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Party Tips

   Back to Party Basics

When you want to throw a spectacular celebration, even the little details count. And whether you need to know how to send invitations, set up a buffet table, or give a memorable toast, we’ve pulled together our best tips to make sure your event is not only perfect, but simple, too. 


General Event Planning

  • Serving foods at a combination of temperatures will not only free up your oven, it will add variety to your menu. Mix cold platters, like our wonderful Captain’s Choice shrimp, with tasty warm foods, such as our famous rotisserie chicken. You might even add items served best at room temperature, like our delicious tea cookies and cakes.
  • Consider the time of day and year.  A late-night party calls for smaller portions than a 7 p.m. gathering.  Season and location are also important factors. Chili wouldn’t be appropriate on a hot summer day, nor would ice cream on a cold winter night.
  • Ordering and purchasing the right amount of food is one of the trickiest parts of entertaining. As a rule of thumb, always plan for a little more than you think will actually be consumed. A few leftovers will give you something to enjoy after the party.

 

Adult Birthday


  • Display old photos for decorations. Create a collage for the cake table, or make a game of it by having guests guess what year the pictures were snapped.
  • Scan an old graduation or yearbook picture of the guest of honor to use as invitation artwork. Or go all out by making that era the theme of the party. Who says disco and fondue sets are out of style?
  • Provide detailed information in your invitations such as what to wear, how long the party will last and whether guests need to bring any gear, if the party is focused on an event or specific activity.
  • If you're hosting a jewelry-making party or other event where you ask fellow enthusiasts to contribute supplies, be sure to have extra materials on hand for guests who may be new to the activity.
  • Make buttons or pins from pictures of the birthday guy or gal at different stages in life for guests to wear. Let guests choose from among baby pictures, yearbook pictures and candid snapshots.
  • Combine humor with gifts the birthday honoree can use. For example, put a gift certificate or theater tickets inside a funny card or inexpensive gag gift.
  • If you plan to celebrate by taking the party to a sporting event, make sure guests RSVP before you purchase tickets. To streamline your budget, ask ballclubs about group rates and special promotions.
  • If you need extra seating at home for the party, ask guests to bring lawn chairs. These are perfect for socializing after backyard volleyball or baseball, and you can use them indoors to watch a big game.

Anniversary


  • Take the guests of honor back in time with nostalgic tunes. Create a CD of retro love songs and other melodies that have special meaning to the couple.
  • Display wedding memorabilia and cherished mementos as party decorations. Label items, such as a dried bouquet of wedding flowers or a picture from a sweetheart's dance, with an anecdote or memory to personalize the presentation.

Baby Shower


  • Decorate for a baby shower using items the parents and baby can use later. Select cheerful yellow ducky bath toys for table decorations or colorful bibs hung on strings in place of paper streamers.
  • Jazz up traditional baby pastels when choosing decorations and paper goods for your shower. Pick one main color and use variations of the hue, mixing light pastels, medium tones and bright bolds together.

Business Luncheon


  • Revive guests in afternoon meetings with an assortment of fresh cut fruit and light cheeses at break time. Plenty of water, coffee and soft drinks will also help keep the agenda on track.
  • To give the celebration a lively touch, place fresh, colorful floral arrangements on tabletops, mantel and anywhere else you see fit.

Dessert Party


  • Set out knives and serving utensils for each dessert so guests avoid unintentionally mixing flavors and detracting from the original taste.
  • Decrease portion size as dessert selection increases: If you're serving six desserts, cut smaller slices than if you were serving four. This way guests can sample everything before they're full.

Easter Extravaganza


  • Display old photos from past Easter celebrations for decorations. Create a collage for the cake table, or make a game of it by having guests guess which years the pictures were snapped.
  • To give the celebration a lively touch, place fresh, colorful floral arrangements on tabletops, mantel and anywhere else you see fit.

Family Reunion


  • Make reunion planning a team effort. Recruit family members to get a variety of ideas, involve others in the event and to spread out the work. Tap your accountant uncle to handle the finances. Ask your superorganized sister to take charge of the activities. The more, the merrier!
  • Preserve the memory of this special event. Make a video that captures everyone who attends along with highlights of the activities. Work on a family history scrapbook during the reunion, or hire a professional photographer to snap planned and spontaneous family shots.

Father's Day


  • As a special gift to Dad, download favorite pictures of your family onto a blank CD and use design software to create a customized cover. Put the CDs in an empty plastic case that he can bring to work.
  • If you're taking Dad to a game to celebrate, hang onto everyone's tickets until it's time to enter so no one loses one.

