Start Planning ASAPFor some of us, the mere thought of entertaining just our nearest and dearest brings about excitement only those in this business would understand. We face each task as an adventure and cant wait to dodge and weave obstacles that might terrorize the faint at heart. As an inveterate party giver, I've learned that throwing even a big holiday party doesn't have to be difficult, and can actually be fun -- if you follow certain rules. Wherever you fall on the entertaining spectrum, taking some hints from Reader's Digest, here are our ten MUSTS for making any party an unqualified success.
1. Sharpen Your Pencil and Start Planning Now
It wouldn't be a bad idea to start planning your party the moment you finish reading this. Seriously, the more time you have before the Big Day, the more organizing, shopping and cooking that you can do well in advance -- instead of in a mad rush at the end.
The first step is to hire an experienced event planner that doesn't get unraveled by these tiresome tasks and has the time to do necessary research. With or without a planner you'll need to create three master lists (guests, menu, shopping) that will help you keep track of everything for the party. Keep the lists in your wallet or date book, so you'll know exactly what you still need to purchase and how many guests have RSVP'd at all times.
Your Guest List:
You might want to call those guests whose presence you consider essential before you even set the date for your party. Inevitably, not everyone you ask will be able to come. But if "it just wouldn't be the same without them," make sure they're free and invite them then and there. Your other guests should be invited as soon as you set the date. Try to give people no less than three weeks' notice -- remember, holiday schedules fill up fast. A good strategy: Invite friends and family by phone, then follow up with a written reminder.
Your Food and Drink List:
Whether you're planning a brunch, buffet, or a cocktail party, food and drink are your party's most important ingredients. The first item to determine is the main dish. Jot down a list of recipes you're confident that you can cook well and that are proven crowd pleasers. Remember, to you it may be the same old lasagna, but to your guests it could be a new taste treat. If you do want to serve a dish you've never cooked before, be sure to test the recipe at least once (twice is even safer) before the party.
After you've figured out the main course, build the rest of the menu around it, following that same "I feel confident I can make this" rule. And don't make things too hard on yourself. If you'll be cooking a complicated main dish, go for simple appetizers and side dishes that can be easily prepared in advance.
Next, take a careful look at the yields of the recipes you'll be using to be sure they will make enough to feed your crowd. If your favorite wild rice recipe serves four but you're inviting eight, be sure it can be easily doubled before you put it on the menu.
Finally, don't forget to add beverages to your list. Plan to have a variety of nonalcoholic drinks on hand. It's best to buy more than you think you'll need. And buy lots of ice the day of the party. That way, you won't have to waste precious fridge space to chill bottles of soda. When it comes to alcohol, don't feel obligated to set up a full bar. Unless you're having a cocktail party, it's fine to limit your selections to wine and beer, and perhaps a special punch. Whatever you serve, encourage moderation -- the last thing you want people to remember about your party is a hangover.
... more to come tomorrow
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Sharon Patrice, Simple Perfect Peace/Designs by Shay