The best host is one who enjoys her own party. When you are present to mix and mingle vs. take care of details that should have been done ahead of time, the night will not be as festive. The P-word is important, as in ‘planning’ not ‘procrastinating.’ Cramming does not fit into the equation. There will be too many details, and many of them will need to be done well in advance of your party.
1. It’s all about the timeline.
As you begin planning your party, type it out chronologically. Of course, it will evolve, but a detailed timeline is an easy-to-use tool. It’s also a good idea to have a day-of timeline.
2. Make a checklist.
Write down everything from “check RSVPs” to “set up a self-serve bar.” Not only does it feel really good to check off to-dos, but it’s the only way to know for sure what still needs to be done. Revise until you get it right!
3. Start planning early.
Set a theme, and be sure to send out invites four to six weeks before a formal event or two to three weeks before a less formal party. You’ll also want to gather ideas for the menu and décor way in advance.
4. Create a budget and follow it.
Figure out how much you can spend, then set a limit on food, drink, entertainment, and other party essentials. If you can’t hire a caterer, consider setting up a taco bar or food station.
5. Enlist help.
If the thought of cleaning your house is too overwhelming, hire someone to clean it before and perhaps even after the party. If friends or family offer to lend a hand, let them. Delegating a few responsibilities to loved ones or close friends who will be in attendance — say, picking up ice or putting out flowers — is a huge help.
6. Keep the menu simple.
Make one or two items yourself (everyone has a specialty) or cater/purchase the rest. A host should be in the kitchen as little as possible when guests arrive, so prepare dishes that can be quickly heated up or delivered.
7. Serve a specialty cocktail.
You don’t want to be shaking martinis all night, so select one drink you can make in pitchers (sangria, spiked punch, etc.) in addition to other libations.
8. Order ahead online.
If it’s a particular size tablecloth, a shade of serving tray you’re after, or even menu cards, it’s best to scour the web than drive all over town looking for it. After all, nothing’s more accessible than getting a package delivered to your doorstep. This can be done well before your party and is just another item to check off your list.
9. Create a playlist.
Music is essential at a party, so if you’re not having live music, make a playlist from your own music collection or tune into Pandora or iTunes Radio.
10. Do as much as you can beforehand.
Whether it’s decorating, setting the table, or preparing foods that can be made in advance, such as bite-sized desserts, getting things done ahead of time is the key to organization.