Graduation


  • If the guest of honor is a high school grad or younger, this may be the perfect time to let them learn how to plan a party and be a gracious host, since there will likely be a mix of ages. Include the grad in everything from invitations to thank-yous.
  • If your guest list is limited to close friends and family, download favorite pictures of the graduate on blank CDs and use design software to create a customized cover. Put the CDs in empty plastic cases to distribute at the party.

Halloween


  • Adapt party games for guests of all ages. To play Halloween charades, for example, write down characters from younger guests' favorite Halloween books and television shows and have them act the characters out.
  • Keep punch cold with this "icky" ice ring: Arrange multicolor gummy worms in the bottom of a 6-cup ring mold and fill the mold with water or juice concentrate before freezing.

Kid's Birthday


  • Burn a CD with a special mix of dino-inspired songs and other birthday classics to play during the party. Make extra copies of the CD and hand them out as party favors to remind guests of their wild time.
  • Invite only the number of kids you feel comfortable hosting. If the guest list includes more little ones than you can handle, ask another parent or neighborhood teen to help supervise.
  • Send invitations through the mail rather than handing them out at school. Kids love getting envelopes addressed to them, and parents are more likely to see the invitation and RSVP.
  • Consider giving small prizes such as candy, stickers and other trinkets to all participants, particularly for games with one winner. Or play multiple rounds to increase everyone's chances of receiving a prize.
  • Create a scavenger hunt at your neighborhood park by having the kids track down easy-to-find items (sticks and leaves) and more difficult objects (different-colored rocks).
  • If you're up to the challenge, invite guests to bring their small pets such as hamsters, turtles or guinea pigs'in their cages, of course. Let kids share interesting facts about their companions, as Diego would. Or set up an ant farm or collection of worms.
  • Mark disposable beverage glasses with each child's name to eliminate shouts of "Is this one mine?" If guests are old enough, have them label and decorate their own cups.
  • To make gift-opening a game for everyone, ask the kids to sit in a circle with their gifts. Place a spinner from a board game in the center of the circle and spin it to determine the order in which the birthday child opens gifts.
  • Reinvent an old favorite by playing a game of Capture the Flag. Or set up an obstacle course with a pirate-inspired twist to keep kids intrigued.
  • For party favors your shipmates can wear, make eye patches with black construction paper and colored yarn. Create pirate hats from newspaper and finger paint.
  • Play active games at the beginning of the party. Set up a superhuman obstacle course challenge with inner tubes, plastic cones, lawn chairs and other toys.
  • Serve plenty of beverages to help your active bunch stay hydrated. Punch, juice or a cooler of bottled water will keep kids on top of the world.
  • Ask whether you can bring in your own food before booking a party room at a bowling alley or other venue.
  • If you're watching a game at the stadium, hang onto everyone's tickets until it's time to enter so no one loses one.

Mother's Day


  • As a special gift to Mom, download favorite pictures of your family onto a blank CD and use design software to create a customized cover. Put the CDs in an empty plastic case that she can bring to work.
  • To give the celebration a lively touch, place fresh, colorful floral arrangements on tabletops, mantel and anywhere else you see fit.

New Year's Eve Bash


  • If you're having relatives over, quiz them about family events from the past year and encourage them to share stories by including silly questions such as "What did Grandma make for dinner on Mom's birthday?"
  • Have several corkscrews ready. In all the merriment, one may get misplaced. Also consider using decorative wine charms to help guests keep track of their glasses.

Party Basics


  • Encourage kids to help write thank-you notes for gifts they've received. The littlest ones can contribute artwork while older kids can sign their name or write a message.
  • Use your menu planning to accommodate, or include alternatives, for guests with special dietary needs. A vegetarian entrée or a sugar-free dessert may appeal to multiple guests.
  • If possible, select as many make-ahead dishes as you can, and clear your refrigerator and freezer to allow extra storage space. Keep party food toward the front for easy access.
  • Match invitation tone with planned party atmosphere. Use phrases such as "you are cordially invited" for weddings and anniversaries, and casual quips such as "join the fun" for informal birthday and holiday parties.
  • Welcome guests with a "meet and greet" crew of a few family members or friends. Your support team can also assist with last minute food prep and initiate games and activities.
  • Organize the guest list, menu, returned RSVP cards and party information in one place to maximize convenience-particularly for large or formal parties.
  • Feel free to use a variety of mismatched linens, silverware and glassware. A variety of colors, sizes and textures adds character to the buffet.
  • Leave a little space on the buffet line for guests to set down plates, especially if they need both hands to serve themselves a particular dish.
  • Consult your favorite writers, poets and lyricists for inspiration. A well-chosen quote can make as much of an impact as a toast you authored yourself.
  • Write your toast on a note card and set it on your chair or underneath your napkin ahead of time so you won't misplace it.
  • Always stock extra beverages. Save unopened wine and liquor bottles for upcoming occasions, and sip leftover mixers like lemonade, soda, and juice any day of the week.
  • Purchase inexpensive plastic wine glasses, tumblers and champagne flutes to handle a larger guest list. You can re-wash and save them from party to party.
  • Write down and post in a visible location the phone numbers for taxi services for guests who need to get home but can't drive themselves.
  • Include special garnishes to make sipping more fun. Stock precut lemon and lime wedges, maraschino cherries, olives and cocktail swords, and include add-ons for special beverages, such as splayed strawberries atop daiquiris.

