- Your party is always a reflection of you - your preferences, your taste, your lifestyle and a statement about your guests - their preferences, their special needs, their importance to you - their host.
The truly successful party has been planned with thoughtfulness. The perfect theme, venue, menu, drinks, decor, entertainment, and lighting will not produce the perfect party unless the host, keeping the invited guests in mind, puts his/her own stamp on it.
The quality of your event will be measured, not by the amount of money spent, the famous or brand names purchased or used, or mimicking the "Joneses" up the block, but by how welcomed, comfortable and special each guest is made to feel.
, an expert on etiquette/social behavior, and the founder of Qualipedia - a definitive resource that educates consumers so they can make quality choices on their own - offers the following tips on how to throw a quality party that will make your guests feel pampered and privileged to be there regardless of how much money you spend preparing.
The host planning a quality event will consider the following:
• Have an alternate plan in case of bad weather.
• Don't be afraid to bring indoor furniture outside; you can cover with terry cloth, sheeting - something thematic.
• Have sunscreen available if party is during daylight hours.
• If grilling, check to be sure you have grill, charcoal or fuel, and all tools clean and ready.
• Avoid setting flower arrangements in the direct sun for any period of time.
• For exterior lighting: pay special attention to access walkways and uneven or rocky steps; repair loose stones and bricks; to line walkways, use torches or "candelarias" (paper bags - sometimes perforated with design, filled with sand and a small candle); when landscape lighting, placing lights in bushes and shrubs creates a more pleasing effect than placing them into flower beds; waterproof your wiring; use photocell attachments that react to natural light levels, use candles which will not blow out, such as votives and those inside containers or covered with glass hurricanes.
• If weather is warm and guests will be going in and out of the house, be sure to cool down house before party and keep it cool throughout.
• If it is a pool party, add fun water toys and floats
• If appropriate, use ground for some seating - picnic style; place rugs, bathmats, pillows around.
• Give guests comfortable places to relax, meet, and mingle by arranging seating into small groups.
• If you are having a day party which goes into the evening, remind guests to bring something warm to wear after the sun goes down, and/or put out shawls and jackets.
• Consider the weather when planning for hot and cold items: to avoid the growth of bacteria (and poisoning your guests) keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
• Arrange food in this order: entrees, side dishes, salads, bread, butter, condiments.
• Always prepare extra portions.
• To avoid traffic jams, set bar/drink table away from the buffet table.
• If children are invited, plan to have some foods/drinks they will especially enjoy (and a children's table can be a very good idea).
• If tables are not already set with silverware, it is thoughtful to place them in large napkins, creating easy-to-pick-up packages.
• If it is not a formal sit-down buffet with set tables, consider how your guests will manage to eat while holding plates on their laps - avoid items that need cutting as well as long strands of pasta.
• Place containers around for disposing of olive pits, fruit peelings, toothpicks, shells, etc. - some are not the proper nutrients for your plantings.
• Provide enough extra dishes and silverware so that people who go back for seconds can enjoy their selections on clean dishes.
• If a casual event and there may be left over food, have take-away containers ready for persons with children, etc.
• If you'd like close friends or relatives to bring something to a casual event, or if they offer to, request a specific item so that you don't have duplications and the dish is compatible with the planned menu.
• Music: Whether live or recorded, sets the mood and paces the flow for any party. Do you want dancing? Do you encourage sing-a-longs? Do you only want soft background music? Use your imagination. Combine your purpose, personality and pocketbook to choose from Gospel Singers, Jukebox, Calypso, Blue Grass, Dixieland, Jazz, Soul, Wing, Rap, Guitar, String Quartet, Harp, Big Band, Rock, and Steel Drum Band.
• Conversation" Worthy entertainment options include celebrity look-alikes, stilt walkers, ventriloquists, female impersonators, actors that resemble real statues, caricaturists (for great take-home gifts), face painters, mimes, cartoonists, fire eaters, dancers, jugglers, balloon makers, escape artists, fortune tellers, palm readers, and hypnotists.
• Select a special date and make it your own: instead of an annual Fourth of July Party, have a Flag Day (June 14) party; host May Day, equinox, or "every April 18" parties; commemorate the anniversary of your moving to the community or joining a group.
• Make a theme your signature: a recipe, a season, a color, secret desire costumes or masks, jazz, salsa dancing, ping-pong tournament - all give imaginative impetus to your party, beginning with the invitation.
• Always consider the food allergies and/or medical conditions of your guests whether planning menus or arranging furniture.
• Find an unusual location - park, lakefront, or hilltop.
• Send guests home with a gift bag or small memento related to your theme, season or to the food served - a special seasoned salt, thematically colored M&M's, tiny herb or flower plants, peppers from your garden, homemade jams or jellies, salt water taffy, fortune cookies, cookie cutters with recipe, candles, small beach pails, personalized chocolate bars, picture frames, flower bulbs or seed packets.
• If party is on a Friday or Saturday evening, send guests home with fresh bagels, croissant, or Danish for their breakfast - perhaps along with the next morning's newspaper.
How To Be A Guest At Your Own Party
You cannot be a relaxed and welcoming host unless you feel relaxed and welcoming.
You can prepare by planning a party you would enjoy attending; thinking of the event as an opportunity to express your own individuality/creativity; not underestimating the time and resources required; not overestimating your capabilities; using short-cuts, labor-saving and time-enhancing tricks; availing yourself of all resources, i.e. party rentals, take-out prepared foods, wholesale flowers, friends, family members including children (if possible), and dog.
Using your freezer to prepare dishes ahead of time; considering menu items that can be served (and taste delicious) either hot or cold; writing things down and making lists; serving food from a buffet; setting out all serving platters, trays, basket, dishes, utensils the day before with the menu items for each attached (I use sticky pads); placing hors d'ouevres or appetizers at different locations around the yard/venue; keeping your menu simple enough to that you can spend time with your guests.
Being sure you have enough ice, food, and drink; clean up kitchen before party begins; pampering yourself the day of the party with a long hot bath, candles and fragrances; wearing clothing that you feel both beautiful and comfortable in, that doesn't have blouson/drapey sleeves, that is not tight or constricting; preparing your clothing, including accessories the day before; practicing a trial run; planning to be ready 30 minutes before the invited time; greeting guests as they arrive, and expecting to have a good time.