What is the number one purpose of any party?
To have FUN! If the hostess is stressed out, the guests won’t be able to totally relax and enjoy themselves. If the party planning has been haphazard, guests will arrive and see tasks undone, prompting the industrious ones to volunteer to help and prompting the less industrious ones to simply feel uncomfortable. So, to help you pull off your next party with great aplomb (that’s your vocabulary word for the day!), here are some of my random party tips:
1. Pick out what you’re going to wear
a couple of days in advance. You want to feel you look good and you want to be comfortable. Check for stains, iron, try it on if you’re a shape-shifter (you know who you are). Gather your accessories and choose your shoes wisely. You’re going to be on your feet for hours! On the day of the party, get ready early, but be sure you put on an apron while you’re still cooking! The last thing you want to have to do is change.
2. Respect the diversity of your audience.
Not everyone is a wine drinker. Some would never touch a soft drink. Sugar-free is a must for some, and a total turn-off for others. Shop in advance for what you’re going to serve and go for variety. At my last party, I bought the small cans of soft drinks and that worked really well.
3. Start chilling down
your soda, beer, water and wine hours in advance. You want the drinks to be perfectly chilled, don’t you? I have big tubs that I use for this purpose, including one clear acrylic one that allows my LED cubes to show off their color-changing mode. Very cool if it is going to be in a dimly lit area.
4. Don’t use plastic utensils.
It’s possible to procure inexpensive flatware in bulk. Go to Ross and check it out. If you don’t have a Ross store (I couldn’t live in your area without one), check out restaurant supply places or even thrift stores. And it doesn’t all have to match either. Just keep it in the same “family.” For example, use all modern-looking stainless, or instead use all vintage-looking silverplate, or a wild mix of colors in acrylic handled flatware. If you use acrylic flatware, be sure the colors blend with your tablescape and your plates. If you refuse to stock up on flatware, plan your menu so that it includes only finger food so you don’t need utensils except for serving.
Bonus Tip: Be sure you set visible trash cans at various spots easy for guests to get to. And if your partyware is not disposable (or part of it, such as your wine glasses, is not disposable), then set out trays for guests to place their used items on. You don’t want people looking around, searching for a spot to stash their discards.
5. Start with twice the number of plates as people.
Why? Because people will think they’re done eating, they’ll put their plate aside, then they will decide they need a little more. Or perhaps they stocked up on the main course and now want some sweets. There are some really attractive plastic and paper plates. Choose a size that is appropriate for the food you’re going to serve. (Example: If you’re going to serve beef ribs or snow crab legs, you have to have a large plate to put them on. If you have delicate-sized finger foods, on the other hand, you can get by with a smaller plate.) Select a color that goes with your overall scheme. (Or cop out and use white or clear.) Test drive your plate a week or two ahead of time. Is it sturdy enough? Is it easy to balance on a knee or carry around? Have plenty of napkins, too.
6. Introduce people to each other
with informational tidbits to spark further conversation. This is Steve. He and Becky moved here from Scottsdale. This is Ken. He is a physician, but he devotes a great deal of his time to perfecting his jazz techniques and playing with other musicians. In his “spare” time, he is an incredible photographer. Having the basis upon which to launch a conversation will ease shyness and help your guests find common ground.
7. Raw vegetables and/or fresh fruit
are always a hit. It doesn’t matter whether you’re counting carbs, calories, fat grams, or simply trying to eat healthy, these are unscary foods that are easy to grab and enjoy. They are a staple at all my parties. See our how-to video for the easy way to create it.
8. Label what is on your platters
and bowls, if it’s not self-evident. Recently, when I was serving Now You See ‘Ems, my guests were not grabbing for them. When I quizzed them about why, I discovered they thought it was some sort of tuna on crackers.
9. Think carefully
about how many hot items you’re going to have. Hot hors d’oeuvres are best eaten hot. Unless your party guests are sharking around the table, just waiting to bite whatever you’re bringing out, you have a few options. Use hot plates, chafing dishes, or other tricks to keep the food the correct temperature. Walk the hot stuff around on trays — being the food to your guests, right after it comes out of the oven or off the grill. Stagger the delivery of the hot stuff. Bring out a little at a time. Have some cooking during the party for later delivery — but only if your timer is where you can hear it. You’re going to be plenty distracted!
10. Don’t forget the music.
Prepare a playlist in advance. Don’t expect everyone to like it. Have variety, and keep the volume on low, unless you’re conducting auditions for Dancing with the Stars, in which case you should crank it up and let ’em roll.
Stay tuned for the next lesson!