Retirement


  • If the setting allows, extend the guest list beyond current coworkers. A long-time administrative assistant who's retired or a boss from a previous part-time job may be a welcome addition for a trip down memory lane.
  • When quizzing guests about the retiree's years of service, encourage them to share stories by including silly questions such as "What did Barb always bring for lunch?" or "How many times did George fix the copier?"

Sporting Event


  • Serve food that's easy to grab during time-outs. Skewer meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies, and dish smaller items--popcorn, chips and dip--into plastic cups
  • Send invitations that encourage guests to pull out all the stops with their favorite team apparel: go for striped socks, jerseys and face paint galore. Guests who favor rivaling teams can compete for the title of "best dressed."

St. Patrick's Day


  • If you're hosting a St. Patrick's Day party for your kids, this may be the perfect time to let them learn how to plan a party and be a gracious host, since there will likely be a mix of ages. Include them in everything from invitations to thank-yous.
  • Ask whether you can bring in your own food before booking a party room at a bowling alley or other venue.

Summer Celebrations


  • Mark disposable beverage glasses with each child's name to eliminate shouts of "Is this one mine?" If guests are old enough, have them label and decorate their own cups.
  • Create a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood by having the kids track down easy-to-find items (sticks and leaves) and more difficult objects (different-colored rocks).

Teen Birthday


  • Set a reasonable budget before the party planning begins, then let the birthday girl help decide how to spend it.
  • Hire a photographer to take formal pictures or give guests disposable cameras to capture informal shots.

Thanksgiving


  • Set the table or the buffet the day before, down to the candles, napkins and centerpiece. Place your serving platters and bowls near the buffet.
  • Ask if guests are bringing an appetizer, salad or dessert so you don't end up with too much of one thing and not enough of another.

The Big Game Bash


  • If you need extra seating at home for the party, ask guests to bring lawn chairs to use indoors when you watch the big game.
  • Serve plenty of beverages to help your active bunch stay hydrated. Offer plenty of nonalcoholic beverages such as punch, juice or bottled water.

Valentine's Day


  • Burn a CD with a special mix of love songs to play during the party. Make extra copies of the CD and hand them out as party favors to remind guests of their fun time.
  • Plan ahead for the right wine temperature. White wines need several hours to chill properly and should be served anywhere from 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Red varietals will be ready in about 45 minutes. Lighter red wines should be served at 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; serve fuller-bodied reds at 58 to 65 degrees.

Wedding Party Ideas


  • To prevent confusion among the wedding party and family members, create and distribute a wedding weekend agenda that details times and locations. Include directions and key phone numbers for just-in-case situations.
  • Be sure to stock up on grab-and-go snacks that the bridal party can eat on the fly as they dash from one pre-ceremony event to the next.

Wedding Shower


  • Keep the bride's tastes and preferences at the forefront of party planning. Allow her to supply or approve the guest list and ask her how involved she wants to be.
  • Preview the big day for guests by using wedding colors as inspiration for shower decorations. That way items such as the guestbook pen, tablecloths, ribbon and tulle can be reused.

Wine Tasting


  • Plan ahead for the right wine temperature. White wines need several hours to chill properly and should be served anywhere from 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Red varietals will be ready in about 45 minutes. Lighter red wines should be served at 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; serve fuller-bodied reds at 58 to 65 degrees.
  • Have several corkscrews ready. In all the merriment, one may get misplaced. Also consider using decorative wine charms to help guests keep track of their glasses.

Winter Holidays


  • Hire a photographer to take formal pictures or give guests disposable cameras to capture informal shots.
  • To make gift-opening a game for everyone, ask the kids to sit in a circle with their gifts. Place a spinner from a board game in the center of the circle and spin it to determine the order in which the kids open gifts.
~ LIST IS EMPTY ~

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