Most of us are familiar with the proverb, "Beauty is the eye of the beholder," but we know from life experience that beauty cannot be judged objectively. The same principle applies for hosting the “perfect” party as perception will always be interpretive and, ultimately, subjective. If you’re looking to host an impromptu dinner party to impress the in-laws or you find yourself volunteering for the community’s annual tea party, here are eight tips that you can call on to host the perfect party.
Before you consider hosting a party, consider the costs involved. Perfect parties can be pre-planned and kept within budget if you stay on task by preparing most of the details ahead of time. Think about the necessities: Do you need to rent decor or purchase any items? Can you incorporate heirlooms from the china cabinet and greenery from your garden? Using your grandmother’s tea set adds a personal touch while saving you both time and money.
Look around your home and determine factors that will complement the party’s theme and style. If you’re hosting a backyard get-together or a summer luau, an outdoor bar and overhead string lighting might be nice extras. If you’re hosting your sister’s baby shower, consider using artwork or bold furniture pieces as inspiration for your design. Reference colors from your surroundings to make the smaller details within your party appear seamless.
Timing is key! If you’re guests work 9 to 5, then a weekday dinner party may not be well-suited for their ability to commute, just as scheduling a child’s birthday party in the early morning may cause complications for the other parents. Another important factor is how long your party will last. Five hours for tea and crumpets may be a bit excessive, while five hours for a six-course meal may be a necessity. Keep your timing appropriate all-around.
If you want to have a social soiree in your living room, switch it up! There’s no need to keep your son’s toy box near the sofa or to leave your unopened mail on the coffee table. Move the furniture around to create a redefined space for your specific party. Add some cocktail tables and mini potted succulents. Remove family pictures from the mantle and add fresh flowers or a chalkboard with hand-drawn signage. Calligraphy is a unique way to add flair to your party’s design. Ask around -- affordable, local artisans can help.
Incorporating YOU into the overall design is critical to ensuring the party feels inviting! If your husband is an avid golfer and you want to host his 50th birthday party, use golf towels as formal napkins, golf balls as cupcake toppers or golf flags as signage to direct your guests where to park. Thinking outside the box allows you to be creative, and when your guests see YOU in the party’s design, they tend to enjoy themselves more.
Formal place settings featuring escort cards may seem extravagant for a casual gathering, but details are important and can make your guests feel special. Having a few friends over for Saturday night dinner? Add a name tag at each place setting to show them that you designed the table’s placement ahead of time. Design your tablescape with colorful figurines, fresh citrus fruits or tapered candles. A designated centerpiece serves as a focal point and the smaller details become great conversation starters.
Determining an appropriate menu can be a challenge. Ultimately, what do your guests expect to be served? A formal dinner party requires a bit more pre-planning, so consider hiring a private chef to come in-house for the evening. Or, if you have hidden culinary talents, serve up Aunt Sally’s famous family recipe. Consider adding menu cards with just enough information to keep your guests pondering over Aunt Sally’s secret ingredients.
8. BE THANKFUL
Whether you’re a guest or the host, be sure to thank everyone at the end of the party. Verbalize your appreciation for the details or follow-up a few days afterwards with a compliment. Party favors are an effective way to let your guests know how much you appreciate their attendance. A small, take-home memento (even an inexpensive one) will imply that you pre-planned the party start to finish.
Remember, hosting a party is much like the perception of beauty – it’s interpretive and ultimately subjective. The most important thing is to incorporate YOU into your overall design, whether you’re setting a table display for Thanksgiving or expecting your girlfriends for bottled wine and board games. Keep it simple, unique and fun. Pre-plan so you that can work within a budget and that you can ensure all the details coincide with your party’s theme. In the end, your guests will see the beauty in both you and your design, and that’s a perfect party!
Loraine Cook is the owner of Invitation Only, a wedding and event service based in Summerville.