Party Planning 101

Hostessing + Entertaining Tips Life's a Party Parties + Gatherings

Written by Katie Morton via tlc_logo

Recently I was listening to a radio show, and the host, Victoria, told the gripping story of the time she tried to throw a  baby shower. She had planned a very ambitious party, and was cooking for a large group. As a result, she spent the entire party slaving away in the kitchen. As such, she was unable to relax, greet the guests and enjoy her own shindig. She admitted that it was a miserable affair for her, and probably wasn’t that great for the guests to have a virtually absent host.

The guest on Victoria’s radio show – I know, all this talk of hosts and guests is a little confusing – but the guest on the show was Liza, America’s Host, who gave some great advice about how to throw a stress-free party that’s fun for both the host and the guests in attendance.

1. Keep it Simple to Make the Party More Fun

Liza said that the best parties are the ones where the host is present, relaxed, and can be herself. Accordingly to Liza, the best parties aren’t the ones with the perfect decorations, party favors or even food.

The best parties happen when everyone has a great time connecting with each other and having fun. To make a great party possible, the host should avoid spending all of her time and energy fussing over the food or other superficial elements. Instead, the host should focus on her guests.

2. Three Is the Magic Number

I absolutely love this tip: Liza advises us to keep the number three in mind to keep the host’s job in check. We’ve all been there: thinking that we need to serve six or seven different dishes to be absolutely sure that every single person in attendance finds something they love. That’s crazy. Believe it or not, unless your name is Emeril Lagasse, people aren’t at your party for the food. They’re there for the people. And really, even if you are Emeril, people are also there for you.

Bearing this in mind should give you license to go simple on the spread and stick to three food options. For example: a cheese platter, an entrée salad and a fruit salad. Sandwiches, chips, cole slaw. If you’re just doing appetizers, then think chips and dip, cheese tray, and veggie platter.

Think of a dish that you do well, that’s easy for you and include it. A party is not the time to try three new recipes, unless they are super simple and easy to make.

For drinks it’s also helpful to think in threes. No need to set up a full bar; limit yourself to no more than two or three drink options. This could mean beer, wine and soda. Or lemon water, plain water and punch. Or any combination of three of these.

3. Prep in Advance

Set up your food and drinks table in advance so that you’re not lost in the kitchen as the guests are arriving and socializing. That doesn’t mean that your guests should spend all their time fussing over the food either. Make it easy and obvious so that the guests can serve themselves. That way everyone is better able to pay true attention to the other guests and conversation.

Set out your drink options, ice and glasses, so that you aren’t constantly playing bartender and offering refills. Include a stack of plates, napkins, and a basket of cutlery. Go ahead and place the serving utensils right in the dishes so no one is afraid to get started.

How I’m Using This Advice to Plan an Easy 1st Birthday Party

We have family traveling from three states to help us celebrate, which means a big turnout for my daughter’s first birthday this weekend. It’s going to be a zoo in our small apartment, so the only way for me to handle my role of hostess well is to keep it simple. Very simple.

To save time, money and stress: I’m going to stick with a few simple balloons and streamers for decorations. I used an Evite, which also saved effort and fuss. I’m making the cake from a mix, which is cheaper than going the bakery route, but less fussy than baking from scratch.

We will serve beer and wine for the adults, and of course soft drinks for the kids. We plan to fill our daughter’s retired pink baby bathtub with ice to hold beverages for easy self-serving (no poking around in the fridge for cold drinks.)

I will choose a few easy, no-work food items: possibly sandwiches from Subway, which I can slice up so guests can choose a selection. I’ve already bought potato chips and onion dip. To round out the assortment, we’ll have a cheese tray with three kinds of cheese. Easy peasy.

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