Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Party Time!

While I'm away, traveling for the holidays, I'll be posting a series of guest posts. I've selected these posts for their content, and have edited them as I see fit -- my edits will be made noted inline with the original content, and all photos are my own. Full disclosure: these posts are being sponsored by Extra Space Storage, whom I met at BlogHer earlier this year. 

This first post is about organizing a party...a subject near and dear to my heart. I LOVE throwing parties, and our not-so-new-anymore house is a perfect place to entertain (the architect, Leola Hall, designed it that way!), so we've been hosting groups both large and small for all sorts of gatherings lately. Hosting a party can be intimidating, so I thought it might be a nice idea to share some tips and tricks! Read on, my friends...

Found the booze!

Tips for Organizing A Party

Written by Jessica Johnson, a Marketing Director at Extra Space StorageShe is an avid goal setter, reads three books each month, and blogs about organization at Storage Blog.

While hanging at bars, clubs and restaurants is fun, having people over can be a more economical, and intimate, and frankly enjoyable way of getting together – especially during the holiday season. If you’re planning on having friends or family over for holidays, special occasions or just because you haven’t seen each other in a while, check out these tips for throwing a great party:

1. Think About Space

If you are planning to have a few friends over for cocktails, space considerations usually won’t be an issue. Larger gatherings, on the other hand, require some space planning. When deciding on how many people you can comfortably host, think beyond space and consider things like bathrooms and parking as well. ed note: Don't forget about seating! Unless you plan to have a seated dinner, move chairs away from the dining room/kitchen table, and out into the open! Create clusters of casual seating that guests can move around, and try to include a little bowl of munchies like nuts, popcorn, or chocolates that people can snack on without getting up to go to the main buffet/food area. If you're having a LOT of people, consider stashing chairs in the bedroom and making the party more of a Standing Room Only deal - you'll want a few places for folks to sit, but people will likely stand around anyway.

Seating area around the fireplace and piano - piano bench
does double duty, and the dessert table is within easy reach!

2. Set a Budget

Great parties don’t require a lot of money, but you’ll save yourself some stress by setting, and sticking to, a party budget. A budget helps you set a heme and will be your guide when shopping for food, drink and other party needs. ed note: yessiroonie. save money by planning ahead of time, and shopping for decorations at the 99 cents store!

3. Establish Your Guest List

Once you know how many people you want to invite to your party, start writing out your guest list. As you write, make sure that you have contact information for each person: People often change cell phone numbers and email addresses and some guests, particularly if they are older, may not check email often. Take the time to track down the best contact method for each guest. ed note: I like to use Evite, because it's very easy to send email reminders to select groups of your guests (ie: all those who have not yet responded) - Facebook Events are handy, but since not everyone uses Facebook, and because they don't have a way to email everyone on your guest list (posting a message to the group won't notify those who haven't accepted, or email those who've turned off notifications), it can be hard to communicate! Also, always assume that a few people who didn't RSVP will show up, and vice versa. 

4. Plan a Menu

With budget and guest list in hand, start figuring out what you are going to feed all these people. While you don’t have to buy a huge amount of food, it’s a good idea to make sure that your guests won’t leave your place hungry, unless you are simply having people over for drinks and snacks before going

These days, it’s important to consider people’s dietary needs and preferences, so be sure to ask people when you call or send an invitation to let you know about their restrictions. If a person has very specific dietary needs due to an allergy or sensitivity, ask them for specific (think brand names) food items that they can eat. You may also want to clear recipes with them.
Dessert table, filled with sweets. And yes,
that is a chocolate fountain.
I like to create a pretty well-filled table before
guests arrive. You never know who's going
to bring booze and who will bring a platter
of food, so I like to be prepared. Also, I have
a thing for setting up a lovely spread.
I love it. So much. 

5. Think Like a Guest

While getting your home clean and neat is a given before a party, you need to do a walk-through with a guest’s mentality:

Is it easy to find the bathrooms? (If not, put up some signs.) Are they stocked with extra toilet paper, hand towels and feminine hygiene products? Are these items in plain view so that guests can help themselves?

Will there be rooms that are “off limits” to guests because they contain valuables or pets? Do they have signs on their doors asking guests not to enter?

Do you plan to serve drinks all evening or will guests be helping themselves? If they will be helping themselves to drinks, do you have an accessible bar, table or counter that they can use?

ed note: We decided to do drinks in the kitchen this year, so we directed guests thataway, and had a sign posted to tell people where to find what (cocoa and cider on the stove, beer and juice in the fridge, wine and liquor in front of your face).

Cookies and dreidels within reach on the TV
stand! Make sure to let friends with children
know if you have potentially dangerous things
like candles (or cookies) out at kid-height
when they arrive so they can keep
an eye on sticky little fingers :)

6. Get Help

Hiring professional caterers can certainly reduce your workload, but it can also be very expensive. Less costly alternatives include picking up prepared food from a restaurant or grocery store or hiring a college student to help you with party preparation and clean up. ed note: Thank you a million times over to Reed and David, who shopped, cleaned, decorated, and cooked with us on the day of the party and before. Without your help, I would have drowned in my own ambitions. 

Do you enjoy throwing parties? Share your best tips in the comments section!

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