LARGE SCALE ENTERTAINING FROM THE COMFORT OF HOME
The tables are set. Everything is in order and the guests are beginning to arrive. The mood is right, and as the room fills with your party-goers, laughter begins to bubble up amid the murmur of your company settling in and getting acquainted. Whether it’s a family reunion, a sweet sixteen, or a memorable event with your friends, creating a space where magic happens brings a satisfaction like no other. While catering to large groups can be a complex and sometimes daunting undertaking, it is also an exhilarating experience being able to add your own personal touches and choices to details like the hors d’oeuvres, drinks, music, décor and lighting, seating, centerpieces, invitations, and RSVPs. There’s so much to do that it can be exciting just trying to find the right place to start!
START WITH A
So what kind of party is it going to be? Will it be a raucous party with live music and dancing or maybe it’s just some close friends joining you for a celebration? Both require a great deal of planning whether it’s a trip to the local novelty store for party hats, calling your favorite local caterer, or maybe if it’s more your style, making an appointment with an elegant boutique party planner that can handle the particulars like decorations, place settings, and other such details. Once you’ve gotten your vision set, let’s focus on the inevitable question: Who’s coming?
Birthdays, milestones, special events, holidays… you don’t invite the same group to every event, and the guest list is a great starting point to begin seeing your gathering taking shape. The real first broad brushstrokes that will frame your event often start with the guest list. How many people will you be hosting? Are you planning on having an indoor/ outdoor affair with plenty of space for guests to move throughout your home and feel comfortable in the setting you’ve created? Or will it be a tight fit to get a lot of people in your great room without having to make choices about whose feelings will get hurt if they don’t make the cut. Be sure when composing your guest list and/or seating assignments, to make informed and compassionate decisions when planning on placing whom next to whom.
You’re putting together your guest list thinking about space and one of the first things to decide is what sort of large spaces you have in your home that could host a gathering of the size you’re considering. Ideally your home has an open floor plan with the ability to move furniture around for the most optimal use of the space. A large great room with attached family and dining room makes it easy to manage the flow of traffic and also makes it easy for revelers to move around freely, whether it’s to the hors d’oeuvres table or the bar. Also, does your home come with an outdoor space on the veranda with a pool and water features? Definitely a bonus for the obvious reasons of more space to be had, but it can also bring a subtle change for guests to be able to step in and out whenever they need to get some fresh air.
Another tactic if you’re serving drinks and food, is to place them strategically apart from one another so that your guests won’t be all hovering on one side of the room, and you can play around with the layout. Anything from fresh flower arrangements, a beautiful centerpiece, or objet d’art can transform your celebration from average to exceptional with some simple design flourishes.
Another inevitable, but maybe not so obvious question: Where is everyone going to park their cars? The option of hiring a valet service not only solves the issue of long walks to and from parked cars, but adds a noticeable touch of class, and makes your guests feel pampered and relaxed before they even walk in the door. It’s also polite to your neighbors and it keeps them from fretting about too many cars on their street. There are scores of decisions you can make in the planning stage of your event, and at your home you have the time, ideas, and familiarity with your guests to make the best of them.
There are so many subtle influences you can make in pre-planning the food you’ll be inviting guests to enjoy. Try to stay on the theme you’ve chosen for your event. Will there be placards and seating assignments if it’s a dinner party? Do your friends require any special instructions ahead of time, like pre-ordering food served based on dietary needs or even what to wear based on the activities? Once you’ve figured out these details. it’ll be time to begin making arrangements in order to achieve the ambiance and warmth of your well-thought out party plan.
or not to cater
When throwing a large party, you might consider having it catered so you’ll have more free time to enjoy the party with your guests making sure everyone is having a good time. Not to mention, when considering doing it all on your own you should be asking these questions: Have you ever prepared food for large groups? Do you want to be cooking and serving while handling the logistics of the party and making sure guests are having a good time? Is it worth the clean up afterwards? Probably not. And it can be pretty challenging to throw a great party without a little professional help and guidance. And, having some extra hands making and serving the food and preparations can be a game changer. Additionally, having world-class cuisine served by a delightful and professional staff can leave an indelible impression on your guests, an experience they’ll remember time and time again. Plus, if necessary, the addition of a professional bartender and waitstaff can make even more of an impression as well as the added assurance that everything will be handled elegantly and professionally.
There are some housekeeping tasks you should do to switch your home from personal-daily- living mode to welcome-to-my-fabulous-home mode. In order to achieve the look you’ll want for your home to present a comfortable and clean experience. De-clutter the space where you’ll be hosting your party-goers, and make sure there aren’t personal items (mail, shoes, kid’s toys, and whatnot) around. We’re not going for “sterile” — after all, the feeling of your personal space is part of the draw — but make your space as presentable as possible. And don’t forget about the bathroom!
Be sure to put away toiletries and the like so that the restroom is well maintained, and stocked with extra toilet paper, clean towels, and soap. Pro-tip: choose a room (perhaps a bedroom, or other less- used room) near the main party, and designate it as a place for guests’ coats, and bags or purses. Also, doing a quick sweep-and-vacuum around the areas where you’ll be entertaining, will make sure you’re ready to shine. You can only make one first impression, so make it count.
It’s inevitable, all parties must end. But the good vibes and memories created from the event can linger on long after the last guest bids their farewell. Two words: party favors. They’re not just for kids’ themed birthdays and weddings, party favors — or keepsakes — can be offered for just about any gathering or special occasion you can think of. All it takes is a little creativity and maybe some “Googling” to gain inspiration from the hundreds who may have already done the thinking/planning work for you. The key here is to create that one “thing” that captures the spirit of the occasion. When your party goers see your well-thought-out party favor resting on a mantle or shelf in their home, or find it later stowed in their keepsakes box, the memories will flood back in as if they were right back in the moment.
Having a party can be a very rewarding and memorable experience for you and your guests so making sure it goes off without a hitch starts with one thing: planning. Getting started right and making sure you attend to every detail will assure you and your guests have a great time at a well-organized and strategically planned party. Being that every party has a different purpose, you can still do your best to show your guests a good time whether it’s a formal dinner affair or a baby shower. Taking the time to plan out every detail and eventuality will pay dividends in the end. And why not make the event easy on yourself by hiring staff and caterers who can give you the time and space to mingle with your guests, make sure everyone has full drinks, and ensure your company is having a spectacular time. Planning a party can be fun, especially when it’s done right.