1. Set a date and theme
Set a date and send invites two months before. This will give people time to take work off and save the date. Now to the fun stuff...what month is it? Is it a holiday party? Think colors as well. Is it Halloween (orange, black and silver colors)? 4th of July (red, white and blue)? New years (silver and gold)? Begin with a theme and go for it. Say it is Halloween...you can go crazy and have a costume party, bobbing for apples and decorations galore...OR you can just have the dining room table set with Halloween table settings. You don't always need to go big. With our party, it was on New Years, but we were also celebrating Christmas since we weren't able to get together on the actual day. So, I chose traditional Christmas colors.
Another great idea, and something I always do, is create a Pinterest board with ideas and inspiration for what you want on the big day. Check out my Party Ideas board with inspiration for Holiday parties, Superbowl games, etc.
2. Plan the Menu/Purchase decor
FIRST and FOREMOST, always ask if allergies are an issue (I put this in the invite)
One month out, I start to plan the meal and purchase any decor I need to make sure it is here on time. For the meal, I also go with the season. If it is in the summer, I say hot dogs, corn on the cob, burgers, etc. In the fall, a nice soup or chili bar. In the winter, turkey and all the fix in's. I planned for a Thanksgiving meal since we were celebrating the Holidays. With that said, start buying items a few weeks out (if they don't need to be fresh, like cranberry sauce, frozen turkey, peas, corn, drinks etc) or even use coupons when they come in so you don't have to buy everything at once which can be pricey. I made a list of the things I needed and would check them off once I bought them. This also helps so you know you have everything and are not missing something.
Another thing you want to do is connect with family or friends who are coming to the party. If they want to bring something or are in charge of making something (my Mom brought apps and my Aunt brought drinks) make sure you keep in touch to make sure they are still bringing them and what they're bringing.
3. Guest List
A week before the party, get a final head count. One thing I hate is buying too much food when half the people never show up. Of course things pop up, so I'm never upset if they don't come, but, call/text/email to follow up and make sure. It may seem like a pain, but it is worth it. This way you can make enough food, have the right amount of table settings and there are no surprises.
4. Table Settings and Dishes
With the final days approaching, make sure you have enough plates, glasses, silverware, napkins and serving ware for the party. I actually set out the dishes I was using to make sure I had enough for the food to go into! This also gives you enough time to buy anything you may need that you are missing. I only had plates that we use for the three of us (totaling 5 large plates and 5 small plates), so I went out and bought 20 large plates for people to eat on and that matched. I actually purchased them at the Dollar Store ($20 for all of them...obviously) and they are quality dishes that I can use for parties for a long time! Boo yeah! *Side note: wash the dishes the night before so everything is set and ready to go for the big day*
5. Prep the day before
Preparation is KEY for a party to run smoothly. The day before the party, I cleaned the rooms that we would have people in. Don't worry about bedrooms, or random rooms people won't be in. Keep your focus in the entertaining spaces. That night, I started washing all dishes that would be used, setting the table, setting up the bar and starting to prep the dishes I could make the night before and set in the fridge. I also peeled and mashed the potatoes since they take forever and set them in the fridge.
Here's the full list of what I did:
The first page was my prep page. I got everything done and it saved SO much time!
*I also put the food I prepped before in the fridge IN the bowl or ON the plate I was using for the party. This helped a lot so I didn't have to wash any unnecessary dishes the day of (for example you can see with the dips and mashed potatoes that they were in the bowl used for serving)*
6. THE BIG DAY
Wake up early, take a shower and get to work. I started around 10am (party was at 3pm) and dropped Jack off at my Mother-In-Law's house (which was SOOOO helpful! Thanks, Janie!) so I could focus on preparing the final lot for the party. Depending on the time of the party, start cooking if things are going to take some time to make (like the turkey for me), finish tidying up the house, blow up balloons and start assigning things. You may be confused by that term, but since I was technically in charge of making food, I had Jon get coats and show people around (even though he only kinda did it...love you babe :-]) A half hour before the party, I set out the apps and drinks and then waited for my guests.
Granted I was still semi-running around when people started to get here, we all had a lot of fun and can't wait for another party! Last fall we were going to have a costume party for Halloween but had to cancel since Jon was away for business, but we are hoping to do it this year!
Here is a timeline for party planning that I made. I hope you enjoy it.
So what are your tips? Anything else to add to the list or that has worked for you in the past? I must say that I have improved greatly with hosting. Using this "method" has helped!