Entertaining Badge

Pi Row

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Step One: You enter your livingroom and see it filled with friends having a good time. One friend holds a couple of listeners rapt as he tells a story, the music you’ve chosen has compelled a couple to dance, and laughter bubbles up from a small group on the sofa. You take a moment to savor what you’ve done – with just a few simple ingredients, you’ve made a memorable evening for yourself and your friends. Was it worth the pre-planning and atention to details? You betcha!

Step Two: The best part of hosting a party are the memories you will cherish from it. Your friends will enjoy themselves and know just how much you cherish their company. You may have the opportunity to introduce some of your friends to other friends, or through hte medium of a party, and transform a co-worker or acquaintance into a friend. Best of all, once you gain skill at entertaining, you’ll be able to relax and play, too. Some parties can also function as networking, but we think they should ultimately be for having fun.

Step Three: Make up a good excuse to have a party and set a date. Is it the first day of spring? Did you just get an ice cream maker? Is there a movie marathon on TV or did the boxed set of The Addams Family TV Series just arrive? Are the play-offs coming up? Are your new rose bushes blooming? Is cold weather coming and you’re planning on lighting your fireplace for the first time this season? You just had a pool installed and you want to see it filled with friends having a good time. Those are perfect reasons to have a party. You may want to steer clear of major events like bridal showers, college graduation parties, New Year’s Eve parties and such if you’re new to entertaining because they come with specific expectations and often huge guests lists. Trivial reasons are the best ones for gathering a few friends.

Once you’ve picked a reason, you can pick a theme. Themes make it easier to plan a party. A Luau is obvioulsy Hawaiian-themed, with grass skirts, paper umbrellas, leis, ukele music, coconuts, and so on. It even defines most of the menu for you. Are you wanting to showcase your Mexican cookery skills? Then a Latin fiesta with a pinata and mariachi music could set the tone for the party. Or maybe a fleamarket find suggests a 50’s theme to you.

With a reason and a theme found, you’ll need to pick a date. Some parties just naturally have a date set – the play-offs of the major league game, for example. Other reasons give you more flexibility, like the ice cream social with home made ice cream straight from your new ice cream maker. Make sure your date doesn’t conflict with a major event that might occupy most of your potential guests. Consult with a few friends to see if there’s anything big going on, and then set your date.

Step Four: All fired up, you want to invite all your friends. Your party will be limited by the size of your home, your budget considerations, and even the theme of the party. Since this is likely your first party, you might want to keep the guest list to under 30 people. This isn’t the only party you’ll ever have, and while it may be a bit dicey inviting some co-workers/friends/relatives and not others, if you let them know your limits and that they will be invited to another party, they will understand.

Mix your guest list up a bit, but be sure everyone you invite will know at least two other people there so they don’t feel intimidated. Generally speaking, if you invite nice people, they will find common ground.

Step Five: Send out your invitations. Since this is an informal party, you do’t need to send engraved invitations, but cute ones with all the important information on them is very handy – date, time, place, reason, and RSVP information. For a while there, it was very trendy not to RSVP and just assume the host/ess knew the guests were or weren’t coming, but too many people who were host/esses felt slighted and too many guests stopped being invited, and that trend is thankfully reversing. Be creative with your invitations. Include a token for fun (a monkey from a barrel of monkeys to imply the fun you’ll have, a puzzle piece to bring to complete a puzzle, a pair of flip-flops for a beach or pool party…). And you don’t have to use snail mail for invitations – email works, or a notice to a filtered group of friends on your blog.

If you haven’t heard from all your guests a week before your party, follow up with an email, a phone call, or just mention it next time you talk to them.

Step Six: Menu! If you have a theme for your party, this is almost automatic. You don’t have to prepare all the foods yourself (or any of them, actually!), but you should make sure you have plenty and know how to present them. Go for a mix of savory and sweet, soft and crunchy. A cutting board loaded with cheeses and salami slices with a basket of toasted bagel slices and crackers and bowls of olives. nuts, and fruit slices or berries makes for good snacking. Visit your deli or freezer section of the grocery store for ideas. If you are cooking something, make sure it’s something you can make ahead, or whip up in moments.

Consult either a mentor who’s thrown parties you’ve enjoyed about things like themes and quantities, or check out some good party books or websites like http://www.lastminutepartygirl.com.

Step Seven: If you’re going to have a bar, keep it simple. Ask guests to bring wine or beer (depending on the party’s theme), and provide the ingredients for one or two mixed drinks – enough for every guest to have a couple. Stock up on fruit juices, sparkling water, gingerale, lemonade, coffee, tea, and possibly sodas. A good idea is to buy wine for homemade wine coolers and provide sparkling water and fruit juices and possible a mixer like a fruity liqueur to mix with the wine – it stretches the wine deliciously and increases the variety with very little effort or expense.

Keep the drinks bar separate from the food. Finger foods rock, especially served buffet-style so friends can mingle and wander. If the drinks are placed on opposite sides of the room, there’ll be even mre reason for your guests to move around. Movement is good at parties. It allows people to break away from a monopolizer gently, and it encourages them to speak to more people instead of clusting into cliques.

Step Eight: Consider the ambiance. Clear the room so guests can move about easily. Move furniture out of the way if you need to. Find extra seats – separate ottomans from their chairs, or borrow some folding chairs or bar stools. Provide visible trashcans so trash doesn’t pile up on the tables. You can convert buckets and even laundry hampers into trash cans by lining them with a colorful trash bag. Pick a color to match your decor or the theme of the party. If you are using recyclable items, have one trash bin set up for each recyclable (glass bottles and aluminum are the most common). Consider your lighting: candles, side lamps, dimmed overhead lights, tiki torches, whatever works and fits the theme. Flowers and music also help set the theme. You can use artificial flowers mixed with real ones for added interest.

Step Nine: Do as much of the prep work as far in advance as you can so when party time arrives, you aren’t trapped in the kitchen (unless the party is in the kitchen). Decorate the night before. You can put early arrivals to work setting out the food and tweaking the decorations.

Step Ten: Greet each guest as they arrive and point them to the food and drink. Once everyone’s arrived, mingle and introduce those who don’t know one another. Clean as you mingle so the clean up is quicker. Dump used napkins into one of your trash bins, put empties in the recycle bin, put dishes in the sink. When the party’s over, clean-up should be a breeze – and some of it can wait until the next day.

Step Eleven: Claim your badge!


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