How to Plan the Perfect Party:

How to Plan the Perfect
Anywhere . . . Anytime . . . And
For Any Reason!
How to Plan the Perfect Party
Table of Contents
Page 3
Chapter 1: Why Party?
Page 7
Chapter 2: Step-by-Step Preparation
Chapter 3: Feeding Your Guests
Page 30
Chaper 4: Being the Perfect Host
Page 38
Chapter 5: Party Progression: Let's Keep the Party Moving
Page 49
Chapter 6: Party Planning on a Budget
Page 54
Chapter 7: Top 10 Theme Ideas
Page 54
Page 59
Appendix I
The Party Planning Checklist
Page 61
Appendix II
How Much Food To Prepare
Page 63
Anywhere . . . Anytime . . . and for Any Reason
How to Plan the Perfect Party
can see the panic in your eyes already. They're as wide as a
deer's caught in a car's headlights. You needn't fear this event.
You needn’t run from it either.
Is that how you feel when you host a party? Panicky? Fearful?
Ready to run out the back door the minute the front doorbell rings?
Are you thinking, as the guests file in, "Why in the world did I ever
agree to this?"
Then this book was written with you in mind. I, too, used to avoid
hosting parties. When someone even suggested that we just gather
at my house for a drink or to play a board game, I'd find some
excuse not to.
So you can imagine my horror when anyone would suggest that I
actually host any type of real party.
The mere act of avoidance just became irritating after a while. So
when I was volunteered to host a small group of people for an
informal get together, I swallowed my pride (and my heart!) and
said yes.
And then began the dreaded countdown to the event.
But you know what?
It wasn't nearly as horrendous as I thought it would be. In fact, my
guests seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves. So that gave me the
courage to do it again.
That was several years ago. And look at me today, ready -- and
even eager -- to host one, anytime, anywhere and for any reason.
Why not just try embracing it and going with the moment? It may
sound daunting and intimidating now, but once you delve farther
into the process of party planning, armed with the proper
information, there'll be no party you would fear to host, guaranteed!
Anywhere . . . Anytime . . . and for Any Reason
How to Plan the Perfect Party
Don't get me wrong. Entertaining can indeed be hard work. And
developing a bit of "host anxiety" as I've heard it called is a good
thing -- it keeps you alert. After all, what professional stage actor
doesn't experience a bit of anxiety before he steps in front of an
Don't try to start out large, though. Test the waters -- and your
confidence by hosting a small informal gathering. Invite those who
know you the best, you'll feel at ease because of it. And the party
will flow quite nicely.
How to Use This Book Wisely
This book is filled to the brim with ideas . . . hints . . . suggestions for
creating a party in which your friends will feel at ease, have fun and
be talking about the "event" for weeks afterward.
My, if the party is truly successful, they'll be questioning when you'll
be holding your next one.
Go ahead and dig in. Use this book in any way you believe it'll help
you to be a better host . . . throw a thoroughly enjoyable party
where all the guests have a great time . . . and you, too, feel at
ease enough to enjoy yourself.
To that end, you may want to read the entire book once. Then
depending on your questions or type of party you're hosting, return
to various parts of the eBook as you plan.
This book covers just about every aspect of party planning one
could imagine. Chapter 1 starts out by asking that age-old
philosophical question: Why party?
The subtext to that question: For what purpose are you creating this
gathering? Answer that question and much of your party plans
take a natural course of their own, as you'll soon see.
Chapter 2 delves into the step-by-step detailed planning that
absolutely necessary to make your party successful and . . . well,
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
ironically enough, effortless. If you plan sufficiently ahead of time,
you'll look as if you pulled it all together with a mere wiggle of your
Follow these great suggestions and time lines and you'll be assured
that your guests will have a great time!
Common questions many would-be hosts ask me deal with food.
What's best to serve? How much to serve? How do I serve. Or the
question I love: "Look at these two forks! They're different sizes!
When do you use one or the other?"
To discover the ins and outs of feeding your guests, turn to Chapter
3. I'll not only tell you how much food to plan (neatly outlined in a
table in an appendix in the back of the book), but I'll even give you
tips on how to serve your guests.
Follow these directions and your guests will never ever believe that
at the beginning of the planning process you ever doubted
Once you have a handle on the nuts and bolts of party planning,
you need to give some thought -- even before the party begins -on what it takes to be a good host. Yes, it's more than just laying
out a great spread or bringing a good group of people together.
To discover what it takes to be a good host, just turn to Chapter 4.
You'll learn that your duties as host begin even before the first guest
steps through that door. But don't worry, once you learn the basics
-- which are easy to handle -- you'll walk into the job like it was
created just for you. Guaranteed.
Part of the very important duties of host is making sure that the party
keeps moving. Every party needs a flow and as host it's your job to
supply it. Just check out Chapter 5 to discover how to keep any
party from getting stuck in one room or revolving around one
(usually boring) person!
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
Well, just when you think we've covered all the aspects of The
Perfect Party, we've added one more element: Party planning on a
If you want to throw a fabulous party, but think that it's beyond your
budgetary constraints, Chapter 6 will absolutely change your mind.
Check it out to discover how you can make your guests feel like a
million bucks without spending a fortune.
And finally, the last chapter gives you some creative ideas about
throwing a "theme" party. These parties -- which can be some of
the most memorable your guests will ever attend -- can be easily
(and many times quite economically) created. You have to review
these. Feel free to use any of these ideas. Or perhaps these
suggestions will get you thinking in even more creative directions.
But, that's not all that's in this book. I've included two "must-read"
appendices. The first is really a "must-use" appendix. It provides you
with a pre-party planning check list to keep you right on track from
the moment of creation till the time that first guest walks through
that door.
The second appendix is a food calculator. Now, you don't have to
guess about the amount of food you need to buy for your party.
This chart at least gives you a ballpark figure to work with!
Now, what are you waiting for? It's time to plan a party -- with flair!
Anywhere . . . Anytime . . . and for Any Reason
How to Plan the Perfect Party
Chapter 1:
Why Party?
hy party? Well, to have a good time, of course! That,
indeed, is the stereotypical "frat boy" approach to
partying. But, that's not the real question being asked here.
The real question goes just a little bit deeper than that.
What is the purpose of your gathering?
Is it to celebrate someone's birthday? Commemorate an
anniversary? Mark a significant milestone? Or perhaps it's just to
bring your closest friends together?
You get the idea. Why you're throwing the party will inevitably help
shape and structure it as well.
Unique, yet the same.
That's the mantra you need to keep in mind as you plan this event.
Perhaps you've been tasked with hosting a small event
commemorating the retirement of one of your colleagues. Why did
they ask you? They choose you because someone recalled that
great small gathering you held at your house several months ago.
That's fine you think. But a small gathering of close friends is easy to
plan. A retirement party? That's a bit different.
Yes and no. Obviously, no two parties are alike -- each with its
distinct purpose and direction. But when you scratch the surface of
a party they all have elements that are the same.
A cocktail party usually has this Yoda-like advice stuck to it: small
enough so everyone can sit or large enough to those standing don't
feel awkward.
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
And depending on where you're hosting the event, that's about as
specific as anyone can get. But most "event planners" will go one
step further and help to decipher the mathematical algorithm
behind the sage advice.
For a cocktail party where you'll have people sitting and standing
around mingling, professional event planners tell us to allow four to
five square feet per person. When counting your space, don't
count the total space in a room. Only your available space. You
just can't include room used by large pieces of furniture that can't
be moved.
Since it is a "cocktail" party, you'll obviously need to set up a bar.
You can easily use a table for this -- with a nice tablecloth on top. It
goes without saying you'll also need a nice variety of liquor, wine
beer and yes, even nonalcoholic drinks.
Not only will you need these to use as mixers with the liquor, but you
need to consider what any guests who don't drink alcohol -- or
those designated drivers -- may be drinking.
You'll also want to be well stocked in ice as well as appropriate
glassware and a few essential bar tools. Later on, I show you a
quick and easy method for determining just how much alcohol
you'll need for your party. It's really simple, I promise!
Cocktail parties usually last for about two hours. Most of them start
either at 5 or 6 p.m.
The Dinner Party
Ah yes, the dreaded dinner party! This type of event can send chills
down the spine of even the most experienced of party planner. But
you needn't approach it with such trepidation. You'll discover that it
can be a wonderful vehicle for people to get to know each other -and enjoy, hopefully, some very good food in the process.
Are you cooking and serving this party yourself? Then you should
seriously consider limiting your guest list to 10 individuals --- no more.
If you invite any more guests than ten, then you need to re-evaluate
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
your options. You either need to turn the "dinner party" into a
buffet, or hire a caterer to cook and serve for you.
You don't want to add any more stress than necessary to your
planning. After all, the day of the party, the time of the party, you
want to have a good time too! Remember, and if you're having a
good time, this reflects in your guests ability to enjoy themselves as
The Buffet
If you're contemplating a long guest list and you want to serve food
at your party, then consider hosting a buffet. Much of the
preparation can be done in advance. Not only that, but the food
service aspect of the buffet is less "labor intensive" than for the
average sit down meal.
The only area you must be careful to ensure: Every guest has a
place to sit while eating.
The requirements for this type of party are relatively easy as well. All
you need is wine and beer as well as nonalcoholic beverages. If
you want, you may serve cocktails, but with the buffet style, they're
not expected or necessary.
You will also need hot plates or chafing dishes if you're going to
serve hot food, as well as professional help to staff them.
You'll also need a sufficient quantity of serving platters, plates,
silverware as well as glassware for all of your guests, as well as a
large table for the food and a smaller table for drinks.
This kind of party can work when held at any time during the day.
You can host a brunch, lunch or a dinner in buffet style. No matter
what time you plan your party, you should allot approximately three
hours for it.
This type of party is especially good for a holiday or a
housewarming open house party. In each of these, you can
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
assume the flow of guests will be staggered. So feel free to invite
more people than you would for a traditional buffet.
Oh, I see! There's no expressed special purpose for this party. You're
really not celebrating anyone's birthday . . . not commemorating an
anniversary . . . not even a housewarming or a going away party.
You merely want to throw a party for the sake of having a few
friends over to have a good time. Good for you! But, you're not
quite sure where to start. Actually, you say, that's an
understatement. You're at a complete loss.
What type of party would
you feel comfortable hosting?
Not to worry! I've got you covered. Let's start with picking your
brain a little and see what you've liked and disliked at past parties.
Because this is your chance to create the party of your dreams
(and hopefully your guests as well).
Today, just about anything goes when it comes to themed parties.
Of course, you'll still find yourself to some extent asking all the
previous questions: am I serving food? How much and what kind of
serving plan, a sit-down dinner or a buffet?
But, the ultimate question is what type of party do you think you'd
be most comfortable hosting. If the thought of throwing 8 of your
closest friends together at one table for any period of time send you
running for cover . . . perhaps the sit-down dinner isn't a good
If, on the other hand, you love to cook and wouldn't mind a few
more guests -- as long as they don't mind serving themselves -- then
the buffet style is more to your suiting.
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Choosing a theme
Now you get to pick your theme. And if you can conceive it, you
can probably carry it out. Yeah, it's a lot like in that movie, Field of
Dreams: "If you build it, they will come!"
The key to remember about party planning is actually quite simple:
Plan the event around your talents, desires and style. If you do this,
the party just has to be fun and a big success.
The only exception to this rule is if you're hosting a party to
celebrate the birthday or accomplishment of another person. Then
the party theme no doubt revolves around him.
You may be planning a party to commemorate a birthday of an
older person -- let's say your 92-year-old grandfather who is still in
amazing health.
What are his interests? What did you do as young man? What are
some of the changes he saw as he aged? This opens up the party
to several theme ideas, from a "20th Century party” -- showing the
changes that occurred in his life to a more family-oriented theme.
With that in mind, here are some questions you should ask yourself
before you decide on the type of party you're planning.
1. What type of parties have you had the most fun at?
2. How do you like to entertain? In a formal or informal setting?
3. How many people can your home handle. Is it a large group, or
only a small group?
4. How many people do you prefer to entertain at one time?
5. Is this party for no apparent reason other than to have a good
time? Or is it in celebration of a holiday or birthday or other event?
6. Who do you anticipate to make up your guest list, friends . . .
family or both?
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7. Do you truly enjoy themed parties?
Now the ideas should be gelling a little in your mind on which way
you'll be going with this party. No doubt, the themes from which
you can choose are limited only by your own imagination.
But here are some ideas to kick-start that imagination of yours.
These are only the "tamed" of theme parties. I've known friends to
go crazy with these types of ideas. And why not?
Barbeque cook out
Gag gift exchange
Dinner and a movie
Pool party
Potluck party
Victory party for your
sports team
Raise-money-for favoritecharity
Scavenger hunt
Progressive party
Block party
Moving party
1950s theme (or 60s . . . .
or you get the idea!)
Academy awards party
Theme planned around
your favorite book or
Themed party planned
around a fable or fairy
Costume party
Dinner-murder mystery
Of course, this short list doesn't even begin to do the topic of themes
justice. But it will get your creative juices flowing in the right direction.
Where will the party be held?
Now that you're beginning to narrow down a theme, you need to
decide the location of the event? If you have enough room in your
home and would like to host it there, great.
But maybe you don't want to go through all the necessary
preparation for a home-based party. When you hold your party at
home, you not only have to plan the party itself, but you have to work
in time and energy to ensure your home is clean (and in my case, lots
of energy goes into this), and is capable of holding the number of
people you're planning on inviting.
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This really shouldn't be too difficult of a decision. In visualizing the
success of your party -- and its theme -- you probably have a fairly
good idea of the location already. You just need to firm up a few
details, that's all.
How many people?
This is actually two questions in one. The first asks how many people
can the location you have in mind accommodate? The second asks
how many people are you planning on inviting?
Don't continue on step forward if you know without a doubt that you
plan on inviting more than the location you have in mind can handle.
You may think that if you invite 40 but you really have your heart set on
a place that can only hold 20 that somehow it will all work out . . . it
probably won't.
When you do this, you're really only asking for disaster. So either trim
back on your tentative guest list or choose a location that can
accommodate more people.
How much can you afford to pay?
If you plan on hosting your party at a location other than your home,
discover how much the rental is. Be realistic. Can you afford this fee
and still afford all the supplies and accessories you'll need to carry off
the party as you envision it?
Now's not the time to start lying to yourself, thinking you can handle
this. If you're doing this, you're only headed for disaster, with a capital
Do you want in an outdoor or indoor venue?
And if you do have it outside, what are your plans should the weather
not cooperate with you? All valid questions that you'll eventually
need to supply answers to.
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Is this location conducive to the theme you're developing?
Does the park or hall lend itself to the type of decorating you have in
mind for your theme? Or will it require some real work to get the
location prepared? Maybe there's a location that's more suited to
your creative ideas?
This is a valid point. If you're not sure, ask among family and friends to
see if they’ve ever planned a party at this location. Do they think the
theme you're planning could possibly be carried out here?
Will your guests have room to park?
This is one of those "practical" questions that might not come to mind
in the throes of your creativity. But trust me, if you don't think about it
now, you'll be rudely confronted with it on party day. It's better to
think ahead now!
Does the location you're considering allow alcoholic beverages?
If you're planning on serving alcohol, then you need to get that clear
when you're renting the location. If the proprietors say no, don't even
think you can sneak some in. Simple say, "Thanks but no thanks." Then
go back to the drawing board to search another location.
Now that you know what you're searching for in a party location, just
imagine all the places you may actually be able to host it? Just to
give you an idea, I've listed some for you. Perhaps one of these
locations, can help you choose a theme too!
Have you ever really thought about throwing a party in a museum?
Give it some thought?
Banquet hall
Church hall
Skating rink
The local
The beach
Art gallery
Bowling alley
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And wouldn't the bowling alley be the perfect place for a '50s party
for adults? And that's only the beginning of the ideas I bet are
popping into your mind as you read these possible locations.
But not only that, you may also be forming a guest list even as write
just by thinking about these different themes.
Go ahead! Have fun with all of this. After all that's what it's all about!
In the next chapter, I'll show you how to get your act together before
the party begins, so you can enjoy yourself on the day of your big
How to Plan the Perfect Party
Chapter 2:
Step-by-Step Preparation
By being prepared, you'll going to appear as if you're
at ease (because you are!), you're going to enjoy yourself
as well, and your guests will ultimately be talking about your
party for months! This chapter shows you there's more -much more -- to party planning than meets the eye.
he key to any successful party is being prepared. Ask any
successful host how she accomplished such a successful party -whether it's a cocktail party or a children's birthday party -- and
she'll tell you in one word: Details. And indeed that’s Details
with a capital "D".
While this whole book is obviously aimed at "planning" your next party,
which implies being prepared, this chapter is probably the most
important. It presents step-by-step, in detailed form, how to prepare
for the event.
One of the biggest questions most people have concerns timing. Just
when do I start preparing?
And that's a good question! The answer, in large part, depends on
the time of the year it's scheduled. If your party is planned around a
major holiday then give yourself a full month -- four weeks -- to pull it
You'll also need four weeks if you plan on renting any accessories or
equipment for the party too.
Otherwise, two weeks should suffice if your plans are less complicated.
The only time you can prepare for a party in a week is if it's a potluck
party, where everyone brings a dish to share. That takes quite a bit of
pressure off of you as the host.
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All the details I'm describing in this chapter may not apply to your
specific party. But you can sift through those that do. This gives you a
fair idea of when you need to begin taking care of these tasks.
Thinking . . . and planning two to four weeks ahead
The first thing you need to do is create a budget. You'll need a realistic
idea of how much you plan to spend. This is important. You'd hate to
come up three days prior to the party, realize you need an important
item only to discover you've spent all your money for the week.
A budget doesn't mean you have to be "cheap." It just means you
need to know how much you're planning on spending.
Your second task is to create a guest list. The size of it of course
depends on the type of party you're creating and the purpose of the
event as well.
So you know the type of party you're hosting. Now it's time to create a
guest list. The length of your guest list depends on the type of party
you host.
If you're hosting a dinner party in which all the guest sit at the same
table at the time, put quite a bit of thought into who you'll include.
Let's visualize the scene. Each of your guests is sitting at the table,
elbow to elbow from the serving of the appetizer and salad to the
dessert and coffee.
Now, you may think that if you invite all the brilliant conversationalists
you know, you'd have a great party. But if you do that, who would
Include both individuals who can start a conversation at the drop of a
hat, by all means. But also include an equal amount of good listeners
as well. This gives you a great blend of talkers and listeners
As you draw up your guest list, you'll naturally include individuals who
you find interesting. But you must also consider if your guests will find
them interesting as well. I know not all of my friends share my interest in
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
metaphysical topics, nor do all my friends even think internet
marketing is remotely interesting. So I wouldn't include these friends if
the bulk of my guest list is made of either group.
It's best to have a well rounded mix of guests, with interests and
backgrounds. If one of your guests think the person to her left is a bore
(being completely blunt about it) she can always turn to the right to
start a conversation with him.
The other quality of a good guest list is it incorporates both couples
and single individuals. After you create the list, check it again. If your
list only includes one single person amid a sea of married couples,
then cross him off the list. You don't want him to feel like awkward.
The "daring" guest list
When you're creating the guest list for either a cocktail party or a
buffet, you can be a bit more daring in your choices. In these
situations, don't be afraid to mix it up a bit. I've found that this is the
perfect setting to invite not only very old, trusted friends, but those
people I'd like to get to know better. Not only do I enjoy myself this
way, but those attending also seem to enjoy the diversity of interests.
Since no one is "trapped" sitting at a table next to the same people all
evening long -- like at a sit-down meal -- people can mingle with more
freedom to seek out those they find interesting.
Don't wait till the day of the party to realize that you may have trouble
juggling the duties of host . . . caterer . . . babysitter . . . and any of the
tasks that are involved in your style party.
Visualize your party, and think through all the real needs of the event
and be realistic. Don't be afraid to ask close friends and relatives to
help ahead of time. What's the worst that could happen? They may
find that they're not as busy as you anticipated them to be and they
can abandon their posts -- at least a portion of the individuals.
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So exactly what do you put into an invitation?
The format of an invitation is
basic -- even though they
may come in a variety of
shapes, sizes, and
through a variety of
media. A good invitation
supplies your guests with
everything they need to
know in order to come
on the right day, the right
time, baring the
essentials, and dressed
Having said that, here
are the major essential
aspects of any good
party invitation:
The purpose of the party.
Is it a birthday party? If
so, for whom?
Is it an anniversary party?
Or just a "let's-gettogether-to-have-fun"
The name of the honored
The name of the host
Date of party
But I live in an apartment . . .
I couldn't possibly entertain!
Oh, but that's just not so! Not by a long shot!
Don't let the fact that you're an apartment
dwelling stop you from the delight of entertaining.
You just have to scale down your guest list some
(and have more parties more often if you have a
lot of friend)s.
No matter what anyone else may tell you, no space
is really too small in which to do some
Let me give you just a few ideas of how to adjust
or scale down your plans from that of a person
lives in a house.
First, if you're planning to provide any type of
food, keep your menu simple. This can be said for
hors d'oeuvres of a cocktail to a sit-down dinner.
Consider buffet dining over a dinner party.
buffet offers more flexible seating options.
Give you and yourself more physical space by
pushing all of your furniture against the walls.
If you have a usable balcony that will hold people,
then encourage people to use this space,
Providing seating out there and use mood lighting
to draw individuals to sit and mingle.
Clear the clutter from every room your guests will
enter. This includes the kitchen. For the time
being, place as many appliances as possible in
cabinets or other hide-away areas.
Need extra seating, or even a second room? Why
not throw fabric over your bed, decorate it large
pillows and allow people to site and talk here?
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Location of party.
If you feel that some guests may not know how to get to the location,
then include a map. This may be especially critical if you have out-oftown guests.
Do they need to bring anything?
If it's a potluck event, for example, you need to request them to bring
something. With a potluck, it's an event just as the name implies. The
guests know that the meal will be really a matter of "luck," depending
on what everyone brings.
But if you want to eliminate some element of chance, you may want
to assign at least categories of food to guests. For example, you could
request a certain number of guests bring a dish that contains some
type of meat. This could function as an entrée.
You may want so many other guests to bring various salads, or other
side dishes and desserts.
But you know, much of the fun of a potluck, is just waiting to see what
shows up on the table. Chances are without even assigning
categories, you'll have a wide variety of food.
Also this would be the part of the invitation where you let them know if
it's a "BYOB" party -- Bring Your Own Bottle. If alcoholic beverages are
allowed on the premises, but you're not supplying them and you don't
mind people bring their own . . . let them know in this manner.
The theme
If the party has a theme, specify that.
How to dress
Give them some idea of what to wear. Tell them if it's an outdoor
picnic that shorts are acceptable. Informal? Jeans acceptable? In
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an earlier chapter we talked about what the difference are in formal
and informal attire for the more structured parties.
If it's a costume party, you should let them know, as well. If costumes
are optional, tell them this in the invitation as well.
The type of food being served.
Again, whether a lunch or supper will be supplied or whether cake
and ice cream are just going to be served. This allows the guests to
plan their meals. Some individuals may assume a meal will be served,
when in fact it won't. Imagine coming to a party with a hearty
appetite and only seeing snack foods!
Your contact information.
Include not only your telephone number, but your email address as
well. These days, getting in touch with a person takes several forms.
And for many people, zipping off an email is easier than placing a
Choose a location. Are you going to have the party at your home?
Or are you going to hold it at another location . . . in a local hall . . . in
a theme oriented location . . .
We've already talked about this is more detail in Chapter 1, when we
talk about different themes for parties. You may want to read that
portion of the chapter over again. This really is a piece of the
planning you want to have in place before you get too involved in the
detailed planning.
Another aspect you'll need to decide on two weeks ahead of time (or
four weeks depending on the time of the year) is a menu. You'll want
to choose appetizers, the entrée, all side dishes as well as desserts and
Send out invitations two weeks before the party. If the party is planned
near a major holiday, you'll want to give your guests four weeks
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Are you planning on cooking the meal yourself? Do as much as this
ahead of time. Right now, create a realistic timeline for the cooking.
Can you make something ahead of time and freeze it without
sacrificing quality? If you can then, by all means go ahead and do it.
Not only does this minimize your stress, it frees up valuable time you'll
need for other tasks as party day gets closer.
You'll be surprised at how planning in detail this one item alone can
take much of the worry out of the planning.
If the event is to be potluck and you're not creating the entire meal,
it's not too early to assign what guests are bring which dishes. There
are two reasons for this. First, you already know what to expect - and
they'll be no duplication in dishes. But beyond that it's a courtesy to
your guests.
Now if they wanted can plan ahead of time, they are now able make
the meal, freeze it and be worry free the day or two before their visit.
Don't wait to rent vital items!
This is also the time you order any rental items, like plates, cups, coffee
urns, chairs . . . need I go on?
This action is especially vital to take early if you're planning your party
during a major holiday. If you wait too long you may just find that the
items you had planned on aren't available on that date. Then you're
in real trouble.
Were you considering hiring temporary help for the kitchen, serving or
bartending for the party?
If you need to this time period -- two to four weeks prior to the event -would be the perfect time.
Two weeks before the party date
Your party is two weeks away. There are three steps you need to take
to help prepare you. First, if you're not renting any of the silverware or
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glasses or other serving pieces, now's the time to assess what you
You need to make sure you have enough of everything. If you don't,
you still have to seek out rentals or find friends or relatives who do.
If you're giving party favors to guests, this would be the time to start
assembling them. This is also the period in which you begin to put
together any party music, games you may be planning or any other
entertainment for the evening.
One week . . . and counting!
It's one week till party day . . . oh, but then who's counting? Oh, yes,
you're absolutely counting! Nervous? Ah, that's normal. But as long
as you've been preparing during this time period, you're going to be
You only have three tasks this week. The first is to review your menu
preparation timeline. Make sure you're on the mark with where you
thought you would be.
Do you need to play "catch up" with any the items? If you need to
make some portion of the meal and store it in the freezer, now's the
time to do it. If you wait any longer, you really run into a time crunch .
. . and a huge stressor.
Secondly, purchase your non-perishable items for the meals this week.
Not only that, but purchase anything you may need. Think any
candles you may want to use or if you need firewood or any
accessories for the party.
Now we have three days to go!
The party date is creeping up on you. Are you ready? Actually, you
really are. There should be just a few items left to do on list. If you
haven't done so already, and the party is being held at home,
complete cleaning your house. There may be a few things around
the house you'll save till the day before the event, but now would be a
good time to do the general clean up and scrubbing!
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Using your own silverware? If it's real silverware, this would be the
perfect time to polish it. If nothing else, it'll help relieve you of some of
that nervous energy!
Now, we're getting closer . . . and closer . . .
Two days to go!
The party is only two days away. You can do several diverse tasks to
get you feeling as if you have everything under control (because, yes,
basically you do!). Go ahead. Now's the perfect time to go buy your
fresh meats. Plug your digital camera in; get it charged up. (There's
nothing worse than thinking the batteries have enough life in them . . .)
If you still have some nervous energy you'd like to disperse, then check
out your wine glasses or other glassware. This is the perfect time to
give them a final wash.
Wow! Can you believe it?
One day to go!
'Twas the night before the party and all through the house, you can
hear the host pacing, irritating his spouse. (My apologies to Clement
Clarke Moore!)
It's the day before the big party. You're pacing like a caged animal.
Instead of wasting all that energy by worrying, why not prepare a few
things in advance?
Surprised? Did you really think that the muses of the party realm
wanted you to wait till the day of the party to do everything? Hey,
there are a quite a few tasks you can check off your list the day
before the party.
Below are just a few of those. If you can think any another else that
pertains specifically to your party, forge ahead with it. Anything -anything at all -- that lessens your anxiety on the big day should be
done a day ahead of time.
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If it's a sit-down dinner, set the table. This is just one less interruption
you'll have the day of the party itself.
Last minute housework. If you're hosting your party at your home,
complete everything that needs done in the way of housework the
day prior to the party. I have this recurring nightmare that I'd be in the
middle of cleaning on the big party day . . . get lost in time . . when
the door bell rings.
I answer it, apron on, scruffy clothes underneath, only to find I totally
lost track of time and my guests are already there.
Clean your refrigerator. What? Yeah, trust me on this one. Clear it of
all the old stuff. This is done for two reasons. First, if your fridge looks
anything like mine, it's a disaster. You'll be able to actually find the
food you buy for the party -- and get to it easily.
And if your fridge is anything like mine, you just may have a few things
dying way back there in a dark corner. It would be embarrassing to
have someone else find it --- or smell it!
Now, you have room to do go shopping for all the perishable foods
you'll need for tomorrow. Again, why rush around on party day,
worried about the time, when you can finish your shopping the day
before with a little less pressure.
If you're really pressed for time and you have this option, buy your
groceries online and have them delivered. Now you don't even have
to leave your home!
Another task you can perform the day prior to the party is to wash all
your salad greens and herbs in cold water. Shake these dry then
simply place them into polythene bags and refrigerate them. This
keeps them fresh and crisp for about 24 hours.
Now here's an eye opening suggestion for you. Depending on the
menu items you've chosen, you may even be able to do the bulk of
the cooking and preparation the day before the party as well.
You do want to be careful in performing this task, however. The last
thing you want to do is compromise the quality of your foods. But if
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you know without a doubt that cooking a specific item ahead of time
will not affect its taste, go right ahead. Remember to do everything
and anything that will take the pressure off of you the day of the party.
Go to the grocery store or farmer's market to buy your fresh produce.
Planning on using flowers? Today would be the day to buy them and
arrange them.
Go ahead! I see you're dying to do it. Run that sweeper on more
time! You'll also want to take out that dust cloth one more time.
Make time to go through all the bathrooms to make sure you're well
stocked in everything your guests may need.
It's here!
Party Day!
Yes, it's finally here. So where do you start with your tasks. Well, today
you run to the fish market to buy your fresh seafood. You also take
delivery of any rental items you may need.
Buy any ice you'll need for the event, chill your beer supply and any
wines that need it. Make the punch if you're having some.
Don't forget to garnish those party trays with fresh herbs, edible flowers
and any fruit you'd intended. And put any "finishing touches" you may
need on the decorations.
Wow! See why you need to keep on task during the two weeks
before the party? With everything you did the weeks leading up to
this day, you still have a full day today!
Now, if you can get your spouse or children to do some of the running
. . . pick up the rental items or buy the ice . . . by all means have them
do these things. It'll save you time and stress!
Now, eat something light quickly. Take a shower, get dressed . . . put
some music on and start having a great time!
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General Tips On Creating the Perfect Party!
One of the most important aspects of any party -- and this just doesn't
pertain to adult parties -- is ensuring there's enough room in your house
to accommodate all of your guests.
Take a good look at the room or rooms you plan to host this event in.
Realistic survey them, imagining them filled with the number of people
you're planning on having.
Now ask yourself what needs to be done to ensure there's room for
everyone. If you think you need the room, don't be afraid to move
some of the larger pieces of furniture. Place this on your checklist.
Then place a few names of trusted friends you can count on to help
you accomplish this.
And don't wait till the last minute to ask them. Give them ample
warning. Ask them well in advance if they would consider helping. If
they agree, then tell them you'll call them or reminder them several
days before you actually want the furniture move.
This isn't because you're afraid they'll try to back out. It's just a courtesy
to remind them. It also gives you another chance to thank them for
their help.
But don't leave this furniture moving for the day of the party. I don't
care how good of a housekeeper you are, you're going to find plenty
of surprises under that furniture, from dust bunnies to lost change to
discarded and lost cheese puffs . . . and more!
Move the furniture . . .
But keep the warmth!
I'd just like to interject one precautionary note. Some people move
the heavy furniture out of the way and also other, family oriented,
decorating items as well. When they do this, they practically strip their
house of any personality and warmth.
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If you do this, you might as well hold the party in a banquet hall. Part
of the charm and success of a party is the venue. And a home's nice
added personal touches may help to make the party successful.
And now consider the outside of the house . . .
Yes, that's right! And I'm not just talking about cutting grass or pruning
hedges. I'm talking about ensuring your guests can find the house. In
making your house stand out, so to speak, you can also begin the
welcoming process!
On the evening of the party, ensure that your house is well lit. This
suggestion applies not only your doorstep or front porch or whatever
door the guests enter through, but the walkway itself. A great and
easy way to do this, if the walkway isn't already lighted is to use
luminaries light.
If you have columns near your front door, string white lights around
them. This adds a little festivity to your party. It also says that your
guests are special enough to be treated to such decorating.
If you don't have columns, but railings, string the lights here.
Parking issues . . .
Don't need to be issues at all!
And while you're looking around outside with an eye to the party, just
where do expect your guests to park? It's doubtful whether the
driveway will hold all the cars.
Will it be alright if they park in your yard? Let them know ahead of
time. If parking on the street is allowed, then just be sure you inform
your neighbors, it's only a courtesy. Perhaps one or two of them may
even offer their driveways for parking.
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Enter! Enter!
There's nothing more awkward than entering a home, having a coat
and not knowing what to do with it. Why not place a coat rack in the
hallway or entrance on party day?
If you normally don't have one here, move one from another room. If
you have move something to make it fit, that's alright. It's well worth
the movement to make your guests feel at ease upon entering. An
awkward moment here can easily carry over to the rest of the
evening. And a party . . . well, it's all about enjoying yourself.
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Chapter 3:
Feeding Your Guests
Sit down dinner (how do I handle that? Which fork is for
what?), buffet or hors d'oeuvres, planning the actual food
and making sure you have enough. It doesn't matter
whether it's a pizza party or a sit down formal dinner for 15 -the planning and prep are the same!
o, you're really not feeding an army. You're just a little
overwhelmed right now at the thought of feeding anyone past
yourself and your family. And that's to be expected.
If you're not a professional caterer -- or born with professional caterer
genes -- it's difficult to gauge the amount of food a group of 10, 15, 20
or more will eat. Heck, sometimes it's difficult even for the professionals
to do it with any type of accuracy.
Of course, your initial thoughts pop up as fears, I know mine did when I
realized that part of party planning was . . . well, party eating. How
could I possibly tell how much one person would eat? And then a
man's portion of food differed from a woman's . . . a 85-year-old
portion differed from a 25-year-old's.
Well, you can see right there the mess I "thought" myself into!
I'm here to tell you that planning the "meal" portion of your party is
easy. Much easier than you'd ever imagine.
Let me clue you in on a few insights of meal-planning for adult parties
first. These affairs fall into three distinct categories:
Cocktail Party
Sit-Down Dinner Party
Buffet Style
The names of each of these accurately sum up the type of food you'll
be serving. But we'll delve a little deeper into each. And while we're
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at we'll just mention how to create an environment conducive to
making everyone comfortable.
First, the cocktail party . . .
Now, let's get down to your real concern, feeding the folks. The
cocktail party, by definition, limits the food served to hors d'oeuvres
only. These can be as simple -- or as elaborate -- as you care to serve.
And the real advantage of a cocktail party, when it comes to the
menu, is that it really can be fun! You aren't serving one main meal -but only a wide variety of finger foods. This means you can set out a
selection of items. And even try a few "experiments" and still have
plenty of conventional, "safe" food to satisfy everyone.
Your first goal in menu planning is to incorporate a variety of foods in
your selection. You're obviously going to plan a few different meats,
but also seafood.
Plan on serving finger foods, as well as some canapés and even
consider several hot and cold dishes.
Candies or mints are not typically part of the cocktail party menu, you
may want to bring several dishes of candy out towards the end of the
party. This signals to your guests that the event will be wrapping up
soon (See how much confidence I have in you. I'm sure you're guests
are going to linger because they're enjoying themselves!).
So just how do you decide how much food to present? There's
actually an easy guideline. Plan on serving about six bites per person,
per hour for a two hour party.
I see you looking at those dips. What in the world is a bite? For those
dips and cheeses you're serving, one ounce is usually considered "one
So, if you're hosting a cocktail party for 10 people and it's scheduled
for two hours, then you can plan on serving 120 hors d'oeuvres.
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How much alcohol should I buy?
Here's another basic consideration of party planning. And it puzzles,
sometimes, even veteran hosts. But there are a few guidelines to help
you develop an accurate estimate of that you'll need.
Your first consideration is the time of day of the party. A cocktail party
held in the evening hours between 5 and 6 p.m. requires more liquor
than a similar event than an early afternoon party.
Secondly, take into account the type of alcohol the guests drink. If
you associate with a group of budding wine connoisseurs, then you'll
emphasize the wine.
If your friends prefer beer over anything else, then you'll be stocking up
more on beer.
But always be sure to have at least a little of each category for
varying tastes - and the inevitably person who decides to drink
something different for a change of pace.
Calculating the amount
Gauging the amount of liquor again falls into one of those
mathematical algorithms or formulas. Assume that for the first hour of
the party, each guest drinks two servings. Then for every hour after
plan on one drink per person.
Going back to our 10-person, two hour cocktail party. You'll want to
estimate 20 drinks for the first hour (2 drinks for the 10 guests) plus
another 10 for the second hour. That makes a total of 30 drinks.
Again, I can see the concern in your eyes. You're thinking specifically
about your Uncle George, who can down a six pack of beer in less
time than it takes to tie his shoes in the morning.
But then again, consider your other guests, especially your co-worker.
She really doesn't drink. She may have one -- two drinks at most. So it
should all balance out.
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But, if you're really worried, take another hard look at your guest list. If
you feel that this estimate won't be enough, then have a little more
alcohol on hand – it’s not as if a lot of it is going to go bad on you. Just
remember though, the point of the party is to mingle and talk. No one
should be sitting down, drinking like the government is re-establishing
Prohibition tomorrow.
And now I know what your next question is, too. So how many drinks
can I get out of that bottle of scotch? And for that answer, I've simply
supplied you with a chart. It covers all the major categories of drink.
You should be able to estimate your needs.
Type of
Whiskey, Rum,
Scotch, etc.
Serving Size
Number of
(760ml=25.4 oz.
1.5L=50.7 oz
5 oz
5 oz.
4 oz
4 oz
1.5 oz jigger
1.75L=59.2 oz
½ keg
¼ Keg
1/5 Keg
1.5 oz jigger
12 oz
12 oz
12 oz
At a loss for what type of alcohol to serve?
Don't be shy! If you get the opportunity, ask some of your guests
beforehand what their favorite drinks are. This way you'll be sure to
have them on hand.
As a general rule of thumb, light wines, wine spritzers fruit flavored
frozen drinks and Champagne go well with a brunch or luncheon. If
your party is later in the day -- like the early evening -- then you can
serve a wider variety of drinks.
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Do mixed drinks make you dizzy? No, not necessarily when you drink
them, but the thought of preparing them. If you have a friend who
knows his way around a bar, you may want to ask him to be the
bartender for the event. If not, and you really don't have a clue . . .
don't hesitate to hire a professional bartender. It really won't cost as
much as you think.
The sit-down dinner.
Nothing could be more intimidating for some people than hosting a
sit- down dinner. It appears as if there are so many rules and
regulations. First, take a deep breath. We'll get you through this. And
there are really not as many "laws" about this as you may guess.
Even before we cover those etiquette laws, let's talk some about what
food you're planning on serving at your party. Of course, you need to
take into consideration the entire atmosphere you're about to create
with your party.
What you serve . . .
And the number of guests you invite.
Let's talk first about the number of guests you've invited. Believe it or
not, this does influence the type of food you serve. If you're inviting,
let's say, a large group of people, you really don't want to choose an
elaborate menu. The simpler the better. You do realize some of the
most wonderful tasting meals are the simplest?
A great example of this was a dinner party hosted by a friend of mine.
She thought it would be awesome to create some Chinese dumplings.
So she rolled and filled these things . . . and rolled and filled . . . and
rolled and filled.
The bottom line is that she had a wonderful idea if she had kept her
guest list to six or under. But she had an expanded guest list. Her "fun
and funky" idea as she originally called it turned into a nightmare.
It's much better to keep the menu simple and delicious than elaborate
and mediocre!
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Pizza Planning
for a Teen Party
"I can't go wrong with pizza," you told yourself at the beginning of the
planning process.
Your son is turning 16 and you're throwing him a birthday party. But
now, you're having second thoughts about this pizza bash.
Just how much pizza do I order, you're asking yourself.
Plan on four slices per person. Yes, four slices. Teenage boys have big
appetites. And when it comes to pizza, even teenage girls give in to the
temptation of that extra piece of two . . .
Remember though that pizza is one of those wonderful foods that can
sit around all evening long and teens just naturally pick up another
piece as long as another piece is there.
So, if they don't eat all four pieces per person at one time, rest assured
what appeared to be a mound of pizza will slowly (or not so slowly)
dwindle as the party continues on through the evening.
There are two rules I live by when giving a party for teens:
1. You can never, ever go wrong ordering pizza as the main meal.
2. You can never, ever order too much pizza.
By the way, is it an overnight party for teens? Any leftover pizza will
naturally become the morning after's breakfast, guaranteed.
What? Food talks?
In a way, yes, food does talk. The food you serve sets the tone in
many ways for the party. What is the purpose of your party? Is to
impress work colleagues or potential clients?
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Or are you throwing an informal gathering for a few close friends?
Whether you realize it or not, you'll instinctively select different menus
for these two parties.
You're far more likely to try a new meal out on a group of close friends.
If the menu doesn't work out well, you all have something to talk
about -- and laugh over -- for years to come.
Trying something a little more daring in a menu (if you're preparing it
yourself) when you're entertaining potential clients may only
contribute to you losing a contract!
Do your menu ideas fit your space?
Let's put it this way, you live in a small apartment with a small dining
room. You're packing people side by side as they sit by your pint-size
dining room table. This is not the time to present a 9 course Dickensstyle English Christmas. Where in the world would you put the food?
It would be much better to go with a simpler themed party, one that
doesn't require a lot of room for food!
How much are you willing -- or can you -- spend?
Ah, yes, it does occasionally come down to this, cost! Don't plan on
an elaborate meal if your pocketbook can't follow through with it.
Rather keep it simple and delicious -- and inexpensive.
And while this may seem obvious, it's really all too easy to get "overambitious" when you start planning your menu.
Let's start the sit-down dinner off by making sure the guest of honor is
properly seated. The host, that's you, is always seated to the right of
the guest of honor. And the guest of honor is always, always served
There, no that part wasn't so bad, was it? Beyond that, it's also pretty
simple to remember. Once you have the guest of honor served his
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meal, the serving continues with the person on his left being served
next. This means the host inevitably is served last.
Food should be served from the left of the guest and cleared from the
right of the guest.
If there are less than eight people involved in the party sitting
together, no one eats until the host gets served. If, however, the
number at the table is rather large, guests may begin eating after four
or five of them have been served.
Before serving dessert, all dinner, salad and butter plates should be
removed, as should the salt and pepper shakers and condiment
The dessert plate should already include a dessert fork when it's being
served. And the fork should be on the left of the plate. If the dessert
requires a spoon, this accompanies the dessert plate on the right side.
But as you well know, food is only a portion of the elements being
served at a dinner party. Many of these events also serve alcoholic
beverages. Now, before you go screaming out of the room because
you're party-planning brain is on overload, simply read below.
This will give you some control over the situation, guaranteed!
What alcoholic beverages to serve
at a sit-down dinner?
Now here's where you get your chance to serve some wines and
liqueurs. By the way, a liqueur is not a fancy pronunciation and
spelling of liquor (okay, so I once thought that). I'm sure you're aware
that a liqueur is a distilled alcoholic beverage to which a sweetener
and one or more aromatic flavorings have been added. Some of the
more popular of these flavorings are peach, coffee, cocoa, almond
and orange.
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Chapter 4:
Being the Perfect Host
So much more than meets the eye! From the moment your
guests walk through the door to the moment they leave -and even before the party starts, being a host is more than
just opening your house up for people to drop by!
h, yes! As you're about to find out being the perfect host of
your party involves more -- much more -- than merely laying
out the table with food, providing your guests with a few
drinks, then crossing your fingers and hoping it all turns out well.
If it were that easy, you'd see many more people hosting events.
But even at that, it's not really as difficult as some people would have
you believe. There are really no ground rules . . . just lots of
Pre-party duties
What? My duties begin even before the people walk through the
Of course. In many ways every step you take in planning your party is
a "pre-party" host duty. And from what I've seen you're coming along
just fine. We'll just touch on a few more "pre-party" duties. Before you
know it, you'll be waiting for those guests to be ringing your doorbell.
If you have just about everything in place when the guests arrive,
you're definitely already adopting "the perfect host" syndrome.
Above and beyond any other duty, it's your duty to have a good time.
If you don't enjoy yourself at your own party, there's no way you can
expect anyone else to.
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So just loosen up and enjoy the moment. Don't worry if you make a
slight faux pas here and there. Most of your guests will never notice it.
They'll notice, however, whether you're enjoying yourself. They're also
notice if you're nervous or on edge. And those emotions will ripple
through the party faster than you can say "Let's skip a stone on the
You, as host, are in a very fundamental way the "decider" of the
mood. If you've never hosted an event before, you're about to find
out how your mood affects your party.
Do you need a co-host?
Don't blaze that party trail alone. Really! Don't even hesitate to
include a co-host or two . . . or three . . . depending on the size of your
party or the amount of time you have in a day.
It may be somebody as obvious as your husband, or boyfriend. Or
you may enlist the services of your best friend. I'd suggest you garner
the services of your mother (as I recently heard one party planning
expert suggest) but that sounds like an explosion waiting to happen to
me. Use your judgment on that one. And good luck!
If you're going to ask someone help you plan then search for someone
to complement your talents. If you're not good with details, then
choose someone who is.
If you're not familiar with the etiquette of a dinner party, think about
asking for help from someone experienced in that area.
Another pre-party task is to know about your guests before they walk
through your door. Now, granted, you're going to know a lot about
those guests who are already your friends. But, there are going to be
some you may not be too sure about.
And to be a good host, know ahead of time some things about your
guests you may not have known -- like their favorite drinks, their
favorite snacks . . . even their likes and dislikes at the dinner table.
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It's difficult to plan a menu that pleases everyone one-hundred
percent. However, let's say, you know that Bill, who's attending just
hates chicken -- and you're serving chicken. You can graciously add
one of his favorite side dishes so that he can eat more of that than the
Or you may want to offer a second alternative of a beef roast and
have your guests choose. This may mean a little more work, but if you
know ahead of time who would like want, the actual preparation is
fairly easy.
Is there a vegan in the house? If one or two of your guests are vegans
-- that is, vegetarians in the strictest sense -- then make
accommodations for them at the meal. You may make sure that one
of the side dishes is a hearty meatless casserole, so they can leave the
table just as satisfied as the meat-eaters.
Speaking of guests . . .
All the great hosts seem to have a talent and a gift for creating the
perfect guest list. Creating just the right mix of people is the backbone
of any great party.
And how do you exactly go about doing this?
For starters, think about all aspects of your guests. For example, don't
invite one lone unmarried single person if the everyone else is coming
as married couples or serious romantic couples.
Try to keep the mix of married and unmarried relative stable. The same
with the mix of men and women. If you have one lone gentleman on
your guest list surrounded by women, he may feel uncomfortable.
On the other hand, don't plan the invitation list with "matchmaking" in
mind. First, most people don't like to be placed on the spot like that.
Secondly, it can be embarrassing -- for you and your guests -- if the
atmosphere of the party is that of an evening of speed dating.
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In the perfect party world . . .
You're going to be totally prepared, hand on the doorknob waiting for
the bell to ring forty-five minutes to an hour before the start of the
party. Any professional party planner will tell you that.
Let me tell you that's in the abstract party world. Reality has a way of
hitting a host square in the time-warp continuum. You'll be dressed
alright -- because I've already told you about my recurring nightmare.
But guaranteed, there will be some small task or two (okay maybe
three or four) that you have yet to take care of.
So when the first guest rings that bell and you're looking for a way to
break the ice . . . well, have him or her do just that. He can fill the ice
bucket for the bar or other small duties.
This serves two essential tasks. The first is that it helps to make your first
guest feel more at home and comfortable. And it relieves you of
some of those duties you just didn't get to yet.
And on my part it has served as a nice transition from your pre-host
duties to your hosting duties.
Let the party begin . . .
As guest begin to file in, be sure not only to greet them warmly but to
offer them drinks, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. Anything you can do
at the very beginning to make them feel more comfortable will help to
ensure that continued feeling as the evening goes on.
Some hosts go so far as to have a tray of drinks ready for his guests
when he answers the door. This might be a bit much. It might be a
nice touch if it were summer. But it could become a bit of a
balancing act for all in the winter time. The first thing most guests want
to do is to take their coats off.
You may want to have a "junior host" in charge of coats. If you don't
have coat rack large enough to hold all the guests outerwear, seek
out a pre-teen volunteer who can collect the shedded coats as the
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party-goers take them off at the door. She or he can then directly to
a bedroom and place them gently on a bed.
Of course, there's no need to tell the perfect host that you are, that a
few introductions to other guests should be issued upon the arrival of
new ones. Don't force the newly met folks into a strained
conversation, but a quick introduction is great.
If you happen to know that they work in similar industries or share
similar hobbies that could kick off a conversation naturally, then by all
means mention this shared interest. Let them take it from there. It
could provide hours of conversation, but at the very least it serves as
an ice breaker.
Don't hide in the kitchen!
And if you think that the perfect host spends all his time in the kitchen
or behind the scenes "hiding" (you know exactly who you are and
what I mean) you're wrong . . . dead wrong. And that's the type of
party you'll end up with a dead one.
Get out there and mix and mingle with the best of them! Make it your
goal to talk to each and every guest. The more you move from
conversation to conversation, the more your guests will mingle as well.
If you feel as if you're going to be at a total loss of how to break the
ice with your guests, then use what I call "cheaters." These are small
manufactured devises created especially to stimulate guests to walk
around some or to spur conversation.
What do I mean?
Start with small disposable cameras. Ask the guests to take pictures as
the evening goes on. Then when they've finished a camera, have
them place it in a basket already designated as the "used camera
You can then get these developed and placed on line. Your guests
will have a great time taking the pictures and enjoy looking at the
pictures after the event.
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Another cheater helps to stimulate conversation at the dinner table.
This is especially helpful if you have a list of guests who may not know
each other very well. There are several such tricks out on the market,
but the one I've used for years and years is called "Table Topics."
These are cards that feature fun, topic-provoking questions. And yes,
they really do work. I was worried that they would be lame. But they
have produced some of the most sparkling, engaging conversations
at the dinner parties I've hosted.
As the evening continues, be aware of the small gestures you can
make to help your guests feel more comfortable. If the weather turns
chilly for example and everyone is on the patio offer warm socks for
those who are wearing sandals. You may also offer those are chilly a
light jacket or sweater.
You've seen it happen, I'm sure. The party that starts out great and
then somehow blows up into a total disaster. It leaves everyone
standing around how something that started out so wonderful can
end with such misery.
It doesn't take much
To ruin a party!
The truth of the matter is that parties, by their very nature, I suppose,
bring out both the worst in some people and the best in others. It
takes only one single individual to ruin a party. And it doesn't take
much. A bad conversation. Drinking too much. Or just a rudeness or
bluntness not suited to the scenario.
As a host, though, you can do your best not only to smooth this over if
you see it occurring, but actually try to avoid these types of situations
in the first place. And you don't even have to don your cape to
become super-host to do it!
Again, the key is to think and plan ahead. Don't play ostrich and
assume that these types of things would never happen at your party.
Don't assume your friends or relatives would ever create a scene or
spoil the moment.
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Granted, your good friends and your most cherished relatives
probably would never purposely do this. But there are times, when
we're all driven beyond our breaking points. And if we've already had
a couple of drinks in us . . . It makes it all the more likely for this to
Part of this, of course, can be avoided by simply taking another good
hard look at the guest list before sending out the invitations. Don't
allow anyone to pressure you into inviting Uncle George if your gut is
telling you his drinking may get out of hand.
Don't invited Jenny and Bill both knowing that they just went through a
messy break-up and plates were literally whizzing past them during an
Don't know about some of the other people on the guest list? Don't
be shy in asking around prior to the party. You may feel like a private
detective, but a few minutes of questioning here and there may be
exactly what saves your party from turning into a World Wrestling
Entertainment event!
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Chapter 5:
Party Progression:
Let's Keep This Party Moving
The key to a great party is ensuring that it "travels" from one
planned event to the other -- in a timely manner. This
includes getting every one to the dinner table if it's a sit
down dinner. It means ending one planned event and
moving to the next smoothly. This is critical to keep your
guests entertained.
ne of the major duties -- or you could call it privileges -- of
hosting a party is that of "traffic manager." That takes the
description of host to a mundane level but it does effectively
describe what's required of a good event: that it doesn't get stuck in
a traffic jam with no way of escaping.
If you've ever attended a party where the participants can't get past
the talking portion and into the dining room for dinner -- or maybe just
two or three -- then you know exactly what I mean. It can be a host's
Don't let this happen to you. You need to put your "Officer Friendly"
uniform on and keep the flow of traffic traveling at the speed limit with
no jams.
What's all this talk about
"progression" mean, anyway?
And this isn't as difficult as you might think. There's even a name for it.
It's called "party progression." When an individual talks about a party's
progression, he's usually referring to the fact that the party takes place
in various venues. Rather it progresses from one location to another.
And that doesn't mean it roams throughout town (although some
events, called "progressive dinners" do exactly this. They move from
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one person's home to another for the various courses!). The
movement could be as simple as pre-dinner drinks in your living room,
to dinner in your dinner room and dessert on your patio.
And this is very effective "trick" of party planning. Because your guests
must move, it makes a natural transition. But beyond that, such a
transition adds interest to the party.
A sense of anticipation builds as the guests travel from one place to
another. And if you can manage to get different individuals meeting
and mingling a different set of people with each venue . . . well,
you've got a real winner of a party.
Coaxing your guests to move
Here's a quick overview of how you can carry this off with ease.
As your guests arrive, direct them to the room in which the drinks are
being served. This venue can be designed for a "cocktail party" as
well. As you recall, a cocktail party either has enough room for all to
sit or have enough people standing that they don't feel awkward
doing so.
You may have some soft music playing in the background. Make a
few appetizers and hors d'oeuvres available for your guests as well.
As the time approaches to serve the main meal, gently invite your
guests into the next venue. This may be the dining room. But
depending on the size of your various rooms, you may have
converted your living room into the dining area for the evening.
Some people prefer to use the patio for this purpose as well. This works
especially well if it's warm outside. Guests can linger on the patio until
it gets chilly.
And then you can bring them inside for dessert, coffee and afterdinner drinks. Or if you prefer, you can serve the main meal inside and
adjourn outside to the patio lit by some party lights or tiki lights.
Do you see how easy it is keep the party moving? It's really quite
simple. And with each move, may naturally strike up a conversation
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with a different guest --- hopefully someone they don't know quite that
well . . . yet.
Tap the talents of your guests
One way of keeping boredom away and the party flowing is by
tapping the natural talents of your guests. Of course, in no way do
you want to put them on the "spot," making them feel uncomfortable.
But asking a guest to play the piano a little or another to sing, can be
a great way to raise the excitement level of a party that seems as if it's
a little flat.
You know your guests, so don't be afraid to ask them even before the
date of the party, if they would be willing to jump in to help save it
with their expertise.
I've seen this principle in action when there was just a group of four of
us gathered together. My friend and I went to visit a married couple.
He noticed their piano, and asked permission to play (because he just
can't keep his hands off a piano -- and he is good). The next thing I
knew our one friend was sitting next to him singing.
From there, the conversation went to pianists and composers. One of
our hosts jumped up and out of the room to bring out some old
records. The evening took a wonderful and quite unexpected turn
simply because of that single act.
Sometimes taking control of the traffic flow means entertaining when
the "red light" prior to dinner lasts a little longer than you thought.
The big event.
Okay, this may sound a bit corny, but believe me, it works. Every party
really needs at least one event that draws a focal point for the group.
You may want to plan a game or a contest. In some cases, it may be
the act of toasting the guest of honor. Some parties have "The Dance"
that creates the focus.
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If you plan this, then helps to keep the party moving, mixing and keep
everybody having fun.
Plan on implementing at least one of these events. But in addition,
you may also want to have several more as back up plans. If your
original idea doesn't work as you hoped, you can always fall back on
plan be.
For example, have a trivia board game on the coffee table -something even as simple as an old Trivial Pursuit game. If any of your
guests are like me, they really don't need to actually play the board
game aspect. They'll open the box, dive right into the questions and
start asking.
You never know what guests will be attracted when they hear certain
questions. And you'll never know where that may take the next turn of
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Chapter 6:
Party Planning On A Budget
Only a Trump could afford not to work from a budget -- and
he wouldn't dare do it. Everyone has some budget -- the
trick is to make your party appear as if you spared no
expense. We'll show you how.
es, you can afford to throw a party! And you can do it within
your economic means. And don't think that because you are
on a budget that your fun needs to take a back seat.
That is the farthest thing from the truth. There are lots of way to create
a party on a shoestring -- and still make your guests feel like a million
But if you really do feel as if you can't afford what you'd like to do, find
a "cohort in crime." By this, I mean enlist a help of a partner who may
want to split the cost with you. Or perhaps you can split up duties and
location and items like that.
You may play host at your house if she buys the alcohol or if she
furnishes the main meal. You get the general idea. This also takes
some of the stress that naturally goes with planning off of you.
If you don't want to share the costs, it's still possible to throw a great
party with minimal cost.
You need to create a budget
before you can stick with a budget!
Your first step is to determine how much money you realistically have
available to spend on your party. That one fact, may determine many
aspects of your future get together. It could either dictate the size of
the guest list or the items on your menu.
Either way, don't panic. You can always create a theme to work
around either. For example, if you'd like to throw an old fashioned
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barbeque party, several years ago, you might have thought "steak" on
the grill.
Well, tell me what's wrong with hot dogs and hamburgers? Give it a
gold old fashioned 50s theme and not a single guest will ever know
your first impulse was to buy steaks.
From hot dogs and hamburgers, the dessert idea comes easily enough
-- watermelon. Now, we're not talking a lot of money here -- and it
sounds like great fun.
But let's just say, you want a bit more food than that. Then go that
extra "1950s" step and ask everyone to bring something. Once a
person is invited to a picnic, she inevitably offers to bring something.
You may ask one person to bring potato or macaronic salad, another
couple of people to bring a single bag of potato chips, and even
another two or three to bring some bottles of soda.
Before you know it, your entire menu is laid out and ready to eat and
you've only really had the expense of the hot dogs and hamburgers!
Become a wise shopper
It's to wise up! When shopping for your party on a budget, become a
wise shopper. Develop your budget limit. Vow not to go over it. Then
go out to fulfill your vow -- and create a memorable party.
Your first step is to "comparison" shop. This is especially true when it
comes to any decorations you may need or those bags of potato
chips and other snacks for the party.
Don't be afraid to walk into those "dollar stores" to take a good look
around. These places may be your budget-saving places when it
comes to snack food, mixed nuts and even party decorations.
You'll be surprised at some of the items dollar stores stock these days -and you'll be delighted with some of the prices. But be careful,
because not all of the prices are the bargain you think they are.
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Resist the impulse to "impulse shop"
It happens to the best of us. We're looking for one item, and then we
see it. That one item that would just top off the plans of your party
beautifully. It's as if fate brought you to this very moment to discover
this product. Your party just wouldn't be the same without it.
Whoa! Before you buy it, ask yourself this question: is it on my list?
Then take it one step further: If a don't buy it, who but me will really be
aware that it's missing from the party.
If you feel that this particular catches your imagination . . . then shop
around (even internet shopping at first!) to see if you can buy it
elsewhere for less. It's highly unlikely that this is the only store in your
area that carries this "must-have" item. Chances are you'll run into it
again -- and even at a better price.
You can save on some things . . .
but not on others
And one of the "others" you should never try to cut big, humongous
corners on is your food. Obviously, you're going to shop around the
major grocery stores to get the best price . . . to snatch food up while
it's on sale . . .even freeze it if you can (You are going to do these
things, aren't you?). Don't go to either a dollar store or even these
very deep discount grocery stores for you food.
The dollar store prices are super cheap for a reason. Even the brand
name items in food may not be exactly what you think you're buying.
The bottom line is simply this: the origin of the food they carry may be
Let me give you an example. I was hungry for those overly processed,
package food items called Hot Pockets. Yes, I know that they aren't
good for me. But now and then I harken back to when my daughter
was younger and ate them morning, noon and night.
So I found a package of my favorite kind in a dollar store. It appeared
to be a good price. I prepared it. And thought I was going to eat it. I
even checked the expiration date before I prepared it. It was
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definitely not of the same quality as what comes out of a grocery
store. How could this be? That would take up the contents of an
other book entirely.
Some very deep discounted grocery stores go so far as to sell food
that has already expired. Before you buy any food at a place like
that, check the expiration date. If the date has come and pass, say
"pass" yourself on the item.
Don't save on those very important points
Think of it as a reward system. If you've bought your party favors, your
decorations and other items diligently and saved yourself money,
But now, you're down to a few bare elements you've waited to buy.
And let's say for example, they revolve around the guest of honor. Let's
say you're throwing a 30th birthday party for a dear friend who loves
chocolate cakes.
Well, you're not about to buy a cheap, less than delicious chocolate
cake are you? Of course not. And here is where all your saving,
scrimping and careful shopping has finally paid off. Now, go out
there, without fear of guilt -- or impact of budget -- and buy his
favorite cake . . . the best tasting cake you can find. Oh, yeah! Life is
And as the guest of honor with his favorite cake sitting in front of him,
even if he did notice you scrimped on a few things (which is even
doubtful!) he'll never forget that party because you were thoughtful
enough to present him with the very best of . . . chocolate cake.
What about just borrowing something?
Why not? This might be a great money-saving idea. This is also an
excellent way to save on rental costs. Instead of renting chairs, why
not just borrow a few from neighbors, families and friends? That trims
your budget nicely. And if the truth be known, your friends and family
are happy to help.
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If you're a member of a church, you may find your church has a policy
about loaning certain items out to members.
Creating your own?
Now, here's a novel idea these days. And before you tell me that you
have absolutely no creative talent, stop. Because quite frankly my
dear I don't give a darn. I'm going to forge ahead with this section
Ever consider instead of buying your invitations, making them yourself.
Sure you could print them out on your computer, but why not make
them so they look "homemade."
That's right! Let me tell you exactly what I mean. A friend of mine was
throwing a moving party. Since her husband was a minister, they had
moved several times in their lives. So the process of packing up
everything and labeling it on brown boxes was standard operating
She took that idea to heart and created "homemade" invitations.
Plain brown paper -- like butcher paper -- became the invitation. She
simply tore -- yes tore -- pieces and wrote the essentials of any good
invitation on them. And she wrote them with a black "Sharpie"
permanent pen. Just as she would be labeling her boxes.
Economical? Yes. Creative? Indeed. Budget minded! Absolutely.
And those invitations ended up to be what everyone at the party was
talking about! And it didn't take one ounce of talent to do! Just a
little thinking out of the (moving) box.
You can do the same with just about any aspect of your party,
depending on your theme, location and type of food you're serving!
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Chapter 7:
Top 10 Theme Ideas
Theme parties aren’t just for a child’s birthday party,
anymore. The best excuse for a no-reason party is a theme
party. Don’t think you can handle one? Think again!
So, you want to throw a theme party. Or, you want to throw a party
but don’t have an excuse. Or maybe you’re just intrigued about the
idea of a theme party that’s not for an 8 year old. Aren’t we all?
A theme party does take a bit more planning than your average gettogether, but it can certainly be a huge amount of fun. It’s not the
type of party that your guests are going to forget about in the coming
weeks, either!
