23 April, 2009

Party Planning 101

I love parties. I love everything about them and I've gotten to be pretty darn good at hosting them. Along the way several people have asked me for my advice. My answer usually hinges on the type of party in question. However, Lately I've been thinking a lot about my personal party planning philosophy. I always seem to fall into a routine when executing a party. I've decided there are six tips in particular that can lead to the success of virtually any party. So, my first post here at Renegade Soiree will be all about them.

Here we go....

1. Pick a theme. This is one of the most valuable weapons in my party arsenal. Centering your event around a theme can serve you immensely and help to stimulate your creativity. You'll be surprised at how easy creating a menu and choosing decor can be when you have a brilliant theme to inspire you. Not to mention you'll be less likely to get overwhelmed by the stress of having too many options! My events are usually centered around classic ideas with a fresh, modern twist. Remember, the best events regardless of theme are smart and subtle with a few larger than life elements that give us just the right amount of drama.

2. Create a timeline and budget. Once your theme is set figure out the logistics. Decide what must be done and apply it to the time you have. Even the most skilled host may not be able to pull off a five course meal in 48 hours. The sordid topic of coin can often be a downer (at least it can be for a newlywed in her mid-20's) but it is something that should be discussed. It's best to prepare yourself for monetary surprises right away-otherwise when your party takes an unexpected turn panic will inevitably ensue. Panicking is neither stylish nor fun. The bottom line here is, your time and money are linked whether you like it or not. One always influences the other.

3. Start your shopping early. After you've tamed the time/money continuum, you are ready to shop. I start gathering the pieces of my party as soon as I can. Doing this will allow you the time you need to get everything together, lay it all out, and survey your finds. You have the time to return those things that fit neither budget nor theme. With early action, rush shipping charges can be avoided and everything will arrive on time and stress free.

4. Become besties with the "trial run". Trial runs are the best way to ensure everything works together. The best events have a certain air of harmony and you can bet trial runs were involved. I try to preview my menu choices on an unsuspecting audience (usually The Hubbs or people who work with The Hubbs) the week before. I always have time to regroup if menu changes are needed. Set up any decorations you may have, including centerpieces. Stand back, take a good look and decide. Again, time will be on your side if you desire a redesign.

5. Delegate when necessary. Hosts are busy people. With jobs to conquer, households to run, and social lives to navigate-there isn't a whole lot of time left for party planning. When a potential guest offers to help give yourself permission to let them. Helpful friends are wonderful and always right there when you need them. Be sure to help your friends help you, however. Be crystal clear about what you need. Are they bringing a dish? It might not hurt to lend them the pan to put it in. Likewise, don't force a helpful friend to do something out of their comfort zone. They may not feel comfortable crafting the only dessert or single-handedly arranging the centerpiece. Always thank your friends after the party. Let them know their thoughtfulness and generosity did not go unnoticed.

6. Take time to enjoy your party. How many times have you attended a party and your only interaction with the host is a series of near misses with a smartly dressed puff of smoke? We've all been there. We take care of the guests, empty the trash, restock the beverages and completely neglect ourselves. Imagine the party starts about an hour before it truly does, finish readying everything before the guests arrive,then give yourself some time to relax. Sit down, have a cocktail, and treat yourself like a "guest" for a bit. You'll find a relaxed host is more likely to be a charming host.

And now a bonus tip:

Stations, stations, stations!
To cut down on stressful traffic jams don't put the food and beverages all in one place. Set up various stations to encourage mingling and you'll notice traffic will settle into a natural flow that is much less stressful for everyone.

This was just a general approach to party planning. I wanted to outline a little bit of my philosophy without losing the message in a bunch of exciting (and distracting) ideas. Want more? Stay tuned as we cover some of these points in more detail. In fact, I'm cooking up the first party of the summer and I have LOTS of wonderful decorating ideas and more planning tips than ever!

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