Time again for Thursday Thirteen.
For years, my roommate and I threw huge parties that were loads of fun. People would send us thank you notes afterward, just for being invited. Although my husband is not quite as interested in party planning as my roommate was, he follows directions well and is a lot of help to me when I do it. And even though we don’t have these big bashes as often as we used to, we still put a lot of effort into making them memorable and fun for our guests.
Last weekend was an early celebration of my 40th birthday party, an honor that I shared with four other friends also turning 40 this year. We had approximately 80 guests stuffed into our house—a bit larger than our usual party size—but, like old times, it was a fabulous evening for nearly everyone. Using this event and the planning that led up to it, here are some suggestions for throwing large parties in your home.
13 of Jen’s party planning rules
- If, when hearing about the party, a friend tells you they’re willing to help, remember that. If you can’t find anything for them to do, you will as the party date nears. It’s hard for me to ask for help, but when I remember that time I had an hour left before guests arrived and I still hadn’t showered or made the hollandaise, I remember how important it is to enlist the help of friends. Even more important: Do not ask unsanitary folk to handle food, especially if I’m invited to your party.
- Use your party date as motivation to get projects done around your house. Been meaning to paint your kitchen for months? Do it now. Do not, however, start anything that can’t be finished on time; an unpainted kitchen is better than a half-painted one.
- Make a list of ALL items that you’ll need for the party, not just the big things. With cake, you need candles, lighter, knife, serving spatula, etc. Don’t wait until cake time to start looking for them.
- Even if you don’t want to do much decorating, make a few bouquets of helium-filled balloons. They’re festive, fun and very easy. Send them home with the kids after the party.
- Confetti is also fun and festive—I love to sprinkle handfuls on the tables—but you’ll be finding it long after the party’s over. Consider alternative décor, or keep that vacuum cleaner handy for a few months.
- IKEA has glassware and tableware that is inexpensive (and sturdier than plastic, obviously). Consider spending a little bit more for party supplies that you can use several times.
- Put a few people in charge of specific tasks, à la Joe Mayo. Want everyone to wear name tags? Ask someone to make sure guests get them when they arrive. Want a guest book signed? Ask someone to take care of passing it around. As a host, you can’t take care of everything, and not having to worry about the little things will give you more time to socialize with your guests.
- If some of your guests are kids, make sure some of your food is kid-friendly.
- If you don’t want leftover food or cake, plan to send it home with your guests. Have disposable food containers, plastic wrap, plates, zip-loc bags, etc. ready to fill.
- Nobody ever eats as much as you expect them to. Don’t provide less food and risk running out; just make sure you LIKE what you serve because you’ll probably be eating it for a week afterward.
- Ask a few different people to take pictures throughout the party. Make the photos available to your guests on a site like Flickr, so they can view them and order prints if they choose.
- This is your party; give yourself the opportunity to enjoy it. Only jackass guests complain to the hostess about other guests, food selection, or crappy beer (um, it’s free! SHUT UP!). Don’t let them ruin your otherwise enjoyable evening.
- Schedule a massage for yourself in the day or two after the party as a little pampering reward for a job well done. But a brow wax and spray-on tan? They should not be done the day of the party. Have them done earlier in the week. Trust me on this.
Please share your valuable party tips in a comment. Thanks!