles of each and you can’t go wrong. When it comes to alcohol, if a bartender is not in your budget i would be against having countless choices of liquors and chasers and allowing people to go for what they know because people always over serve themselves and there is very little chance your self serve bar will last the duration of your event. To overcome this dilemma, I usually do with two signature drinks. One featuring a white liquor and one featuring and cognac. Most people are one or the other and it’s much more budget friendly than offering a variety of choices to be consumed too fast to replenish or enjoy. Here are two recipes for bath tub drinks great for crowd pleasers.
In a large cooler or container empty 4 bags of ice, three gallon bottles of your favorite vodka, two pounds each of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries and lemons. Lastly, pour in enough pine apple juice and cranberry juice to cover the fruit. Mix and serve straight from the container. Display the drink on a table surrounded by cups, straws, napkins, toothpicks and plenty ladles for serving.
In a large cooler or container empty two pounds each of oranges, apples, cranberries and lemons. Add three gallon bottles of your favorite cognac and 1 cup of sugar per bottle. Mix well and let sit for one hour. Then all a mixture of simply mango, orange juice and pineapple juice to taste and serve very cold.
Use these simple tricks for your next event to ensure a stress free event. The point of having a get together whether it be a birthday party, anniversary party or wedding is to enjoy yourself and your guests. So make sure you have time to spend with those special people in your life that care enough to show up and show out with you.
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*CONSUELO BRADLEY * OWNER
DON'T WAIT FOR A FABULOUS EVENT, CREATE ONE!