Plan a party like a pro

It’s easy to show up to parties, but not so easy throwing them. But, with a little planning and a lot of enthusiasm, anyone can host a great soiree. SheKnows has put together the ultimate party planning checklist — follow these steps and you can’t go wrong!

Woman with champange and christmas tree

Throw an
event to remember

It’s easy to show up to parties, but not so easy throwing them. But, with a little planning and a lot of enthusiasm, anyone can host a great soiree. SheKnows has put together the ultimate party planning checklist — follow these steps and you can’t go wrong!

Three to four weeks before

Create the guest list

Whether you’re having an intimate dinner party or a big bash, take the time to mull over your guest list. After all, people make the party! Be sure to invite a mix of couples and singles, and try to include a few new, interesting, or boisterous people in the mix. If you’re throwing a cocktail party, expect that 10 to 20 per cent of the guests won’t show up, so invite a few extra people to fill the space.

Hire any help

As the host, you want to appear cool, calm and collected so that your guests feel free to enjoy themselves. The best way to make sure your party is stress-free is to line up help a few weeks before. Most party planners hire waiters to serve food and refill drinks during the soiree, and cleaners to make everything shine afterward. If you’re on a budget, consider hiring a high school or uni student to do the hard yards.

Send the invitations

This is the logical next step! Mailed or emailed invites are best, but you can tell people over the phone in a pinch. Skip the text message invite — you’re more sophisticated than that! Make it clear if you’d rather children stay at home.

Decide on a theme

If you want one, that is. Dress-up parties only work well if everyone makes an effort, so ask yourself if your guests will relish or resent a theme. While you’re in creative mode, make, buy or borrow any decorations or accents you’ll need to turn your space into a themed wonderland.

Two weeks before

Set out the menu

Guests are happiest when they’re nibbling, so give yourself plenty of time to plan out the menu for the evening. If you’re hosting a cocktail party, think about the canapes and finger foods you want to serve. If you’re cooking dinner, carefully set out your menu, taking any guests’ allergies or dislikes into consideration. (It’s a good idea to ask your guests to outline their intolerances when they RSVP, so you don’t end up serving slow-cooked lamb to a table of vegetarians!) Get the recipes ready, then write a shopping list or put an order in with your sweet shop/butcher/bakery.

Compile a playlist

No party is complete without tunes, so pencil in some time to create a playlist. The music should match the mood and general ambience of a party, and the list should be long enough to last all night. If music isn’t your area of expertise, buy a few albums on iTunes — your guests will never know!

Count your crockery

You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen washing dishes, so take a little inventory of your plates, cutlery and serving dishes. If you’re running low, beg, borrow or buy until you have everything you need.

One week before

Hit the shops

Head to the grocery store and buy non-perishables (like chips and dips) and any ingredients you need for dishes that can be frozen. Then, do your first round of cooking — that way, you’ll minimise stress (and the amount of time you spend in the kitchen) on the day of the party!

Lights before action

Lighting is a major mood booster, so don’t skimp on it. It’s amazing what a couple of new bulbs or candles can do to set the ambience of your party. While you’re at it, think about the rest of the space. Will guests be able to move around easily? Is there any unnecessary furniture? Are there enough chairs? Where will you serve the food?

Stock up on booze

While you’re at the shops, take the opportunity to buy beverages for the party. As a general rule, plan for a bottle of wine between two people, or three to four cocktails per guest. Stick to white wine, champagne and light-coloured drinks (like vodka sodas) for a cocktail party — with people walking around, it’s safer to go with drinks that can be easily cleaned up if spilled. Along with spirits like vodka and whisky, buy a few mixers — soda, lemonade and Coke are as flexible as they come.

Clean the house

Snap on your rubber gloves and clean the house from top to toe until it sparkles. By getting this chore out of the way early, you’ll only need to do a quick tidy before the party.

The day before

Prep the decor

This is the time to make everything look pretty! Put up your decorations, play around with place settings, move chairs and furniture around, and hide anything you don’t want guests to see. Set the table or buffet. Allocate a safe place for people to store their bags and coats. Buy and arrange flowers — and bigger is better. Large, beautiful blooms fill up more space, so you’ll need less of them. Plus, they look more impressive!

Chat to the neighbours

It’s just common courtesy to let your neighbours know if you’re having a party that may be loud. This is even more important if your pals next door may have problems with parking on a busy street.

Get comfy in the kitchen

Finish the cooking. If you’ve got dishes that can only be cooked on the day, try to do as much prep — rinsing, marinating, chopping — as you can the day before.

Check out how to be the hostess with the mostess >>

The day of the party

Complete the cooking

Try to do this a few hours before guests are due to arrive, so you can open the windows and let fresh air in.

Touch up the home

Give your house a quick tidy, but don’t stress too much about this — you’re only going to have to do it again afterward!

Get ready?

Now that the menu, space and guest list is sorted, focus on yourself! Allow enough time to shower, dress, pamper and relax before the hostessing begins!

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