How to throw a party

By Rachelle Hadley

For many of us, having to throw a party is no cause for celebration. You’re responsible for so many details—details that can culminate in anything ranging from a fantastic time to a formidable flop for your guests.

Whether it’s your daughter’s fifth birthday party, a big family reunion or your best friend’s retirement, here are five things to keep in mind ahead of your next soiree.

Know your budget

Knowing from the beginning how much you plan to spend helps you decide on things like decorations, rentals, food and beverages, party favors and the like.

Have a vision

Your choices set the flavor and formality of your event. Invitations, decorations, flowers, food, plates, utensils, colors and atmosphere all serve as “clues” to your guests about how to behave. Is it okay to laugh loudly and tell that rambunctious story? Or should that tie stay tied? Use your creativity to thread your theme throughout the whole experience.

Make your guest list

With your budget in hand and your vision in mind, define the number of guests you’ll invite. Busy people appreciate timely invitations. Shoot for four to six weeks out, depending on the formality of the event. RSVPs seem to fall in and out of favor, but they can inform your predictions and help you stay on budget. Keep in mind that some events, like open houses, don’t require RSVPs.

Remember your location, location, location

Whether your guests will fill a hotel conference room or fit in your kitchen while dinner simmers, the same rules apply. Always keep their comfort and convenience in mind. Where will your guests park? Where will they sit? What will they need to relax and enjoy themselves?

Choose your food and beverages

Your party’s menu takes the most planning. Appetizers or seated dinner? Buffet or served? Catered or home-cooked? Cocktails or coffee? Let the time of day, your guests’ wants and your theme guide your decisions.

Put yourself in your guest’s shoes as you plan. Your goal is to make them feel welcome, comfortable and relaxed. Things may not always go as planned, but good hospitality smoothes out the bumps and keeps your guests at ease.

It’s all too easy to measure your party’s success by the number of guests or the popularity of this or that dish. But there are better ways. Watch how long they stay. Listen to their laughter and happy chatter. And don’t forget to join in it.

Rachelle Hadley is NWU’s events coordinator.