Party Planning: Tips

Whether you are planning a casual pizza night for your book club or a cocktail party for the entire tennis league, follow this party planning checklist to stay organized and stress-free, so you can meet your guests at the door with a relaxed, confident smile, knowing they — and you — will enjoy the festivities to come. Click here for FREE Printable Party Planning Tools (link to Party Planning Tools

TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • •Determine your guest list and send out invitations. While it's always acceptable to mail invitations, e-vites are becoming increasingly popular and make it easy for you, as a host, to keep track of RSVPs.

  • Pick a theme. A party theme doesn't need to be obvious, like the sports team or cartoon character you'd build your child's birthday party around. For your sophisticated soiree, chose something subtle, like an ingredient, regional inspiration or color, that unifies the event. A chocolate-themed dinner party, for example, could open with creme de cacao-flavored cocktails (chocolate martini, anyone?) leading to a mole dinner and dark chocolate dessert. A Tuscan feast could be reflected in your menu and rustic serveware and decor. Browse our Antiqued Black Serving Caddies

  • Plan the menu: Plan a menu suitable to the size of the event and make your shopping list or contact the caterers. Party planning tip: Consider seasonal dishes. Visit your local farmer's market for inspiration, as these ingredients will be the freshest and best-tasting.

  • Inventory housewares: Take inventory of your housewares, making sure you have enough place-settings and the appropriate serveware and equipment for the planned meal. Order anything you need now so it arrives in time for the party. Browse our Serving Caddy Collection

  • Know how much food you need: For a dinner party, plan on one serving of each course per person, then add a little extra so you can accommodate any appreciative guests hungry for seconds. If hosting a cocktail party outside of a regular mealtime, plan about five hors d'oeuvres and expect guests to eat one to two servings of each. Plan for a wider selection and an extra serving for each guest if the hors d'oeuvres are being offered in lieu of a meal.

ONE WEEK BEFORE

  • Clean house: Clean the plates, glasses, silverware and serving pieces you'll be using for the party. Launder and press linens and napkins. Give your house a thorough cleaning, focusing particularly on rooms that will be used for entertaining, so that you only have to do a quick freshen-up closer to the party date. Remove and store any fragile items that could be knocked into or broken during the festivities.

  • Go shopping: Buy all the beverages, including alcohol and mixers, you'll need, as well as non-perishable food. Prepare any dishes that can be cooked now and frozen until the party. When buying alcohol, plan three bottles of wine for every four people for a meal, or one to two drinks per hour for a cocktail party.

  • Plan music and entertainment: Choose your playlist and make sure your stereo system is working properly. Decide whether you'll have any formal entertainment during the party, like ice-breaker games for a shower or after-dinner charades among friends. Party planning tip: Make sure your playlist is long enough to last the duration of the party, and if you are inviting a mixed age group, save the racy lyrics for late night, after your youngest and oldest guests have left.

  • Order flowers if you will be using floral arrangements to decorate your home.

THREE DAYS BEFORE

  • Finish grocery shopping: Buy any remaining perishable goods, including breads, fruits and vegetables.

  • Clean and decorate: Go back through the rooms you will use to entertain for a final freshen-up to ready them for guests. Put up any decorations you have planned and rearrange furniture to allow for easy traffic flow through your entertaining space. Party planning tip: If possible, arrange furniture in a horseshoe pattern or around the perimeter, with an open central area, so guests can find or leave a seat without asking others to move.

ONE DAY BEFORE

  • Prepare as much food as possible: Prepare any salads or other dishes that can be made a day in advance and simply reheated when guests arrive. Prepare and refrigerate bar garnishes. For dishes that must be made on the day of the party, do any food-prep work that will reduce your workload.

  • Prepare the table: Set the table or prepare the buffet, setting out all the pieces you plan to use an ensuring there is ample space for guests to eat at the table or for the planned buffet dishes. Tiered plate stands and serving caddies help maximize space for serving dishes. Party planning tip: For a buffet, make notes to leave on top of each empty stand or dish, reminding you what will be served in that spot, and set the appropriate serving utensil next to it.Browse Our Serving Caddies

  • Pick up flowers from the florist and set up the arrangements in your home.

PARTY DAY

  • Finish last-minute cooking: Make the final dishes, thaw and reheat those that were pre-made and frozen.

  • Set out room-temperature appetizers or hors d'oeuvres: Set out buffet stands or serving platters but leave them wrapped in plastic until just before guests arrive to keep the dishes as fresh as possible.