I love a party, whether it’s an impromptu “come on over” or a months-of-planning a gala ball. I’ve found that the very best ones have a few things in common. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your next soirée.
- The Flowers.
You want to say “party”? Say it with tulips (or peonies, or roses). I don’t mean that you have to call the most expensive florist in town, but fresh flowers can make the difference between just having dinner and throwing a dinner party. Give a little thought about how you’ll set the table and the food you’ll be serving, and pick some nice vases or other containers to complement. Just make sure your arrangements don’t block the conversation!
- The Napkins.
For most people, napkins are an afterthought, but I am a stickler for nice cocktail napkins and dinner napkins. I just think it makes all the difference in the world to have a pretty napkin on your table and holding your cocktail or glass of wine. For a fancy dinner party, nothing is nicer than white linen napkins, and a color or pattern is a nice way to dress up a casual party. A monogram is always a great touch but pay more attention to the fabric — you want cotton or linen, not some rayon/polyester blend that slides off your lap and doesn’t absorb moisture (or gravy).
- An Occasion.
Most people throw a cocktail party or a dinner party around a special occasion. Now, that can just be “an occasion” because you have not been together in a long time but giving a reason to gather seems to make it more special (it also makes people more likely to attend, since it’s not “just another party.”) Having an occasion can also help with the theme of your entertaining — use the guest of honor’s favorite flowers, or horsey decor for your Kentucky Derby party, or limit your wine tasting to bottles from just one country so that the menu’s taken care of, too.
- A Great Guest List.
Make sure you have fun people — a variety of interesting people who have interesting things to talk about. There’s perhaps a little less pressure if you’re not at a formal dinner with a seating chart, but you still need a nice mix. You can get away with serving everyone the same food and the same wine, but nothing kills a party like everyone talking about the same old things. Make a nice sampler of your oldest friends, some new friends, and some people you’d like to make friends. Just remember that you want to make every guest you have in your home feel special.
- A Great Attitude
Smile! And have fun! Wear something that you know you look great in, and that you can move comfortably in. If you feel comfortable and at ease, so will your guests. You can give clues about the formality and style of the party with the invitation, and doing so will be a great favor to your guests, who won’t have to worry about showing up at the door in something inappropriate. As the hostess, the worst thing you can do is walk around looking harried or making excuses about how you’ve been just too busy to get everything ready.
- The Food.
You smart readers may have noticed that I’ve put food down as #6 on my list of five. That’s because food is really the least important part, and it’s rarely the thing that most people go to parties for. But again, make your guests feel special. Think about interesting presentations, or dishes set on the table in a creative way. Even if you just serve pizza, you can make it a gourmet pizza, and put it on a pretty plate. Some of these special touches will even save you time; mixing up a signature cocktail means you can do most of your bartending duties well ahead of time, so you won’t get trapped mixing muddled Old Fashions every three or four minutes.
What are your party must-haves? What are your tips for throwing a party that really stands out? Let me know in the comments.