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The Party Planning Post

Posted Nov 26 2013 12:00am

A long, long, LONG LONG time ago, a beautiful and very kind reader who has become a friend over the years sent me a Facebook message.

Well, she actually sent three. Over the course of about, um, let us say six months. Does that sound right, Sandra?

Message Numero Uno:

So I'm having a housewarming party. Don't know when, but we just bought a house, and it's my first new house ever (moved from apartment with roommates to stupid isolated house on the farm with no neighbors or friends yeah you get the picture). But I have never hosted a party that didn't have, ya know, adults. Out of their 20s. And I'm a stupid introvert and I just want people to come over and have FUN but it scares me to death.

I have a few months to plan. Just looking for advice on party planning ... what to buy, what to do, what to serve.... oh, I dunno. I'm a mess. 

Ahem. Please to note that it has taken me SIX MONTHS to reply to you. WHO is the mess now, Missy?  Hmmmm?

Message Numero Two:

I know I asked for how to do a party but you know what I would like and might make an excellent blog post? What to have on hand for impromptu get-togethers. Like, hey, the parents on the soccer team are all coming over after the game and bringing beer and we're ordering pizza ... so what should that house have on hand? food, seating, etc.??

Message the Third:

Forget the party post. You are dead to me.

I'm so kidding. That's not what she said at all. She told me that she'd had several parties in the time I'd abandoned her, and she was channeling me for said parties, and wondered if I might know why her parties weren't as fun as they might be - and I said it was because she was channeling me. 

BOOM. I am my own worst critic. Apparently, I need lots of reassurance and hand holding. :)

No, in reality, she was warm and lovely and I feel like even MORE of an idiot for totally abandoning this topic. And, so, I though that I'd write up 6 or 8 or 10 things that I like to keep in mind for parties. Especially as Thanksgiving is in 48 hours - what can you add to this list?

  1. The first step to having a fantastic party is to just decide you are having one. You may be asking yourself, "Why did she ask Carmen for party planning tips? Is she trying to get in good with her?" The reality is, I love to have parties. Love them. Would have one every week if it wasn't so expensive and messy and I didn't have, you know, life.  But, you can make yourself crazy with the Should I or shouldn't I? debate. Just have the party already. You know you want to - so figure out a date and pencil it in.
  2. Now, let's discuss what type of party. Will it be a small, intimate gathering of neighbors to watch football and drink beer? Will you invite your female friends for chocolate desserts on Valentine's weekend? Will you have your girlfriends bring over the clothes that they don't want and host a clothing swap? Will you invite everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, local that you like for Cookies, Coffee and Booze two weeks before Christmas? Will you have the soccer team over to celebrate the end of the season, give out trophies, and slip the parents wine on the side? It's totally up to you - if a big party paralyzes you, invite two couples and call it intimate. Maybe you don't want to cook a bunch, or you aren't confident in your culinary skills - plan a potluck, in which you serve the drinks and desserts and everyone brings their favorite main dish. It's totally up to you, is the point.
  3. People like to bring stuff. I know, there's always someone who gripes - but just don't invite that person. (I'm kidding, I'm kidding - Dad, you are always welcome. HA!) If people ask, don't be shy - often, they like to bring stuff to show support to you or to maybe be able to make their famous chocolate cake and not eat the entire thing in a weekend. Not like I would know about that. If someone wants to bring something and you can't imagine what you need, say ice. I never ever ever have enough ice.
  4. What should you have on hand? Booze. (I'm kidding. Someone told me once that she worried about my drinking, because it was clear to her that I drank a lot. Newsflash: I TALK about drinking a lot. I drink maybe once a week, and when I do, it's a drink. One. I don't have the tolerance to drink more, and it sets off my migraines - so I talk a big talk.) One of the best things I have on hand, and I totally didn't do it, my sister in law Joann did, was keep one of those huge boxes of 300 -500 pieces of plasticware on hand. She bought me a box, and it was like the light switch went off. Since then, I try to always keep paper plates, napkins, cups and forks on hand. You can have a party without them, and I do, all the time - but it's so much easier to have disposable. I don't keep special foods on hand, because, hello, we would all eat them. I do have a Pinterest board and when the mood strikes to have a party, I take a few minutes to look through it for food ideas. There's ALWAYS something new to try!
  5. As far as food? You can never have too much - but be careful with your choices. It's super easy to buy 6 bags of chips and some dip, but what about making a theme? Taco night, chili and cornbread, desserts for two? Cookies and coffee, pizza, Italian, fondue? There are tons of ideas. What about a backwards dinner? Breakfast after church? Mason jars and grilled foods? Again, search on Pinterest for party ideas.
  6. Seating is the bane of my existence. My typical MO is to pull the kitchen chairs into the living room and push the kitchen table back up against the wall. It opens the space and gives everyone more room to gather in the kitchen- because you KNOW that is where everyone ends up anyway. I don't really worry about seating, to be honest.
  7. Keeping food warm - crockpots are fantastic for this. I try to make at least two things that I can do ahead of time and keep warm in the crock. Otherwise - I don't worry about keeping foods hot, because you will go CRAZY doing this, Instead, introduce your guests to your microwave and relax. My husband always wants food to be roughly the temperature of lava, so we are big time microwave users. Me? As long as it's not frozen solid or burning my mouth, I'll eat it at any temperature - years of eating with babies cured me from being temperature fussy.
  8. The Great Introvert Question. If you are introverted, but want to have a kickin' party, what do you do? Well, you invite a lot of extroverts. I'm only half kidding. One thing I've gotten knocked on at my parties before is that I tend to forget to introduce people - I bring people in and I'm usually still setting up and getting food out and, well, it's a weakness that I have. Invite at least one person who loves to talk - I guarantee that your party will never go wrong. (in my parties, this person is me. So, invite me, is what I'm trying to say!) I try, to the best of my ability, to keep an eye out for people who are too quiet, are sitting alone, or look bored. Often, I might ask those people to help me with something - it's a great way to bring a quiet person in to the party in a non threatening way. Don't forget - other people enjoy parties in a different way, so if they are quiet, it might not be you. (Unless it's me. It's ALWAYS ME.) If you have a lot of people who don't know each other, think of an ice breaker - I've had people wear nametags that show a "7 degrees of Carmen" type thing, where they tell how they know me - and see how close the other person is. It's surprisingly fun.
  9. And cleaning. The great debate - do you clean before, or during, or after? I do a vast pick up before, and probably pass the vacuum - and definitely wipe the bathroom down. Otherwise, I wait until after - it's going to get messy during the party, and spills happen, so mop after. Try to keep up with the garbage cans during, and I usually make sure the dishwasher is empty before, so I can toss stuff in while the party is going strong. If you do that, the work after is almost negligible.
  10. And I forgot decorating - probably because I do very little of it. There are, again, fantastic Pinterest boards devoted to this - but decorating and crafty are two areas in which I am sadly lacking. I have done balloons and streamers and chalk and window markers - and my mom provides fantastic graduation stuffs and football decorations for thos parties - but this is an area in which I really struggle.

So, maybe that was a very basic thing to you - in which case, come back tomorrow, and I'll discuss the books I've been reading.

Party planning. What can you add?

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