I love to throw parties. For over 40 years (kinda dates me!), I have hosted a variety of different kinds and themes of parties, and each time I try to out-do myself.
I have created a checklist that I use for all of my parties. Over the years, I have figured out what works and what doesn’t. Event after all of these years, I still make mistakes! This list helps me keep myself organized and make sure that all my ducks are in a row. While some of these items may not apply to the party you’re going to throw, hopefully it will help inspire you and keep you in line.
Here we go, let’s plan a party!
Theme & Date
OK, so you have decided to throw a party. It may be for an upcoming event, or maybe you’re just looking for a reason to entertain. You know all the options for these – a dinner party for friends, baby or bridal shower, wedding rehearsal or wedding reception, Halloween, Christmas, Mardi Gras – the party possibilities are endless.
Pick the day to host your event, and check with all the important people you plan to invite to ensure they will be there.
Regardless of what type of party you plan, you will want a color theme. Base it on the color of flowers you have in mind or if the event calls for a specific color, i.e. a shower for a baby girl. You’ll want your invitations to coordinate with your color scheme.
Figure out what you can spend and add money to it – that’s in my case specifically! Things will always come up that you haven’t budgeted for, so including a little wiggle room will make those last minute splurges justified.
Now that you have figured out your budget, you should be able to figure out whether you’re working with a house party or a country club budget. Make sure to check out all of your options. A couple of examples – I hosted a baby shower at Blue Water in Wrightsville Beach in a private room, appetizers, a sit down meal, and gratuity for 20 people, all for about $600. A bridal shower I hosted at the Brier Creek Country Club included appetizers, three food stations, mimosas, wait staff, a terrace overlooking the golf course, and gratuity for 30 people, costing around $1,500. Remember that if you host a party at a restaurant or country club, you will still want to do table décor, party favors, and invitations, so keep this list handy, as most of it applies.
Etsy.com is an amazing place to look for invitations. The last few parties I’ve hosted, I’ve had graphic designers from Etsy design the invitations. You tell them your color, theme, and ideas, and they create it for you. You get to proof the piece before they send you the final proof to download. Take the download to Kinkos/ FedEx and print it on beautiful card stock. All of this costs around $20. This is definitely worth it, because it allows it to be very specific to your party.
Sometimes I create my own invitations using Printshop. I never hand print anything because I want that professional feel. It makes everyone feel as if you went to a lot of trouble.
Now for your menu, are you planning a sit-down meal at your house or at a location? Will you serve food buffet-style, or just appetizers? Are you grilling out, having just desserts, or throwing a cocktail party (and it’s never JUST cocktails). Make sure you take into account food allergies and preferences of guests, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Have options available for everyone. Always go with a safe basic and something unique, such as a champagne filled pipettes into chocolate covered strawberries.
Always have water bottles (with a Sharpie® and name tags to label), soft drinks (regular, diet, caffeine and caffeine free). Will you have beer and wine, or punch (the least expensive option)? How about a specialty drink for the occasion? Will there be an open bar or a cash bar? A lot of this depends on your budget. If alcohol is a budget breaker, ask on the invitation for your guests to bring their favorite libation. My husband bartends for friends and family, and has created over 150 unique cocktails. He has even created a drink for my Mom – it’s called the “Drunken Grandma”… wonder why???
Start to Purchase Items for the Party
I frequent Michaels, Party City, and Home Goods to pick up sale items for décor, and coupon days for anything needed. I also like to buy sale items that could be good for any party. If I don’t use them for the event I am planning, I save them for another event. I refuse to pay full price when there are coupons out there and sales going on all the time!
Plan the Unexpected for the Party
This is the trademark for my parties. Each time, I try to do something unusual and fun! It can be in any form – food, décor, atmosphere, whatever. Always go above and beyond with neat décor and food items.
For Halloween, I have a huge witch’s cauldron holes a fog machine and dim green lights. It gives a great spooky effect! I also love to serve punch with dry ice. Doing these things will have people talking about your party for months to come.
Your tables can mean everything to the atmosphere of your party. I only use flowers for dinner parties, showers, and wedding events. But, even when I’m just using flowers, I still like to have fun with the décor! One of my favorite centerpieces is my Halloween piece. A smoky fortune telling globe, with soft blue lighting inside. I got the idea to make them after the Haunted House at Disney World®, and it turned out gorgeous!
I encourage you to use your imagination when creating these pieces. I make all of my décor. I never buy premade pieces, but I put so time and effort into them, you would never know they were homemade!
Lighting sets the mood. Never host an event without full on lights, whether it’s at your home or another location. Use dimmers to keep the lights at a warm level. Use candles, real or battery-operated. My favorite battery candles are from World Market. They last up to three months, and use a timer so you can set them to turn on and off whenever you want.
Colored lighting is great as well. Buy lightbulbs in your color theme and use them here and that for ambiance. I buy the little light balls from Michaels. They are a little smaller than a ping pong ball and waterproof. Use them for decorative lighting around the room, such as in candy dishes, vases with flowers, and behind décor in a bookcase for soft mood lighting. They last for months, and the color is vibrant and beautiful.
Always have background music. It should match the event your as hosting, whether it is Christmas music for a holiday party, soft jazz for a dinner party, or a playlist you put together for the event. Music helps the set the mood, but also helps fill the void if there happens to be a moment of silence.
Does this particular event need party favors? Baby showers, bridal showers, wedding events, and birthday parties almost always require favors. Be creative!
My favorite party favor was for a bridal shower. Using my soft seafoam color, I used a mercury glass tea light holder (which I found on sale from Michaels®), with a battery tea light at each place setting. I put in one of those sheer silky favor bags and glued a lavender flower on the drawstring area. It added beauty to the décor and was something everyone could take home when they left.
Whether it’s your best friend, kids, neighbor, enlist some help. I can’t tell you how long I have forgotten to put food out or light a candle. When you have helpers, you can divide and conquer everything needing to get done. Make a checklist, and include everything from food and drink needing to be put out and set up, candles needing to be lit, décor that needs to be turned on, music that needs to be cranked up, and anything else you don’t want to forget last minute. Make sure to ask your help to have their to-do items completed 15-20 minutes before the party is supposed to start.
Hospitality is the most important thing! You want your parties to be welcoming, filled with laughter, warmth, and loads of fun. As the host, it is your job to make sure it happens. Great each guest, spend time with each person during the party, walk them to the door when they leave, and thank them for coming!
Party on, everyone!
About Linda Ellison.
Linda Ellison is a full-time sales associate of the Fonville Morisey Realty Brier Creek office.
As a life-long resident of the Triangle, Linda is involved with many local organizations and philanthropies. In addition, she acts as the wedding coordinator at her church.
Linda is a member of the Raleigh Association of REALTORS®, the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.
Fonville Morisey Realty has 11 sales offices, with over 850 associates and employees throughout the Greater Triangle region. FM offers mortgage, insurance, property management, title services, real estate education courses and relocation services through its divisions and partners. For more information about Fonville Morisey Realty, visit www.fmrealty.com.