I love planning a party! It seems like everyone these days is still wanting to gather and make up for lost time since the pandemic. When I plan a party, I think of it much like cooking a meal. You need a few key ingredients to form the base, some garnishes to accent it, and then finish off with nice plating for presentation. When you have your uncooked ingredients and platters on a counter, it doesn’t look like much. But with a little bit of effort, finesse, and know-how, you can make something beautiful for your next event and even surprise yourself!
Whether you’re looking to host a shower, a birthday party, or a just-because backyard bash, there’s no reason it can’t be amazing! With a few simple tricks and tips, I’ve included everything you need to help ensure the success of your upcoming soiree!
The Importance of Prep
Start planning your party at least a few weeks in advance to ensure that you have enough time to make all the necessary preparations. Make a checklist of everything you need to do: from sending out invitations to buying decorations and preparing food.
Two additional simple tips worth mentioning: If you’re hosting at-home during the warmer months, be sure to increase the AC a little cooler than you normally have it. Trust me, your guests will thank you for it. My other suggestion: if some of your guests are bringing children, depending their age, you may want to include some special activities, designate a separate area, or hire some children-friendly entertainment so that your guests (and you!) can focus instead on enjoying themselves.
I always recommend investing in one element of a party that has a wow factor. Whether this is a DIY balloon arch or sweets cart, you need something to be the focal point of the event that will make for a great photo. Weddings have head tables for this reason, and even if your party isn’t a wedding, you can still borrow the principles around having a decorative focal point. At one of my recent parties, we had a large black cage from our florist that was definitely the main décor element of the space, so we built around it. We added vinyl to the floor so that it became the main photo opp, and I brought in black furniture to tie it all together.
In addition to one main focal point for décor and photos, it’s a great idea to have one other area that creates a photo opp for guests. One simple way to do this is to have a backdrop and selfie tripod stand. Everyone comes to parties with their phones nowadays anyway, so a selfie tripod stand makes for a great photo booth alternative. I like to tuck these secondary photo opp areas in a quieter spot where guests can enjoy taking photos without being watched by the whole party.
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If your party is celebrating a birthday or other milestone, I always recommend having one picturesque cake and sweets table. Below is a photo from one of my recent parties. I created mine with a fun cart, plus colour coordinated everything with light coloured pastels. It makes for a great photo opp and becomes a focal point for the space.
If you are planning a midday or evening function, creating a savoury and sweet spread is an easy way to satisfy just about any palate. I made this simple spread with a mix of items from Bulk Barn and Costco, and it was a huge hit. I lined the bottom with a baking sheet and voila, we have a sweets spread! You can be creative and find items that have a nostalgia or fun factor. I included some rainbow belt strips and tootsie roll lollipops which were childhood favourites of mine.
Drinks & Party Libations
If you are hosting a party with a lot of people, you may want to consider hiring a private bartender to help keep things flowing; if it is a smaller or more casual function, having a self-serve bar is the easiest way to serve guests. There are some useful bar calculators online to help you figure out the ratio of beers to wine to liquor to purchase as a starting point. I always like to provide some delicious non-alcoholic options for guests as well.
Party Music & Lighting
Music and lighting are essential ingredients to creating an amazing party atmosphere, especially for an evening event. If you are hosting a party in a space that does not have its own lighting, you can rent some lighting from your local AV provider. Light up a wall with some coloured uplights or use some intelligent strobe lighting to give it a more upbeat mood. I used a mix of both for my last party and it turned a bland storage unit into a nightclub with the touch of a button.
When it comes to music, the bare minimum is to play some upbeat ambient music. I am all for nostalgia, so I elevated my last party with a projector and a curated YouTube playlist to give it Much Music Dance Party vibes. It’s an easy way to bring a fun factor to a party, with not a lot of work. If you want to enhance your party even further, bring in live music or a DJ to provide the soundtrack to the event. Having entertainment for a private party really elevates a private party and creates the perfect mood.
Keep it clean
When you plan a party, clean up is often something that people forget to plan for. Here are some tips for making clean up easier:
- Plan ahead: Think about just how much clean up you’ll require when planning your party. Consider the number of guests you’re inviting as well as the types of food and drinks you’ll be serving. This can help you prepare for what needs to be cleaned up.
- Enlist help: You definitely want to enjoy the fruits of your labour, so don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything yourself! Ask some of your closer friends or family members to help with the clean up process. Assign specific tasks to each person, such as clearing plates, washing dishes, or taking out the trash. When in doubt, a staffing company can go a long way!
- Clean as you go: Don’t wait until the end of the party to start cleaning up. As the party goes on, do your best to clean up as you go. This can help prevent a big mess from accumulating, and can make the clean up process much easier.
- Consider disposable plate and flatware: Disposable plates, cups, and utensils make the clean up process so much easier. Make sure to provide recycling and compost bins to make disposal more eco-friendly.
- Have cleaning supplies on hand: Make sure you’re stocked on sponges, dish soap, and trash bags. This can make the clean up process much smoother. It never hurts to have some stain remover at the ready, just in case!
Which brings me to my final point…
Try to be a guest at your own party
Ideally, you’ll want to be able to enjoy the fruits of your party planning labour as well. If you’ve elected the DIY route, this can often be much easier said than done. But if you keep the above tips in mind, you’ll have no problem balancing your hosting responsibilities while still being able to enjoy yourself in the process!
Rebecca Chan of Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events is a wedding and event planner, entrepreneur and educator. With over a decade of experience, she is a thought leader in the wedding industry, known for curating luxury celebrations and sought after in the media for her expertise. When she isn’t planning the next big party, she is spending time globe trotting, biking the city or spending time with her husband and dog.