Until a few years ago, I could count the number of parties I planned or hosted on one hand. As I child, I randomly decided one day to make invitations and ask the neighborhood children to my backyard for pre-suppertime candy. It was a bust - no one responded or showed and I ended up sitting on our patio alone, with a sad bag of Hershey's kisses. In college, the few parties I had consisted of me procuring the largest and most inexpensive bottles of wine I could get my hands on (Yellowtail!!) and setting them out with a bag of Tostitos (not in a bowl). Adulthood brought on several failed dinner parties with overly complicated menus or too little/too much food, and gasp...not enough chairs for everyone! I wouldn’t say I had the best track record when it came to parties.
When event planning became a part of my duties at my job a few years ago, I quickly discovered that party planning is an art form of sorts. It’s a delicate balance between making the guests happy and creating an event you yourself are proud of, while at the same time accounting for every possible thing that could go wrong.
As holiday season approaches us, I thought I might offer a few of my top party planning dos and don'ts...many of them learned the hard way! Adjust and tweak them to fit your size and type of event. And of course, try and have fun with it!
Know your audience/guests. Just because you love paleo cookies and prickly pear margaritas doesn’t mean your guests will too. Although it’s hard to give up control, a more balanced and varied menu usually works out best in the end. And I find, the simpler, the better.
DO double check with any vendors you might have providing meals or entertainment to your event a few days prior to the party. It may even give you the opportunity to adjust the amounts or arrival time of your items. And it will give you peace of mind so you can focus on other things!
DON’T have a party without a backup plan. Ask yourself ahead of time - what will I do if my catering doesn’t show up on time, or if the guests I asked to bring items forget? I always have copious bags of snacks on hand, whether it be for a small gathering at home or for my whole office (Note - I do put them in a bowl now!). Snacks can always buy you a little more time...and you can use that time to quickly order some emergency pizzas!
Entertainment - I have found for large events, live music is always best, if possible. When live isn’t an option, whether at home or at the office, get a music playlist curated ahead of time and do a dry run on how to play it. Nothing is worse than sitting around with guests and having a potentially embarrassing and not party appropriate song come blasting through the stereo. Or not being able to get the sound system to work at all!
DO have a plan for how to start winding the party down. Whether it be having a “last call” for drinks or breaking down the buffet, these activities usually signal to guests that the event is wrapping up.
DO remember that with a meeting of many people and many vendors, the potential for things to go wrong spikes up. Freaking out about it won’t help in the moment, and your stress will only rub off on the guests. Solve each problem one at a time, and remember that just because things are working out differently than you envisioned doesn’t mean that it’s bad. And remember, even though you may see things not working out as scheduled, very rarely do the attendees see these flaws. By making people feel welcome in your space, you have already won half the battle!
More About Jenny
Jenny Brown is visual artist living and working in Providence, Rhode Island, whose primary mediums are drawing, collage, and works on paper. Her work brings to life a mythical world of sea creatures and celestial beings, realized through her love of paper ephemera.
Her recent collage works focus on a dream of representing harmony amongst different elements of the natural world (flora, fauna, the moon, the sea). An abundance of flowers in the work represent the hearts and souls of these fantastic creatures. Branches and tentacles share their yearning to be connected to the most basic elements of life which created them...the cosmos, the oceans, the skies.
Jenny studied art at Bennington College and received her MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York in 2005. She was a guest this spring on The Jealous Curator’s “Art for Your Ear” podcast, as well as a featured artist in Create Magazine, and “The Handmade Life,” published by Thames & Hudson. Her work is currently available at Collier West in Brooklyn, NY.
- Site: JennyBrownArt.com
- Insta and Facebook: @JennyBrownArt