So you’ve decided to throw a shindig for all your friends and family. Once you’ve made up your mind to play host, the question often becomes: now what? Planning a party can be easier than you think. With just a little planning prep, you can alleviate the stress and enjoy yourself – and your guests.
1 Week Before:
Decide on a theme. Figure out whether you want a fancy sit-down dinner, a cozy supper or an informal buffet, and then think about a theme to fit the occasion. You could find inspiration in the season, the reason for the party or your favorite color scheme.
Send out an invite. A snail mail invite can fit well with a more formal kind of party, but e-mailed invitations are equally acceptable. Just make sure to include all of the details, such as date and time, the deadline to RSVP, your address and suggested attire, if appropriate.
Plan your menu. Keep it as simple as possible to save time and effort. Include dishes you can make in advance or pre-made items you can purchase from your favorite shops. If you’re planning on serving alcohol, be sure to stock up on a few varieties to appeal to all of your guests. You can even ask around for preferences.
Let there be tunes. It’s a good idea to create a playlist. Keep in mind the length of your dinner, the party’s theme (if there is one) and the noise level if you expect people to carry on conversations.
Clean the house. Set aside time to do a thorough cleaning. That way you can do little tweaks and tidying throughout the week.
Set the stage. Arrange furniture to match your plans for the party, check for the flow and remove any clutter. It’s a good idea to designate a table for coffee and dessert. Check your lighting to see about making small changes to help set the mood. I keep a a box of lower wattage pastel bulbs on hand for my parties.
1 Day Before:
Buy your last minute supplies and cheeses. Head to a specialty store for the best selection.
Create labels for your cheese. I love to assemble cheeses on a piece of stone or a cutting board. It’s an attractive presentation and makes it easier for guests to help themselves. If you are serving them on stone, use a piece of chalk to label the different cheeses. You can also use frozen pop sticks as a more casual label.
Set the table. I like to do this the night before, with fresh flowers set around the house.
Start cooking the night before. Like a restaurant chef, it’s easier to prep as much as you can the night before (dicing, marinating, baking, etc.). Then you can simply put things together the day of the party.
Designate a place for coats. Make space in a front closet and fill it with hangers, or pick a bed for guests to use (make sure the room is tidy and clear of valuables).
4 Hours Before:
Prepare the bar. Chill any bottles that require it and set out glasses so guests can help themselves.
Take the cheese out of the refrigerator. It has the best flavor when served at room temperature.
Set out the food. Select a few different places for food to prevent guests from clumping in one spot.
Make a sweep through the house. Do a quick scan for any last minute items that need attention.
Check the medicine cabinet. Remove any personal items you wouldn’t want guests to see.
1 Hour Before:
Empty the dishwasher. Make sure you have enough clean plates and utensils ready for any unexpected guests.
Change into your party clothes. Allow yourself time to transition from planner to host.
Set the final mood. Light the candles, dim the lights and turn on the music.
Uncork. Open one bottle of wine for every two people. I like to open both reds and whites to account for differing tastes.
Relax. Take a sip of wine and chill – your guests will love you for it!