Planning an event can be a daunting process, especially when juggling the stresses and responsibilities of day to day life. Adult’ing can be such a drag, but it shouldn’t mean that we don’t take the time to celebrate all of those milestones that make life worth living. Whether it’s a little one’s first birthday, a sister’s engagement, or a parent’s 60th birthday, we need to carve out the time to acknowledge these moments. In my younger years, my family wasn’t one to make a big deal about birthdays, anniversaries, or other occasions that are typically considered ‘festive’ by most people’s standards. And when we did, we weren’t particularly mindful of emblazoning them with photos or videos. After having lost two of the closest people in my life in the last three years, I now take any old excuse to gather my peeps, bust out a cake, and snap a few photos. After planning nearly a thousand events over the last ten years (both professionally and personally), I have compiled some helpful tips that will help you plan a party that would make J-Lo envious!
Don’t Skimp on the Food
I hate to break it to you, but we are well past the point in our lives where a mere bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa will suffice. You’ll want to have a spread that is fitting for your guest demographic, as well as for the time of day that your party will be held.
Know your guests and their tastes. I have had clients who want to serve nothing but seafood because they personally LOVE crab cakes and can’t get enough of them. Does it matter that half the guests are vegetarian? Or that Susan has an anaphylactic allergy to shellfish? Nope. Or let’s serve TONS of dishes with bleu cheese, despite the fact that stinky cheeses are an acquired taste, just because this host personally has a strong affinity for Stilton. Ensure that you are serving a well-rounded spread with something to serve a wide range of palettes. If there is a severe/ anaphylactic allergy, ensure that this food is avoided altogether to prevent cross-contamination, or at the very least, have tent card labels that indicate which menu items contain the allergen.
Lastly, your spread should reflect the time of day at which your party will be held. If your party is crossing over a mealtime period, you’ll want to make sure you provide a sufficient quantity of food to replace that meal. The only real exception is if the event is more of an open house style, where guests are casually dropping in and out for brief periods. If you don’t have the budget (or the space) to host a proper full-blown meal, don’t sweat it! Go for a mid-afternoon cocktail reception (with dainty tea sandwiches, mini quiches and petit fours) or a late evening cocktail reception (with a cheese platter, fresh fruit, antipasti, gourmet dips and sliced baguette). Do not underestimate the value of Pinterest for inspiration, especially for guidance on plating and presentation. Just make sure that you advertise it accordingly so that your guests’ expectations are in line with your offerings (i.e. – “Please join us for some light refreshments”).
Who’s Bringing the Ice?
So much of the last minute running around involves stocking up on forgotten supplies. This can be avoided by making a thorough list well in advance. Having packed equipment and supplies for hundreds of events, I find it helps to envision yourself as a guest at the party and going through the motions. Want a cup of coffee? Then you will grab a cup, fill it with hot coffee brewed in a percolator, add cream or milk, add sugar or sweetener, use a stir stick or spoon to stir, and then have a container to store the clean and used spoons, and a nearby garbage receptacle for used stir sticks and sugar packets. Mixing a highball? You will grab a glass or plastic cup, use a scoop to add ice, use a shot glass to measure out your hard liquor, add the mix and garnish with a lime wedge. This visualization process can also help to best determine the layout. For your buffet, start with the plates, and then have the cutlery and napkins at the end so that guests don’t have to juggle all of these items while dishing up food. If you’re having a double-side buffet, ensure that you have two serving utensils per dish.
If you are short on supplies and you’re hosting a smaller group, don’t underestimate your local dollar store to stock up on a few more side plates or serving tongs for a negligible cost. For larger groups, consider renting extra tables, chairs, dishware, glassware, silverware or other décor items from a rental company. Upgrading from paper to china plates really elevates the formality of the event and takes it to the next level. It’s also a nice touch that shows your guests that you’re a host/ hostess extraordinaire!
For most of us, we can’t go more than a month or two without making an appearance at a wedding, baby shower, birthday, or retirement celebration. At this point in my life, I’m not terribly interested in witnessing yet another wedding shoe game or measuring another pregnant woman’s belly with a string (no offense to any of you who choose to partake in these activities though!) Why not set yourself apart from the crowd and offer your guests some unique entertainment? Hi-Jinx Entertainment’s signature Beauty Mirror Booth offers an interactive photo booth experience that is unlike any other you have encountered in the past. Apart from its long list of awesome features, its aesthetic alone makes it a chic showpiece that will enhance any style of décor. In an age where technology advances faster than we can keep up, why not choose a photo booth option that boasts the most state-of-the-art and cutting edge functionalities, and looks pretty while doing so?
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Throwback to my wedding last year: Even though I hired a fabulous photography team to capture all of those special moments of my wedding day, I spent what little free time I had available at my reception posing for photos with relatives and friends. I couldn’t take three steps without someone producing their phone and requesting a photo with the bride. Though their heart was in the right place, it really detracted from the whole experience. I hardly had a bite to eat of the menu I had so thoughtfully planned, or dance to the amazing live band whose song list we spent hours poring over.
I am a firm believer in putting down our beloved cell phones and experiencing life through our own two eyes – not just through the camera of our iPhone. Rather than spending half of your party creating boomerangs with your besties, take the time to relish in all of your hard work and planning. Savor every last minute and be present in the moment!
Feel free to comment below and share some of your party planning tips! 😉