"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Party Planning

May 8th, 2012


I was working a bridal shower this past weekend (more on that later), and as anyone who’s ever successfully planned a party knows, it takes good organizing skills to take a party from concept to realization. You can dream big and have a fantastic vision, but without execution, you might as well keep it a dream. So here are some tips to help you make your party a success! Don’t be daunted if it seems like a lot of work – with good organization and focus, it’s actually a lot of fun.

Make a plan and stick with it. Don’t be swayed by thoughts or suggestions along the way of “oh, we can also do this, or add that”. It will throw off your time, and when you’re planning a party yourself, you still want some time to be able to enjoy it, rather than being stuck “in the weeds” while everyone else is enjoying themselves. If something goes terribly wrong, be flexible enough to adapt, but stick to your plan as much as possible. Your plan is king and it must be detailed so that nothing is forgotten, and so that if you have help that you trust, they can look at it and see what needs to be done without having to come to you for everything. For us, time was an especially big factor, since due to the amount of attendees we had two sittings, with an hour in between to transition.

When making a plan, I start from the top (or big picture) and work down to details. What is the theme? The budget? The number of attendees and type of crowd? Don’t forget other important things, like dietary restrictions and mobility issues. What is your level of ability with decor and food, and/or the level of ability of others who will be involved? Is there someone who’s more of an expert than you in a particular area and is willing to pitch in? If so, pass off that area to them, with basic guidelines to help them manage that particular department.

In this particular instance, my friend A was planning the party and handling the decor, G was hosting and planning activities, and I was in charge of the food. So my plan had to cover a few things:
– the menu based on the theme and time of day, and any recipes scaled to the right quantities for the number of attendees
– budget for food, broken down into an itemized list of ingredients and their quantities (for ensuring we were within budget, and for grocery shopping)
– a schedule of what needed to be done every day broken down to specific tasks – testing the week before, groceries and cookies two days before, all other prep one day before, and assembly of items and things that needed to be made fresh the morning of the event.
– a list of tools needed to complete everything and all serveware.

Making a detailed plan in list form also keeps you positive, since you can see your progress and accomplishments being checked off one by one.

Delegate. You might be determined to do everything yourself if you’re a perfectionist, but without help it can be a lonely and frustrating process, especially when you start to fall behind. (Trust me on this, things always take longer than you expect. Build in a time buffer and enlist help where you can.) You will not have time to explain everything, but you can delegate things that can’t be messed up, like cutting fruit, cheese and veggies for platters in the case of food, or picking up pre-ordered flowers. If you’ve had a helping hand for any trial runs, all the better, for you can then easily hand off tasks to your helper who already knows the drill. (Thanks sis!)

Communicate. Tell the people helping you what your vision is for the finished product and what your goals are for each day so everyone knows what they are working towards and understands what’s important. It helps people stay on task and avoids disappointment.

Do as much as possible in advance. On the day of the party you, the host, want to be relaxed and in a good mood for your guests. Getting as much as possible out of the way will also afford you time to double-check that everything is done, ensure you look presentable, and perhaps even take photos of the setup before guests arrive.

Ziploc bags are your friend. Our party was a themed tea party, and there were a number of components I had to make in advance, and assemble the morning of the party. I used ziploc bags for a few things:
– tartlets, which would get too soft if they were assembled too far in advance. I filled a ziploc bag with the filling for the tartlets the day before, and when it came time to assemble them the day of, snipped off the tip with scissors and piped the filling in easily.
– cupcakes. I don’t often bother with piping bags; a ziploc bag is just as good, can be used for multiple purposes, and can be sealed. Just snip off a corner, place the piping tip in and fill with icing. To prop your bag up for easy and clean filling, place the bag in a large glass and fold the sides outward over the rim of the glass. I also used a ziploc bag to make chocolate decorations for the tops of the cupcakes; I placed a few ounces of chocolate in one corner of a ziploc bag and placed it in a bain-marie over lightly simmering water until the chocolate was mostly melted, then set it aside until it was cool enough to handle, snipped a very small hole in the tip of the bag, and piped chocolate in the desired shapes onto a baking sheet lined with foil.
– tags for gift bags. A made customized tea bags and I used her motif to make matching tags for tea-bag shaped cookies, and kept them all in a ziploc bag with string and scissors until it was time to assemble them. It kept them all in one place, and grease-free.

I’ve mostly focused on organization, but there are many other tips that come in handy when planning your own party. What are some of yours?

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