The Do’s & Don’ts of Party Planning
Tis the season for weddings, galas and cocktail parties! If you’re like us, your schedules have all of a sudden become jam-packed with parties and events from now until Labor Day weekend. Like most eager New Yorkers, spring in the city is the perfect time to outdoor entertain, host a garden party, or just commence the season with some fun and refreshing cocktails. But when it comes to larger, more personalized events like graduations or weddings, it can be all too easy to find yourself getting caught up in the Pinterest-y details of things instead of the bigger picture. Fortunately, you don’t have to have obsessive organizational skills (leave that to us) to plan your next event. With some quick tips from our events division and from Deborah herself, find out how to manage a near perfect party this season. Whether this is your first time planning a party or you've played hostess with the mostess more times than you can count, check out our own version of party planning 101.
To start, the most important aspect of throwing a party or planning an event is to make sure your guests are comfortable and that you feel in control and relaxed. (Taking a deep breath helps too!) Before you focus on the small details of your soiree, the first step is to figure out how many guests you expect to have at your event. Are you hosting a graduation party for 75? Summer cocktail party for 15? Do the numbers to make sure that you have enough food, drink and space for your guests. Make sure you have an accurate estimate of the number of guests you need to cater for, since it ensures you get the best possible value for your catering budget. For example, it would be a major party foul to have your guests go hungry or run out of drinks, but at the same time it’s important to not go completely overboard and over order.
“I actually like to run through the entire party in my mind beforehand,” said Deborah. “When you really visualize the event in your head, it’s easier to catch anything I may be overlooking.”
Once you have your guest list, everything will flow and fall into place. For example, if you’re planning a smaller event, with 10-12 people, plan on serving a more intimate meal served on china or fun plates, like these fun and playful animal dinner and salad plates we found on Etsy! If you’re hosting a larger event, with 30-50 guests, it’s best to stick with a buffet and (nice) disposable plates, like these whimsical and fun ones. With the right look, it’s easy to make a party of even 50 or more look and feel personal. After you have finalized the guest list and numbers, keep in mind any dietary restrictions. When we cater weddings and events, is important to consider menu options that cater to meat eaters, vegetarians and gluten free guests.
“Nowadays, it’s a significantly easier to create a menu for those with dietary needs, and your guests won’t feel like they’re an imposition.” Said Deborah. In fact, “there are so many delicious and gluten free menu items our clients or guests request, even if they’re not gluten free.”
At Deborah Miller Catering and Events, we take pride in promoting local buying and seasonal eating. While it’s not always possible with party planning, the spring and summer months are great opportunities to focus on delicious and fresh seasonal fare. “When we can,” said Deborah, “we support local trade and shop locally. It’s such a great way to give back and helps to really tie in the event with a strong sense of community.”
Finally, when it comes to details—they matter! It only takes a few, often tiny things to really make a party better. “Cute, whimsical place cards and assigned seating help make the party feel like an organized, elegant affair and not a free for all,” said Deborah. It’s also important to label the food if you’re setting everything up buffet style so that you don’t spend the entire night telling everyone what everything is. Lastly, background music is essential. “Even if it’s a Spotify or Pandora station, people love music! And it really sets the scene.” said Deborah.
Timing! As we know, timing is everything, so make sure not to send out your food all at once. Instead, send the food out at timely intervals so that people can sip and savor the flavors of your event.
Similarly, prepare your food so that you’re not rushing minutes leading up to your event or party. For example, when it comes to preparing hot food, we give ourselves about an hour to an hour and a half to prepare. This way the food is served perfectly hot but not too late or early.
Lastly, appearance is everything. If you’re using a caterer, your room will already be easy to move around in without your guests worrying about which glass or plate is their own. If you choose not to use a caterer, make sure to do a few scans of the room for any unwanted clutter or used dinner or tableware.
Finally, a successful event is one that flows flawlessly, and where guests feel at home (even if it's at a venue). But as the hostess, it's easy to try and run the show and forget to have fun! At the end of the day i's important (and necessary) to let yourself enjoy the moment and bask in the delight of your hard work! All that planning has finally come to fruition and you can relax with friends, family and other guests while we take care of the rest!
As a reminder, Deborah Miller Catering and Events has a new events division to help bring your wedding, gala, cocktail or holiday party visions to life! Check out the blog next week when we talk about 2016 (and 2017) wedding trends, and what to look for this year, whether you're engaged or a guest!