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It’s a Party! Tips, Tricks, and Etiquette: a mini-series event

Planning an “event” is one of my very favorite things to do.  Whether it is a wedding, a kids birthday, or a fabulous dinner with friends – they are each unique, exciting and they each hold the potential for making memories that will last a lifetime.  I was writing out some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to try to fit into one post, and my brilliant husband suggested that this should be a series rather than one epic post.  So here it is; over the next number of posts we’ll suggest some great techniques, time savers and fabulous details for hosting events of all kinds as well as some pointers on the polite side of hosting and attending events of all kinds.

A few general tips to get you started for any event: know your audience, set your goal, and be realistic but inventive with what you have to work with.

Audience

Are these close friends or business acquaintances? Are there children involved?  Is this a grown-up only soiree? Are there any dietary factors to keep in mind? Any sensitive topics to avoid or make other guests discretely aware of? Is the group large or intimate?

All of these questions will help to dictate the time of the event, type of food you prepare, and manner in which you invite your guests.

For example, with regard to timing; you wouldn’t host a dinner party as late as 7pm if you’re inviting guests with their toddlers – but if its a baby sitter night you might even consider starting the evening at 730 so parents have the time to tuck in little ones before they come over.

If you have vegetarian guests or those with dietary restrictions like allergies make sure you accommodate for their needs without making a big deal so that they don’t feel singled out.  If you are unsure, either ask the person privately prior to having the event, or provide a number of options on the day of the event.  I’ll sometimes prepare a meal with many options like a big cobb salad with all the options in rows for selecting what you prefer, or a make your own pizza night for casual dinners.  Lay it out so that people can serve themselves and you avoid any awkward moments for both you as the host and your guests – and everyone enjoys the casual atmosphere.

If you are inviting business colleagues or a larger group of peers, an email invitation often works well.  If it’s a special group of people you don’t see often a written invitation is a lovely touch.  If its close friends for a dinner get together tonight or tomorrow a phone call is a great way to quickly connect and more personal than an email.

Goal Setting

It might sound ridiculous; but the best way to be satisfied after putting in the effort to host any kind of event is to know what you want to get out of it.  So instead of just saying “lets have a party for Johnny”; make sure you take a moment and truly understand your motivations and what you’d like your guests to get out of the event… Do you want to do an informal poll to ensure everyone you invite can come? Do you want to have people stay long into the night or have a set start and finish time?Do you want people walking away thinking about the great conversation they had, or the food they ate, or the way your venue looked (or all of the above)?

My first post on this blog was about our annual Christmas Party.  This year, our goals for that event changed and we had to be honest with ourselves in the planning stage as to what we truly wanted in order to ensure its success.  For us that meant changing the time because kids were involved for the first time, changing the theme away from cocktail to mid-afternoon, and ensuring well ahead of time that the timing and type of event worked for our guests because we wanted to ensure as many of our friends could make it as possible.

Ingenuity meets Reality:

When I started planning events, my better half would cringe.  I would try to cram 10 appies, 3 mains, and 3 dessert options into the six hours we had on a saturday to prepare for a big dinner.  I would then throw in the need for us to have elaborate flower arrangements (that I arranged), fun activities (optional of course) and some cool giveaway for the end of the evening.  I LOVE to entertain, but I’ve become more realistic about what I can get done and more selective about where I throw my energy.

I’m not an advocate of the Coscto party (“oh it was so easy! We just bought it all at Costco!” sound familiar? Yech) I also don’t think we can all do as Martha suggests, and hire good help for our occasions… but I do think you can make some parts of any party very easy on you and add some amazing flourish with ingenious little details that make your event special…

And so we shall begin … on our mini series event of planning (and attending) fabulous events…

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