Elizabeth Kelly from Elk Prints has worked in the party industry for years and suggests to, “give yourself plenty of time to choose a theme and plan, deciding on a theme at least 4 months ahead of the party gives you enough time to source the perfect styling pieces, collate your ideas and take advantage of sale prices and shopping opportunities.”
If you’re throwing a themed party, not only do you have to prepare early but your guests do too. Claire Cassey from awesome party magazine Confetti Fair says, “send invites out early if there are costumes to organise and make sure your invites match the theme.” If you’re not up for making your own, check out Paper Divas for some wicked invitations for any occasion, they’re awesome.
Not all themes are going to suit all people. You know your friends, so try and do something they’ll be into. Claire says, “Make sure that the theme you choose is going to be comfortable with your guests. Try and keep the theme fairly open so there is a wide range of things that can be included rather than being limited. If the party is fancy dress stipulate on your invite No Dress No Entry – or have a backup costume for those who ‘forget’ to dress up.”
Drew stresses the importance of being logical with your party set-up: “When setting up it is important to keep the comfort of your guests in mind. Nobody wants to feel crammed into a tight space or like they are being stepped on, but keeping your guests spaced too far apart will make it hard for them to socialise. Determine where your guests will be spending most of their time and work to ensure that the space you create fills the needs of your guests.”
Cookbook author and mind behind food blog Bite Me More, Julie Albert, gives the following advice when planning your menu: 1) Match the food to your event theme 2) Include only dependable recipes – it’s not the time to experiment with an Asian Fusion Turducken 3) Choose recipes that can be prepped in advance and don’t require you to be standing at the stove stirring (read: risotto) while your guests arrive. 4) A signature cocktail goes a long way in setting the scene (i.e. Popcorn Martinis are perfect for a MovieNight!)
Apart from the booze itself, you also need to make sure your bar is stocked with mixers and garnishes. Ted suggests at a bare minimum to have the following: Garnishes: Lime, lemon and orange wedges, herbs (basil, mint), sugar and salt (for rims) Mixers: Club soda, tonic water, water, cola, lemon lime soda, cranberry juice, orange juice, coffee, bitters, liqueurs
Check out these great Party Cleaning Tips from Janine Boldrin over at Good Housekeeping!
Drew Davies from Kubarz - a one-stop shop for parties, functions and events -knows a thing or two about throwing a great shindig. He stresses the importance of being selective with your guest list, without stepping on any toes: “Ideally, the secret to making a guest list is to compile the names of everyone you are considering and then to shrink the list as much as possible while ensuring that all of the important people in your life still remain. Sure, it may seem like a great idea to invite the mailman to your wedding, but when you stop to consider the expenses that each guest and their date can add to a big event, shrinking your list becomes much easier. Focus on inviting the most important people in your lives while also working to invite people whom you know will be great guests, such as friends who are natural conversationalists or who are able to easily bring people together. Your big party is a time for you and your closest friends to celebrate a special day or event, and creating a guest list based on the people who are most important to the guests of honour is always the best way to go.”
You can’t expect your guests to do all the work! If they are putting in the effort to get dressed up then ensure you decorate the house appropriately too. “When doing a party at home make sure the area that you are setting up is befitting of the theme you have chosen, from the entrance to the bar area – it helps set the scene”, says Claire. Nicole Harris from One Last Frog Events agrees: “Props will seal the deal! For a great Gatsby themed adult party props like fake cigarettes work well and definitely encourages guests to get into the mood and theme of the party.”
You’re probably not going to throw that many themed parties in your lifetime, so go all out suggests Elizabeth Hollingsworth from My Wedding Décor: “Spend some money and/or time making an effort to impress - there's no point doing a half-baked attempt at a theme party. Have a number of "events" which thrill your guests at various intervals throughout the night ie get matched with a Bond girl name, have a light sabre battle, serve themed cocktails, get Instagram "frames" for fun photos. Give your guests cute themed gift mementoes they can take home and talk about your party afterwards”
ChivonneHyppolite from Abstract Elements Management Agency is a global event planner and event execution expert so she knows how important food is to an event: “Be sure to have food and beverage choices whichare appealing to all your guests. There should be something (at least one thing) for everybody. Over 15 Million Americans have food allergies (4 million in Australia) and most likely, a few of your guests fit the mould, so plan for an array of options to keep people happy and so that no food goes to waste.”
Ted Kilgore, a 17-year veteran of the bar and spirits world, says his No. 1 party-planning tip is to create homemade infusions: “Infusions are SO easy (and inexpensive!) to make at home, and they add a handcrafted, personal touch to your party and offer unique flavours not seen in stores. To make, simply add the flavour element of your choice to a neutral spirit (Vodka, for example) and allow it to soak in the alcohol in order to extract the flavour. Virtually any flavour you love can work in an infusion, which can be enjoyed on its own or in a unique, top-notch cocktail crafted right in your kitchen.” For great infusion ideas, drink inspiration and cocktail concepts check out Make It Your Own.
Not everyone wants to go old school with invitations in the mail! There are now great online options, which can help your plan, organise, and co-ordinate your party. Mobile/desktop app, Funnster, has themed templates for anything from birthday parties, to potluck dinners, BBQs, fundraisers. You can invite people to your party through the app and there’s a simple RSVP option. You can also: