I’ve been excited for tonight’s birthday celebration since the minute I solidified plans 2-ish weeks ago. 70% to celebrate and see friends I haven’t seen in a few months and 30% because I really wanted to party plan, shop, bake, and decorate. Okay, maybe 60-40.
Party planning (and event planning) comes fairly easily to me. It all makes sense. I’m not an expert, but there are a few easy tips I can share to hopefully make your next (small, intimate, casual) soiree a piece of cake (also, have cake!).
- Guest list. A few weeks in advance (maybe more if your friends are quite a busy bunch or if you’re celebrating around a holiday) invite friends over for your celebration. E-vite, facebook, email, text, in person – whatever works best for you. A week to 5 days in advance send an email to your guests with pertinent info: your address and parking situation (street? paid? a garage?) or transit details, tell them when to show up, what they can bring (if anything), and if they are welcome to stay over. If you aren’t sure, inquire about allergies or dietary restrictions.
- Plan a menu (with allergies/dietary restrictions in mind). In this case, it’s light appetizers and snacks and dessert. It’s your party, plan apps and snacks that don’t keep you in the kitchen all night as well as things you like. Class up simple store-bought dips by putting them in bowls and pair with veggies and fancy pretzel crisps. Try bite-size things you can make in advance and keep in the fridge (caprese skewers) or slow cooker (meatballs). Have one hot item and put it the oven when a few guests arrive. Have a few bowls of easy to grab, pop-in-your mouth snacks; think: peanut butter pretzels, M&Ms, cherry tomatoes, raspberries. Bake in advance. Cake, cupcakes, brownies, or cookies are a great and easy idea. And have mini take-out boxes if someone would prefer their dessert to-go.
- Drinks. Similar to how I think you should know your friends’ Starbucks orders, you should also have an idea of what they like to drink. We’re (almost) 30, the BYOB days have passed. Most of my friends drink wine, so I prepped a grapefruit white sangria yesterday morning and picked up a few extra bottles of red and white wine and champagne. My paltry bar (aka: the cabinet beside the stove) had 1/2 a bottle of Jack Daniels, some Malibu, Peach Schnapps, and Kahlua. I borrowed (took) vodka from my parents (they don’t drink). Picked up grapefruit and lime perrier and some juice.
- Set up your table in advance. Have everything in one place; set out glasses, alcohol, plates, napkins, and servings trays in advance. When party time approaches, all you have to do is fill the bowls and transfer pre-made goods from fridge to table.
- Ambiance and decor. Candles and lamps. Move lamps from other rooms to create a romantic-esque ambiance. As for candles, remember to keep the scents light and similar and don’t have scented candles near on your food table. I never need a reason to buy myself flowers, but a few bouquets around your home make it even more beautiful. Be sure to think about seating, too. Bring in chairs from the dining room or kitchen to ensure no one is sitting on the floor. There aren’t many occasions other than your birthday to hang balloons; as you can I see (above), I tied balloons to ribbon and hung them from the curtain rod.
- Your outfit. Plan it in advance. This is a great time to wear something you’ve been waiting to bust out of your closet or an excuse to purchase something new. You’re controlling the temperature of your home, so pick what you’re comfortable in.
- Clean the bathroom and ensure it’s fully stocked. Nothing is less sexy than someone asking you to replace the toilet paper or soap. Keep the light on or light a candle so it’s easy to find the light switch.
- Make sure your guests know they are welcome to help themselves to extra beverages that may be in the fridge or can grab ice from the freezer. Let your guests help you; you’re the host but don’t need to refill everyone’s glass every 5 minutes.
- Have a playlist. Fill your ipod with music that sets a mood. For a small, intimate low-key gathering think Michael Buble or Matt Dusk. Everyone loves a good crooner.
- Circulate. Make sure you chat with everyone. Mixing a group of friends? Make introductions and highlight similarities or things friends have in common.
- Send thank you cards. Old fashioned but very much appreciated.
I’m fortunate to have an open floor plan; my living room, dining room, and kitchen are all in the same space which is so ideal for in-home entertaining.
Have any tips or tricks to make hosting a gathering/party/soiree easy?
Miss any of the birthday week blog-a-bration? Catch up on all the fun!