Does planning a party make you feel overwhelmed?
Do you have trouble organizing to prepare for having company?
If the answer is yes, this is the right post for you! I have a large extended family that is still growing, and as a result our family parties are getting bigger all the time. More people, more food and more preparation are all needed for each get together. I have learned a few tricks that help make planning my parties easier.
I’m sharing my best tips to help you plan and organize your own party.
If you are well organized and plan ahead for your party, you will be able to relax and have fun with your guests- that is the point of entertaining, isn’t it?
- KEEP LISTS FOREVER Don’t throw out your party planning lists, keep them to help plan the next event. I have always been a big list maker to help stay organized and I now keep all my lists in digital form so I never lose them. I go back to the most recent party or even a year back to the same holiday to begin my new planning lists. I check menus to see what the standard items are or what new appetizer I tried last time. I have my guest lists and who brought which food for the party. If party favors or special gifts were involved, I keep notes about those details as well. Years ago my lists were on my PC, now I have everything at my fingertips on my iPad and iPhone.
- PAPER GOODS & UTENSILS This is one of the easiest items to buy in bulk and keep stocked for many parties. I have a basket that is always stocked with plastic utensils and can be taken out at any time when needed. I buy the huge box of clear plastic utensils and another box with only forks. The clear color or silver for utensils matches any party theme and the forks are always used the most so have lots of them. I like when I have pretty plates for each occasion but they are often expensive if you are having many guests. Sometimes I keep the plates plain but dress up the table with some seasonal or holiday napkins. You won’t necessarily need all printed napkins its easy to mix in a solid color or two.
- TABLECLOTHS A table cloth always looks pretty on top and it can hide so many things underneath!! Changing the color of your cloth and your center piece completely changes the look of your room. I now have a huge collection and didn’t realize how useful they can be. We have a large dining room table and a server but for big parties, we always need an extra card table set up. The card table is not particularly attractive but a pretty cloth makes all the difference. This will give you more space on the table and a great place to hide things out of sight for later. I often put the extra paper goods, boxed desserts and extra platters under the table so they are easily grabbed when needed. It is also not important for your serving tables and extra tables to be good looking when you are going to hide them with a cloth. One of my favorite serving side tables was found on the curb to go out with the garbage. My daughter and I put it in the back seat and it has been in constant use ever since. I hide all my gardening supplies on the bottom shelf all summer long.
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- PREP FOR YOURSELF LIKE A COOKING SHOW Prep foods ahead of time and teach your kids to help! On my menu, I make note of which items can be prepped one day ahead, two days ahead or early in the morning. For certain foods that are simple that we often make each time, I enlist my kids to help. My kids can peel the hard boiled eggs, mix the filling and fill & garnish the deviled eggs by themselves. I only need to be there to oversee so this frees me up for other jobs. My daughter enjoys making the platters and assembling the fun foods that we see on Pinterest. Since we have the picture to use as a guide, it is very easy for me to make a few samples and then leave her in charge of that particular job.
- KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP Although I like to “do everything myself” and always have, in order to maintain sanity, you will need some assistance in planning and prepping to have a big party. Don’t try to do everything!! Party help can come in all sorts of forms. First, look at your own family and see who can help you with certain parts of your lists. Your spouse can do shopping, errands and food prep, or some of the cooking if that is helpful. Your children, if available and at the right age, can help clean, organize, set up and help prep food. You can ask a family member or friend to come early and help out or to cook some of the food and bring it for you. If you are spending a lot of time preparing invitations, party favors or decorations, ask for some help.
- REMEMBER WHAT YOUR FORGOT THE LAST TIME Lets face it, you can remember a hundred details but there is always one or maybe a few things you forget to do or buy. When my party is finished, I add on a Remember for Next Time note at the bottom. These are either things I forgot to do completely or improvements for the next party. This has been a lifesaver more than once. There are small details that get easily overlooked like stocking up on drink ice or to go containers that I forgot to buy. Some foods we needed more of for the guests or other items we may have needed less.
- USE PINTEREST Some of the ideas I get from Pinterest weren’t planned for a party, they were just great photos I remember seeing that gave me a good idea. The recipes and cooking ideas are fabulous, but I also get lots of creative display ideas. I try to use at least one new recipe for each party I wanted to try out a Burger Bar with toppings and got some great ideas by hunting around on Pinterest.
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- ORGANIZE LISTS IN SECTIONS For each party I have a Menu, Beverage List, Shopping List, Guest List and a Set-up list. For the shopping list, I often split it up into items to buy ahead of time and the fresh items to get the morning of the party. These lists help me stay organized for each occasion and plan the next one. I keep the grocery lists in my Notes App on my phone so that I can add items any time and have it with me when I’m out at the store. When I think of a great menu idea on the way to work, I add it to my list quickly before I forget. Condiments are items that are easily overlooked because we assume we already have them on hand. Make a quick list of all the condiments you may need for you party and be sure to check your pantry for backups. Check for ketchup, mustard, onions and relish if you are planning a barbecue. Look at your salad dressings and check the dates if salad is on your menu. If you are serving pasta, check your grated cheese and fresh ground pepper.
- KNOW WHEN TO HIRE HELP If you are having a fair amount of guests for whatever occasion, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything. Sometimes, it makes more sense to pay for some help with your party. This may mean having some of the food catered and making some of the food yourself. This could also mean hiring wait staff to prep, heat and serve food, and then help with the cleanup at the end. If you are having and outdoor BBQ party, many hosts decide to hire a grill chef to do the cooking for them. If you are having over 50 people and want to have any time to enjoy spending time with your guests, it is often a good idea to hire some help for your party.
- REMEMBER TO LEAVE TIME FOR YOURSELF I used to wait to shower and change until just before the party which meant, I gave myself about 14 minutes or less to get ready. I now do the big prep and cooking early and then at least two hours before show time, I get myself ready. I also notice I need to reserve the bathroom ahead of time so the six of us are not fighting over it. In my house we often need a bathroom schedule. Fortunately, since I am in charge of the schedule, I choose my time first and the rest of the family gets what’s left.
The most important detail for great party is planning ahead. Don’t wait to start thinking about your party until three days before it happens. That will create extra stress because there is too much to do, in a short period of time. Try to plan menus, decorations, favors and paper goods a few weeks ahead of time.
If you have digital lists saved from previous parties, this will save you both time and thinking! Next, make shopping lists and your food prep schedule. Plan a little extra time for unexpected issues such as, cleaning out your refrigerator or freezer because there is no room to fit all the party food.
Remember to get help the day of the party, if needed. Make a schedule and stick to it. Most of all, remember to enjoy your guests and the party that you spent so much time planning! Do you have any great party tips that work for you? Please share!
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