InStyle's 20 Best Party Throwing Tips, Ever
MAKE YOUR GUESTS WELCOME IMMEDIATELY
Whenever possible, greet your guests at the door. Offer a drink, and introduce them to at least one other guest. Gracefully acknowledge their gift.
ORGANIZE AND ORGANIZE SOME MORE
Imagine the phases of your party- planning, shopping, preparing, and the actual event. And write a sort of party script with all the specifics: It will help nail down details.
MAKE THINGS EASY BY SIMPLIFYING
When in doubt, narrow choices-including menu and decor-and err on the side of simplicity. Too many options can make you overwhelmed and cost you time and money.
ENLIST SOME HELP
No matter what size your party, it's good to have help. Don’t be afraid to ask a guest to open wine or carry a tray of hors d'oeuvres. (Or if you have the budget, hire someone.)
SPICE UP THE GUEST LIST
It's the people who make a party. Invite a variety of guests with different backgrounds, generations and persuasions to mix things up. An eclectic guest list makes for a fun fete.
TIMING IS KEY
Opt for an earlier party-like 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.-so you don’t have to serve a full dinner. Also, invite people three weeks before the event to give adequate notice.
"It's a lot easier to communicate with your guests online," says Party BluPrints blogger Dawn Sandomeno. Evite.com, Paperlesspost.com, and Postmark.com all make it simple to update details and keep track of your attendees. And send an auto reminder a couple of days before the party to help prompt more responses.
SET THE MOOD WITH MUSIC
"I always start the evening with jazz-Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra-to create a festive ambience," advises noted chef and restaurateur Todd English. "Later I play folk or rock from the '60s or '70s. My friends say, 'I haven't heard that song in a long time,' and we all laugh and reminisce."
MAKE A NO-FAIL HORS D'OEUVRE
"A favorite hors d'oeuvre is chunks of Parmesan cheese wrapped in prosciutto," recommends celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito. An added bonus: "The saltiness goes well with champagne," he says.
ADD SOME FUN TO FORMAL
One way to add some pizzaz to an really elegant dinner party, serve your guests frozen candy bars, like Milky Way or Snickers Bars, especially towards the end of the evening. Bring out some doggie bags so they can take the loot home.
STICK TO ONE-POT DISHES
World-famous chef Thomas Keller advises sticking to one-pot meals like roasted chicken with roasted vegetables, macaroni and cheese or beef daube (a rich beef stew). "The wonderful aroma permeates the house. When you take it out of the oven—bang—you're done," says Keller. "Add salad and a bottle of wine, and you have a beautiful meal with little cleanup."
GET CREATIVE WITH A LAZY SUSAN
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Ming Tsai places a lazy Susan on the table filled with dried mangos, dried lychee nuts, macadamia nuts, dried fish, wasabi peas, dried fish, or other exotic items. "It's there when the guests arrive so they can start munching right away," says Tsai. "And it breaks the ice, because they don't know what all the foods are and everyone starts guessing."
AVOID STRESS BY PLANNING
Take care of certain details ahead of time so you aren't frantic when your guests arrive. The night before, set the table, put platters and serving pieces on the buffet, polish silver, and make sure your wine glasses are spot-free.
QUIRKY ACTIVITIES WITH PRIZES CAN LIVEN UP THINGS
When Cynthia Rowley and Ilene Rosenzweig threw a party for their book Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life, the group played a lively game of craps. Prizes included a pair of fuzzy dice, a Playboy bunny necklace, and a parasailing trip for two.
MAKE BRUNCH EXTRA COZY
For a laid-back brunch, throw down some cushions, the Sunday papers, and encourage friends to kick off their shoes. Then create a warm, leisurely gab-fest with pumpkin pancakes or an easy do-it-yourself granola bar, plenty of fresh OJ and pitchers of Bloody Marys.
MAXIMIZE CONVERSATION AT THE TABLE
Using place cards, seat the best listeners next to the best talkers.
MAKE YOUR GUESTS GLOW
Everyone looks best in warm candlelight, so surround tall silver or glass candlesticks with votives or float short candles in a clear bowl of water.
HIGHLIGHT SPECIAL MEANING
At Ozzy Osbourne's 50th-birthday party in 1998, the guests were served chocolate bats and a punch that he grew up drinking in England. Or if you know the person, think of a dish they love making and recreate it.
HAVE A DECORATE-YOUR-OWN-DESSERT BAR
Set out plain cupcakes (or sugar cookies) next to colorful frostings and sprinkles. Or, ask guests to bring a batch of their favorite cookies to display on stacked pedestals, share and swap.
REMEMBER TO RELAX
Here's an important rule hosts often forget: When the festivities kick off, let go of details and have fun!