Chica and I have thrown many a soirÃ©e over the years and as a result, we have really honed our party throwing skills. I wanted to share a few of our most useful party tips with you — those that go beyond the typical concepts like “don’t run out of food or drink” and “don’t put the wrong date on your invitations” (yes, I have done this!).
If you have other party tips to share, I’d love to hear them!
- Consider the size of the party space. Think about how many people you are likely to have and cordon off the party area accordingly. It is very important not to have too much room or your guests will spread out too much and you will lose the festive atmosphere. It is actually better to be a little crowded than to have too much room.
- Always have music. Whether it is elaborate and live or just your mp3 player belting out a playlist of your favorites, make sure there is some type of background noise. People are more comfortable talking when they feel like they can’t be easily singled out. For a dinner party, shower, low-key birthday party, keep the music low and instrumental. For a cocktail party, Christmas party, NYE party or other rambunctious occasion, pump the volume level up a bit and feel free to use music with lyrics.
- Plan ahead. I can’t stress this one enough. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time so that when your guests start coming through the door, you aren’t stuck in the kitchen or sweeping the last bit of dust under the couch. I always plan to be ready 30 minutes before the time on the invitation. This takes care of those that come early and allows me to kick my feet up and have a drink a few minutes before the fun (and chaos) begins.
- Greet your guests. This may seem like a no-brainer but often, as a host or hostess, you will find yourself preoccupied with getting things ready (see previous tip) or already wrapped into a conversation with another guest. When the doorbell rings, excuse yourself and warmly greet each guest at the door. Take coats if necessary and immediately offer to make your guest a drink or escort him to the bar to prepare his own drink.
- Speaking of drinks… For a larger party, mix up a few alcoholic beverages beforehand and put them in nice pitchers. Drinks that lend themselves to this are margaritas, cosmopolitans and sangria. Label the pitchers and have plenty of glasses on hand. I rim all of the glasses beforehand and set them out next to the pitcher. Have a few different types of wine, some beer and plenty of non-alcoholic choices as well.
- Help your guests mingle. Spend a little more time with guests that might not know many people at your party. Introduce the newcomer to other guests by giving names and starting the conversation on some common ground. Once your newcomer looks more at ease, excuse yourself from the conversation. Try to keep an eye on your guests throughout the evening and intervene if someone appears isolated from the group.
- Hire a caterer. AACK! Is she crazy? Does she realize how much that would cost? Yes, I do but I also know a source that can cut the cost dramatically. Contact your local culinary school and ask about hiring students to do your party. The students love to get the experience and you don’t have to pay the full cost of a professional. The only problem I have run into before going this route is that students tend to over estimate on the amount of food needed, be sure to rein them in to a set budget.
For more tips and suggestions, read Donna’s party planning tips on About.com