My job includes planning events, and I’ve figured out that events are really just big parties. I define a party as any fun gathering with food, so it could be anything from a baby shower, a book club, or a Gateway Group to a Christmas party, men’s conference, or wedding. After planning many parties over the years, I’ve learned some great tricks that can help make any party spectacular!
1. DEVELOP A GOOD PLAN.
What’s the main goal of your party? Establish the vision at the very beginning. Your plan can be simple or elaborate, just make sure you can wrap your mind around it before you start inviting guests. Plan to send invitations at least two weeks before the event. As the scale of the event increases, so does the timeline for invitations. For example, allow two weeks for a casual dinner party and eight weeks for a wedding.
2. BE SURE YOU CAN PULL OFF YOUR PLAN.
If you have time to handcraft invitations that match the food cards that match the décor that match the party favors that all tie into the thank you notes, then go for it! But don’t shoot for all of these if you feel tight on time or your budget doesn’t allow. It will only stress you out! Keep your plan attainable.
3. HAVE SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE TO DO.
This is especially important if many of your guests don’t know each other. Nothing is more boring or awkward than standing around uncomfortably at a party with no one to talk to. So make sure you have a game or project for people to do at their leisure. Who knows, maybe your junior high bestie and high school bestie will become fast friends fighting over the best gift at the white elephant gift exchange!
4. DEVELOP A TIMELINE FOR YOUR EVENT.
I plan my preparation according to when everything needs to be finished and work backward from there, so I always start with developing a timeline.
Annual Christmas Ornament Exchange
6:00–7:00 pm | Guests arrive and go through buffet
7:00–7:30 pm | Ornament swap
· Be sure to have a trash can close by.
· Have each person share why they chose the ornament they brought.
7:30–8:30 pm | Games and dessert
8:30–9:00 pm | Let people mingle
Based on this example, I’d want to be ready to receive my guests at 5:30 pm and would need to be pulling food out of the oven at 5:50 so that it would still be hot when people arrive. Do as much as you can the night before (setting tables, placing décor, cooking in advance), that way you can leave the last-minute details for the party. I always put notes of things I need to remember during the party on my timeline so I remember to do them.
5. DELICIOUS FOOD IS A MUST.
Whether you cook it, bake it, or have it delivered, make sure your food is good and that people don’t leave hungry. People always associate a full tummy with a fun party! And hopefully you’ll have great leftovers for a few days!
6. BUILD TIME INTO YOUR PARTY SCHEDULE TO GET YOURSELF READY.
My party mantra is “If you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel good about your event!” Guys don’t seem to appreciate this as much as girls do. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you take 30 minutes to freshen up before your event. When I don’t make time for myself, I feel off and self-conscious—it’s worth starting 30 minutes earlier.
7. BE READY FOR YOUR GUESTS.
Be ready for your guests to arrive 30 to 45 minutes before the party is scheduled to start. This way you’ll be ready for that friend who is always conveniently early, and you won’t be frazzled when someone rings the doorbell and your wet hair is in a towel.
8. WELCOME YOUR GUESTS AS THEY ARRIVE.
This might seem basic, but there’s nothing more awkward than walking into a stranger’s house and having to figure out where to put your gift or find some water. The best welcome in my book is a hello, a smile, and a refreshment! If your guests don’t know everyone, make sure to introduce them to each other. A little trick I use is to not only tell guests each other’s names but also give a little fact about each of them so they can find common ground quickly.
9. RECRUIT “COVERT” HOSTS.
I like to enlist my good friends who can work a room to help make sure no one feels alone or isolated. I ask them if they would be willing to include or sit by guests who might not know anyone. You’ll be amazed how much pressure this takes off you and how much more fun your guests will have as a result.
10. HAVE FUN!
If you’re not having fun, your guests will notice. Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, and that’s okay! Just step away for a second, take a deep breath, and ask Jesus to change your attitude. Whether the problem is spilled apple cider or burned cookies, just remember that parties are what you make them. Put on your best smile and get back out there and join in the fun with your friends!
Parties are my favorite, and I hope these tips help you enjoy throwing them as much as you love attending them!
Taken from the fall 2014 issue of Studio G.