Party Planning Tips

happy-new-year-hat-4I am finding out that more and more people are planning to stay home for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Maybe it is the economy, maybe it is just safer to have a few drinks at home and maybe it is just being more comfortable.

If you are planning to have a party in your home, here are a few tips for different ways to plan a successful event:

Potluck Style:

This is a casual way to entertain and it is also very well suited for either a large gathering or a small group. You – as the host provide the space and the atmosphere, but the meal and snack preparation is share by all.

You could just do it couple of different ways – for a large gathering, you can do a “mystery” potluck, but for a smaller group, it is a good idea to specify menu and have your guests choose what they will bring. And you – as the host can provide anything from a meat dish to dinner rolls, butter, condiments, coffee, tea, etc.

For your table decorations, your best bet is to keep it small and simple, since you don’t really know the sizes of containers people will be bringing. Just a formal, decorated candle or a floral arrangement will work well. What ever decor you choose, it is a good idea for it to reflect the occasion.

For your table settings, it is the best if you know what containers or serving dishes your guests will be bringing. If possible, you can plan to use your own serving dishes – then you can easily prepare your table setting. This will also be largely determined whether you are planning a sit down potluck dinner or a buffet style. The best way to figure that out is to take a good look at your dining room capacity and make sure that if you are planning sit down dinner, that you have enough comfortable space for all your guests.

Formal Dinner Party:

A formal dinner party can be planned for as many guests as you can seat comfortably at your dining room table. Additionally, you will also need to consider what supplies you need to have for all your place settings and your serving dishes. I find that the most comfortable and manageable number is 10 -12 guests.

When planning your menu, try to include some food items that are not considered “every day fare” or plan to serve a dish that you are known for. It is best to plan your menu to include a variety of complementary colours, textures and flavours. To give you an example – if you are planning to serve shrimp cocktail, don’t make your main course fish or seafood.

As far as seating arrangements go, it is a nice touch to to use pretty place cards. It adds to the table decor and avoid creating a confusion when your guests are ready to be seated.

Your table setting again depends on what you have available. I find that starting with white tablecloth is a great start. There is a lot you can do from that starting point. if you use flower arrangements (or any other decor for that matter) make sure that they are low enough so that your guests don’t have to look around them or through them. If you use candles, don’t use the thick ones – they will also create an obstruction. AS far as your cutlery go – the golden rule is to keep it simple – good hostess doesn’t overwhelm guests with more pieces that are needed. Where you place napkins is pretty much your choice – you can put them on the right hand side of the plates and place cutlery on them, or you can make a fancy fold and place them in the centre of each plate. Another nice way to put napkins – especially paper ones, is to fold them and insert them into wine glasses or water glasses with corners of napkins creating an additional decor element.

Serving your food will be easier if you consider using family style approach. Place bowls of food on the dinner table for your guests to serve themselves with quantities and choices they are comfortable with. Spread serving dishes into comfortable places on your table – you may want to separate dishes into two parts and place them equal distances from each side of the table to avoid unnecessary passing from one side to another.

Cocktail Party:

This is a great concept when you need to accommodate large number of people. And most often, there are more guests than chairs – so the concept is for people to stand, mill around, visit, have a few snacks, sip drinks and continue visiting. It is a good way to start off a long evening – whether you are planning it for before formal dinner in your house or in a restaurant. It is a good idea to specify a few details when sending out or making the invitations. Include time for the cocktail party – i.e. from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

When planning a menu for your cocktail party, remember that variety is a definite plus here. Cheese, meats, seafood, fruits and pastries make a good selection. You can set out cold appetizers and serve smaller quantities of hot appetizers, refilling serving plates from your oven or microwave. Remember that a larger platter of 3 kinds of appetizers is more impressive that one large platter of same kind. Check your dips often and replenish them to make sure the bowls are always at least half full. You can choose to use small plates, but in lots of cases, good quality cocktail napkins work well enough and are easier to replenish. Golden rule is that whatever food you serve, it should be able to be eaten in one or two bites. And the only thing left here is just how much you should plan to prepare. I would suggest that you plan to have 8-10 pieces per person – that should be sufficient.

Wondering about room setting for your cocktail party? You may want to move some furniture, allowing for a space to mingle. Look around your room and remove or move breakable objects that could be bumped into in a crowd. Also be aware of  “traffic jams” – plan to entice people to mov e around. And plan to have coasters around – everywhere. Especially if you have furniture that can easily stain. Plan to set out your food in more than one area and include containers where your guests can discard items like toothpicks and napkins. You may also want to consider setting out more than one bar serving cocktails – especially if you are planning to have a large number of guests.

Deciding where you will put your guest’s coats ahead of time is also a good idea. If you have a room where you could hang the coats, it would be less confusing when your guests are leaving.

Check your supplies in your bathrooms – make sure you have enough tissues and consider placing a pleasant potpourri on your counters.

And one more thing – plan on having soft background music that will help the overall ambiance and mood of your party.

Hope these tips were helpful to you and will help you have a very successful party to welcome the new year!


About the author

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"