Planning a party can be an exhausting endeavor. Kalista Morton, owner of Events with a Twist and an expert event planner, pointed out what may appear to be a giant undertaking doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Planning, and doing preparations in advance, are the keys to hosting a successful event.
The first thing to do, about three weeks out from the chosen date, is to make an invitation list, and send out the invitations.
“For a large cocktail party, invite 20 percent more people than you can fit, since typically only 70 percent to 80 percent of invitees attend,” Morton said, adding that mail, email and phone invitations are all acceptable.
This is also a good time to decide on a theme, if there is to be one, and make, buy or borrow decorations and music needed to fit the theme.
“This is a great opportunity to involve kids, and let them help with decorating by providing materials and let their imaginations go,” she said.
Menu planning should also take place about three weeks out. Morton cautions hosts not to overthink and make extra work for themselves. This is not the time to try out all the new Pinterest recipes you’ve collected, but haven’t had a chance to try yet. Rather, assemble the recipes, choosing only those that can be prepared in advance, and perhaps even frozen, with just warming and assembling required on the day of the party. Then, she suggests, make a list of how far in advance each dish can be made, and draft a shopping list.
“Your guests are more interested in the interaction with friends and family, and will remember that much longer than the food,” she said. “Simplicity is elegance.”
Don’t forget to line up any help that may be needed.
“Consider hiring a high school student, or a professional, to help with pre- or post-party cleaning, or to pass drinks or appetizers, replenish buffet food, tidy up, and generally take some weight off your shoulders,” Morton said. “Make sure you have proper trash receptacles in place, and recycle whenever possible.”
At the two-week mark, it’s time to clean any crystal, china and silverware that will be used, as well as laundering and ironing linens. Morton added that keeping things simple by using paper products is also acceptable, and there is a wide variety of options available. It’s also time to do the first round of grocery shopping, and prepare any dishes that can be frozen.
“If you are not hiring live music, you need to come up with a play list for your Bluetooth speaker,” she said. “The music should be upbeat, and sufficient to last throughout the party. Gear part of your music to coincide with your theme.”
The party is now one week out, and in keeping with her role as community relations coordinator for America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, Morton has a recommendation for what to do with leftover food.
“Make a plan for any large amounts of leftovers to be donated to your local homeless shelter, or to needy families that might be able to use these items,” she said.
Final preparations include:
One week before
• Clean house and rearrange furniture to accommodate traffic flow during the party.
•Designate a table for coffee and dessert, if they’re being served.
• Make sure the bar is accessible and doesn’t cause a bottleneck in traffic flow.
• Secure outdoor lighting, if needed.
• Take inventory of cookware and serving dishes, and label each with a Post-it Note detailing what they’ll be used for.
Three days before
• Notify neighbors if parking will be an issue, and you want to give them a heads up, especially if they are not invited.
• Decorate – Arrange candles; put up theme decorations. Balloons cannot be done until the day of the party, so consider using paper lanterns or other items that can be done ahead to lessen last-minute stress.
• Specify a place for purses and or gifts if applicable.
The day before
• Finish grocery shopping.
• Prepare the remainder of the food if you have not given up at this point and called a caterer.
• Buy fresh flowers and make arrangements if you haven’t ordered arrangements to be delivered the day of your event a week ago.
• Do last-minute cleaning.
• Finish final cooking and warming, and display food on trays.
“Most importantly, be kind and gracious, and do not worry so much about impressing your guests,” Morton said. “There is nothing more inviting than a warm smile when entering an event. The conversation and hospitality will be what is remembered.”