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Planning a Party: Top Ten Rules

By: Laura Farrant - Updated: 9 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Elton John Party Nervous Party Host

Are you a host that could do with brushing up your party-giving skills? Follow the advice laid out below and you cannot fail. This is the foolproof top ten list to party planning:

  1. The guest comes first

When you are in the thrust of party-planning mode, one thought should always come first - the guests. Think about how they are and how that is going to effect the party you are intending to hold. If its only close friends invited, then think about arranging an informal affair. Any event with distant acquaintances or with more of a networking focus should be more formal. Also keep in mind that some of your guests will have special dietary requirements. Plan to serve a range of beverages and food dishes so that everyone is happy.

  • Preparation, preparation, preparation
  • This might seem a bit like stating the obvious but planning ahead is a wise nugget to keep in mind. If you want to use a special ingredient, make sure you buy ahead of time to guarantee its availability when you need to use it. Getting to the supermarket on the day and finding out that the cut of fish you planned your whole dinner party around is sold out will not get the night off to a good start. The idea is that blips are avoided so that also means getting the majority of your meals or party foods made ahead of schedule. Not only will this allay any host nerves but it will also maximise the amount of time that you actually spend with your guests. When they arrive the food will be ready to serve and you will be ready to party.

  • Think simple
  • By all means, if you are an exceptional cook you can plan a food menu that puts Gordon Ramsay to shame. If your culinary skills fall someway short of such ability then keep it simple. Choose dishes that you have served before and that were particularly well received. Plan courses that complement each other. Don't serve too much of any one ingredient. You don't want to overwhelm your guests with too much meat for example, or a three course carb-laden affair. Balance and simplicity will go a long way.

  • Extravagance has its limits
  • Elton John is lauded for his fabulously extravagant parties. You need not aspire to rich such dizzy heights of excess. It's far better for your pocket and for your guest's comfort to keep things appropriate. If it is an informal gathering with close friends you don't need to spend way over budget to impress them.

  • Keep it appetizing
  • Satisfying your guest's appetites is more than just flavour. Both the food and the venue should make good use of colour to stimulate your guests. If you decorate correctly the ambience you intend to create will be easy. Think carefully here. A candlelit room can create a gentle, intimate atmosphere, perfect for your nearest and dearest. Inviting your boss over and wining and dining him to candlelight might not be so appropriate. In all cases, make use of garnishes, interesting glasses and plates and tasteful centrepieces for the tables. These are the things that people notice.

  • It's all about the music
  • It goes without saying that a themed party, like a sixties night, should be married with the appropriate music. The evening's soundtrack should go some way to define the mood of the evening. Classical music says grown up and sophisticated, Ibiza chill out tunes says laid back and re-runs of the Macarena say something else entirely. Give this some thought and keep the volume at a level that still allows for conversation.

  • Battle the wine minefield
  • It's worth researching wine. Consider what wine you should serve. If your nose is not that of an expert ask in your local wine merchants. They are normally happy to recommend a grape that will suit your food and your budget. Think about picking a range of red and whites as people do have preferences. Don't forget the water - pick up a choice of still and sparkling.

  • Dress to impress
  • If you want the evening to be black tie, say so. Make it clear on your invitation. If you don't then your guests will simply assume the smart/casual uniform. If you want to make a specific dress code request, keep it clear. No guest wants to spend hours deciphering your mystic and original dress request. If it's casual, keep it casual, if its themed make the theme explicit.

  • Make sure your guests are coming
  • The RSVP's may not have come flooding in but that doesn't mean that people will not turn up. Guests are sometimes lazy about RSVP'ing, particularly if it means writing a letter. Give them a courtesy email or phone call to save them the hassle. This will help you plan seating arrangements and the amount of food that you will need to serve.

  • Be a gracious host
  • If you are nervous, flustered and stressed, keep it under wraps. Guests will be able to sense such emotions and it will make them feel uncomfortable and as stressed as you. If you have prepared well in advance and kept things simple, your party will go with a bang and everyone, including you, will be very happy.

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