Here’s our Top Ten list of Themes, and a few ideas for each of them.
The best advice with a theme party is really to let your imagination go
wild. You never know – if your friends think that it’s a huge success,
maybe you’ll be hosting a different theme each month!
10. Hollywood Party
Ah, the glamour. The lifestyle. Hollywood at its finest can be in your
very living room! Hosting a Hollywood themed party is a lot of fun, and
it’s something that your guests are probably pretty opinionated on.
If you’re not sure what to do, focus on a trivia game that will put your
skills of either classic Hollywood, or today’s stars, to the test.
Champagne in traditional, long stemmed glasses is a must for the rich
and famous – and if your friends are really adventurous, go one step
further and suggest everyone come as their favorite Hollywood star.
9. Beach Party
It doesn’t matter if you’re near the beach or relaxing at home – or if
it’s 90 degrees out or 9. A beach party can be a lot of fun, and a
great way to relax.
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Serve tropical drinks with colorful garnishes, and bright hors d’oeuvres
that are full of color and flavor. If it’s cold out, it’s okay – turn up the
heat in the house and encourage people to bring out colorful summer
clothes. You can even pick up beach themed decorations on the
cheap because it’s off-season.
8. Casino Party
This is an excellent idea for anyone who loves to gamble, and wants
to enjoy himself with a larger number of friends – or even just a few.
Set up several tables either indoors or outside (Be careful if it’s windy)
and you can have a few games going. Poker, Blackjack, Craps, or
even Roulette. Make sure that you have room for guests to just mingle
if they want – not everyone will want to play the entire night, after all.
7. Traditional Afternoon Tea Party
Looking for something a little less casual, a little more themed? Try a
traditional afternoon tea party on nice Saturday afternoon. It’s the
perfect thing to do outside, though it works almost as well indoors.
Make sure you have plenty of tea (While plain old black tea works
fine, consider going to your local health food store and seeing what
exotic loose-leaf teas they might have to try), and cucumber
sandwiches are a must. This can be a blast for a smaller group of
people, but realize that the tea can get expensive, the more guests
you add to the mix.
6. Wine-Tasting Party
I went to this great little get together at a friend’s house a while back.
The atmosphere was casual, and there couldn’t have been more
then ten or fifteen of us. She called it a ‘wine tasting’ party.
Each person brings a different bottle of wine – their favorite, or a
vintage they’ve wanted to try – and everyone gets a taste of
something different. It’s also great when the host wants to throw a
party but doesn’t have a lot of cash, because the main attraction is
being brought!
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5. Uncle Sam’s Party
Having a BBQ and want a theme? Why not go with an all-American
Uncle Sam theme! At the front of the house, put a life sized Uncle Sam
to invite guests to come around back, and serve chips and pretzels in
overturned Uncle Sam hats.
With the food, don’t worry about fancy steaks. This is America’s party,
and what could be more classic American barbeque then hot dogs
and hamburgers? Add pulled pork and beer and chicken so that
everyone has something to eat, and don’t forget the red, white, and
blue decorations.
4. Christmas in July
Want something festive, but the heat this time of year got you down?
Grab Christmas-themed invitations (Or make your own!) and do a
non-traditional Christmas in July party.
Sing along with your favorite Christmas carols and make eggnog
milkshakes to cool off from the heat outside. Bake Christmas cookies
and bring out the holiday Santa or elf hats to get everyone in the
mood. With something like this, even the biggest cynic will be laughing
and singing along.
3. Moving Party
If you’re moving to a new location, and want to throw a good-bye
party so you can see your friends one more time, this is a fun way to
do it. Use a piece of cardboard and write down invitations with a
sharpie pen.
All you need is a stereo and some snacks for guests. If they want to
enjoy seating other then the floor, suggest they bring folding chairs.
Oh, did I not mention? The charm of this party is that everything is
packed up and already moved – no furniture at all!
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2. Potluck Pasta Party
This one can be a lot of fun with the right people. Make it a potluck,
but ask everyone to bring a different pasta dish. On your own, try
making something random and fun – like using flavored noodles, or a
crazy sauce.
Write up little cards with the history of different dishes and put them
around for talking pieces, and serve the food either sit down or buffet
style. You can even do a pasta dessert.
1 . Baking Party
This is only good for a small group of friends – it doesn’t often translate
well to a lot of people – but for a close knit bunch of friends, it’s
perfect. Have a meal planned out, buy all of the ingredients, and let
everyone do the cooking when they come.
Make sure there’s plenty of wine to sip on while you’re cooking, and if
you’re not sure everyone can handle a full meal, make it a dessert or
two. If you have the room, you can even do a cook-off. May the best
team win.
Basically . . .
There’s no right or wrong when you’re doing a theme party. Put your
personal spin on the theme, and make sure to have the right friends
for the theme. Mostly, enjoy yourself – and your guests will enjoy
themselves, too.
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Ah! You've closed the door. The last guest has left. You view the mess
your house is now in. But, admit it: it's a good mess! You had a good
time. And what's more important, your guests had a great time!
Yes, see I told you that you could do it. You pulled off THE perfect
party. Well, darn near to the perfect party, now wasn't it?
And I'm guessing it's only the first of many. From the moment your
guests walk through the door -- actually even before that -- you
strutted (quite modestly, of course!) your stuff as the perfect host.
Congratulations. It certainly was worth all the planning you put into it.
And think, the next time around, you won't be quite so nervous.
Now what do you do? Well, as I view your house, you have two
choices (depending on what time it happens to be). You can either
go straight to bed, and deal with the mess in the morning. Or you can
start cleaning up so you don't have quite the clutter to look at in the
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Appendix I:
The Party Planning Checklist
2 to 4
Create a Budget
Make a guest list
Select location
Create a menu
Send out invitations
Start cooking ahead of time
Assign dishes for potluck
Reserve rental items
Hire any help for kitchen, serving,
2 weeks
Review your serving pieces and
utensils to make sure you have
Assemble party favors
Gather party music, games, other
1 week
Review menu preparation timeline
Buy non-perishable food items
Finalize RSVPs
3 Days
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
Clean house
Polish silverware
2 Days
Buy fresh meats
Charge camera
Wash glassware
1 Day
Buy fresh produce
Clean, iron table cloths. Place
directly on tables.
Set table
Decorate buffet
Set up the bar
Lay out all serving pieces
Buy and arrange flours
Run vacuum cleaner
Day of
Buy fresh seafood
Pick up rented equipment
Buy ice
Chill beer and wine
Finish decorating
Grab a light snack before guests
Put on the music!
And above all enjoy yourself (I hear
your doorbell ringing now!)
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Appendix II
How Much Food to Prepare
How much food do I prepare? That's a question that at one time or
another has nagged with the most polished of party hosts. Here's a
quick guideline to give you an idea of a variety of foods.
This chart, while not covering all types of foods, gives you an idea of
the quantities you may be facing.
If you're serving less than 25 make the necessary adjustments in
quantity. You can do the same math for the number of guests that fall
between the numbers shown.
Type of Food
Serving 25
Serving 50
Serving 100
Chicken or
turkey breast
Fish (fillets or
Ham or roast
Hot dogs
Meat loaf
Side Dishes
Baked beans
Cabbage (for
Iceberg lettuce
for salad
Potato salad
Salad dressing
Bread (in
12.5 pounds
25 pounds
50 pounds
7.5 pounds
15 pounds
30 pounds
8 to 9 pounds
10 pounds
15 to 18 pounds
20 pounds
30 to 36 pounds
40 pounds
6 pounds
6 pounds
1 gallon
10 pounds
12.5 pounds
12 pounds
2 gallons
20 pounds
25 pounds
24 pounds
4 gallons
40 pounds
5 quarts
5 pounds
2.5 gallons
10 pounds
5 gallons
20 pounds
7.5 pounds
5 heads
15 pounds
10 heads
30 pounds
20 heads
9 pounds
3 quarts
3 cups
18 pounds
1.5 gallons
1.5 quarts
36 pounds
3 gallons
3 quarts
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
.75 pounds
.75 pounds
1.5 gallons
.75 pounds
.5 pounds
.5 quart
5 quarts
1.5 pounds
1.5 pounds
1.5 pounds
3 gallons
1.5 pounds
1 pound
1 quart
2.5 gallons
3 pounds
3 pounds
3 pounds
6 gallons
3 pounds
2 pounds
2 quarts
5 gallons
1 gallon
2 gallons
4 gallons
1 pint
2 pints
4 pints
Cake (number
of full cakes)
Ice cream
Pies (number of
full pies)
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How to Plan the Perfect Party
Diane Warner's Big Book of Parties, Career Press, 1999, Franklin Lakes,
New Jersey
Shriftman, Laura; Elizabeth, Harrison, et. Al., Party Confidential, July
2008, New York City, NY, St. Martin's Press.
Web sites
Hosting a cocktail party,
m, accessed 17 July 09
Guide to serving alcohol,,
accessed 17 July 09
Party planning checklist,, accessed 18 July 09
What Type of Party Should You Have,,
accessed 20 July 09
Want to Choose the Best Dinner Party Menu and Recipe,, accessed 20 July 09
Sachs, Patty, Party Planning On A Budget,, accessed 22 July
Party planning on a budget,, accessed 22 Jul 09
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