After throwing a few parties, you start to learn some techniques for survival and success. Now that I feel like I’ve had enough parties to test out my methods, I wanted to share some general tips. Make sure to master the first section before moving on to the second section. My Tips for Survival will help make sure you’re in a good place when your guests show up so that you can actually enjoy the party you’ve worked so hard to plan. The second section, My Tips for Impressing Your Guests, will help you take your party to the next level once you’ve mastered the basics.
You can also find some of these tips in my Easter brunch post.
My Tips for Survival
1. The first important thing is to make a plan for the morning of your party. For example, you need to know what’s going in the oven at what time so you don’t end up wanting to bake three things at once. I also recommend baking things that require the lowest temperature first. Otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting for your oven to cool off.
2. Set your table the day ahead. Seriously, I know it will seem silly, but it saves so much time. I also recommend getting out all of the serving plates and utensils that you plan to use.
3. Clean the entire apartment/house (except for the kitchen) the day ahead.
4. If you’re like me (and it takes you way too long to pick out an outfit) also do this the day ahead. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck doing it as your guests arrive. NOT FUN. I also recommend showering and getting ready (besides putting on your nice clothes) before you start cooking (or if it’s a dinner, at least a few hours before the party). Otherwise you’ll be like a particular family member of mine who always seems to be showering as people show up to our house for parties.
5. Certain dishes don’t need to be made on the day they’re being eaten. If at all possible, make anything you can in advance. Quite a few recipes will tell if you something needs to be eaten the day it’s made, or if it lasts well.
6. Prep any food you can prior to the day of your party. This doesn’t mean do the cooking, but do the chopping, washing, and dicing. This may seem silly, but it will save you so much time!
7. Make sure you’re not doing all of this alone. A second set of hands is ESSENTIAL!
8. If you’re making lunch or dinner, timing is not as important because you’ll have plenty of time the day of to prepare. But if you’re doing brunch, start as late as you can. A 10-11am brunch is really hard to pull off if you’re making and baking several things that morning. I recommend the 12-1pm timeframe.
My Tips for Impressing Your Guests
1. Have decorations. You can simply put fresh flowers around or you can buy and/or make actual decorations. A few of my favorites are:
A) Homemade paper bunting birthday strand (make sure to save this, I’ve used mine twice) –
B) Tissue paper garlands (just folded tissue paper in half, and cut strips and then taped to my counter) –
C) Decorative flower arrangements –
2. Have some sort of theme or unifying idea behind your decorations. It can be as simple as a color theme for the silverware, plates, napkins, and flowers, or could be based on what kind of party you’re doing.
3. Try to have things set up in stations. I like to put all of the drinks (and cups, straws, ice, etc.) in one section. Then, I put all of the food in another section. I also recommend trying to have everything out that people could possibly need so that you’re not constantly running back to the kitchen to grab an item.
4. Include menus and any sort of signs or directions necessary for your guests. When I had a grilled cheese bar at a party, I had a small-framed list of directions so that people could easily figure out how to grill the sandwich (and so I wasn’t stuck manning the station). It’s also great to put signs in front of anything that would not otherwise be obvious as to what it is.
5. If you’re throwing a big party, buy yourself some fun colored utensils, plates and napkins. Save yourself the work of cleaning your own dishes. You’re going to have enough things to clean as it is. I also recommend a set of fun straws. Target has great paper striped ones, and they’re really inexpensive.
6. If you are entertaining in an outdoor space, make sure not to neglect decorating this area. Fun lights or lanterns can really class up a place. I picked up a few strands at Pier 1 Imports that have worked really well on our patio. If you have any tables outside, also make sure to place fresh flowers out here. Another favorite outdoor decoration of mine is to fill a mason jar with water and set a floating candle in the top. I also wrap the top of the jar with some twine and then tie a bow. If you are in an area with mosquitos, I also recommend a citronella candle or leaving out a bottle of bug spray.
7. Also don’t forget to decorate any desserts you’re serving, especially if it’s a birthday party. You can see my post on cake decorating here.
8. Make sure there is a clean hand towel in the bathroom, and plenty of soap and toilet paper. I also try to remember to light a candle in the bathroom or put a small vase of flowers in there as well.
9. Make sure you have an area for people to set down any purses or bags. In the winter, be sure to have a place for people to hang their coats.
10. If you have speakers, be sure to have some music playing in the background. But make sure it’s not too loud or people will feel like they’re yelling. I love the Today’s Hits station on Pandora for parties.
11. If you are doing a sit down meal at your party, I always prefer to do place cards. This is especially great when your guests aren’t acquainted, so that people know who they’re talking to.