Steps for Organizing a Party

Julie_MI_Z5October 30, 2005

Please help me make my to-do list; I know I'm forgetting something.

I'm thinking about having a holiday party (probably 40 people at the most) and I have to have everything set in my mind before I will commit to it (nobody has ever accused me of being spontaneous).

1. Guest List

2. Menu

3. Choose the date (this is actually a hard one since it will be during the holiday)

4. Invitations

5. House cleaning

6. House decorating

7. Tables & chairs & tablecloths

8. Dishes - For serving and for eating

9. Shopping for food

  1. Preparing food

  2. Welcome guests; find place to put coats.

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This is what I came up with. It sounds like fun.

Will you be serving liquor/wine? If yes, then you will need a list of which ones to buy.

Do you need a large coffee pot (the type made for crowds)?

Will you be serving appetizers as well as an assortment of desserts or is this a sitdown dinner?

What about napkins and condiments?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 7:17PM
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How about parking?

Are you going to have small kids? Need a babysitter for them in another room? Any toys or games?

Any party favors?

I use to put on large Halloween parties (40-60 people). My low tech party book was a plain old spiral notebook. I kept my guest list, menu, if I found an idea in a magazine I would tape it on a page. Since we had it at the neighborhood clubhouse, I had to haul items over and I would keep a laundry basket in the dining room. If I thought of something I needed, I could just put it in the basket and not worry about forgetting.

After the party I made some notes on what didn't get eaten, what worked and what didn't, who didn't bother to show up and needed to be taken off the guest list LOL.

The next year I could quickly review before planning for the next party. The book was a bit ratty after a few years, but it was really helpful.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 10:22PM
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I also plan for music. Something to set the mood as people arrive, something quiet-but-not-dead for dinner, and then something for after dinner that sets the tone I want.

May I also suggest Sunday evening for your party. I always have a Christmas caroling (indoor) party on a Sunday a couple weeks before Christmas, and almost everyone is free, as most parties seem to be on Friday or Saturday. Of course, this depends on how late your parties usually go.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 4:13AM
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Thanks for the help!

Beverages, appetizers, and desserts are in the menu list. We won't have coffee at all (that will surprise nobody). Napkins are already in the Party Box. Parking is not a problem, though I should add "Shovel snow and put down de-icer" in case we have a storm that weekend.

We'll serve the food buffet style, since I'm sure everyone will arrive at different times. Music is a good idea and one I hadn't considered. Party favors like what?

Sunday night is out of the question... I get up at 5:00am and these people stay FOREVER! LOL

There may be a couple small children, but they're well behaved and glued to their mother.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 5:49AM
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Excellent thoughts and ideas above!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

1) Pick a date as early as possible -- folks here get "booked" up during the holiday season.

2) Create party music CDs. Some dance and fun tunes with holiday tunes. I can highly recommend "Everything You Want for Christmas" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Lots of fun jive and swing music -- just try to sit still when this CD plays!!! So fun!

3) Create a child zone -- with a VCR/DVD -- and a bunch of tapes/DVDs.

4) Decide where to put coats/boots etc. Usually piled on a bed -- but if wet? Maybe buy/rent a rolling clothes rack and can be dis-assembled after party season. (always handy for out-of-season clothes too)

5) Check your home decor for "traffic flow" -- ways and means to "move" guests around the food/drink -- and to the restrooms etc. Sometimes shifting or removing smaller items can really help.

6) Plan your buffet line and drink stations. Just faster to create and have a handy "flow chart" (a plan on paper saves SO much time on the party day!!!!) of your tables. Where to put the dishes and flatware; where to put a cutting board that will allow folks to put down a bun to butter it!!! Where to put the desserts? And coffee/tea? Same place? Different room/tables???

Just some thoughts!!!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 11:12AM
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I used to throw a huge holiday party--every year for 3 or 4 years, until the kids came.

I actually planned activities (decorating cookies, usually; sometimes caroling, either outside or at the piano; decorating the tree, though I gave that up when I discovered that setting the ornaments in the basket to be taken out later led to them getting broken). Usually informal ones you could just do if you were in the mood.

At my parties, I had people from very different groups who didn't know each other; I discovered that a really good introduction helped the party spirit a lot! Someone would come in, and I'd introduce them to everyone, giving each person a bit of info about the other (Joe's a runner, the 5K is his specialty; Susie studied for a few years in Europe). Once there got to be a lot of people, I'd call out the newcomer's name to the room, and some info about him or her, and the other folks were by then in such a genial mood that they'd introduce themselves and other people to him.

It was really fun! I miss that part. It gave them all something to talk to one another about right away.

It sounds like you'll have a "regular crowd" of folks who may know each other, so you may not have that concern.

Trash--that's the one that was always hard for me, and I see it as a toughie at other people's places. Or, used plates (esp. as "cocktail hours"--what do you do w/ your plate when you're done w/ it?) Be sure you have a way to handle this, and a way to communicate it (signs, or clue in about 6 people so they can tell others).

A note about diagramming your buffet line, etc. A plan like that can be handed to the friend who comes early to help set up--instant communication.

I'm not a fan of party favors. Your asking me to your home is favor enough.

But...if people bring hostess presents, where will you put them?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 11:49AM
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We go to a Christmas party some years and the hostess gives every family a jar of her homemade jam all tied up with pretty ribbon. Party favors seem to be the norm here for the parties I've attended. It was new to me, so of course the first party I gave I didn't give it a thought.

No coffee!!! OK, that's it Julie. I'm not coming and you'll just have to take me off the guest list!

With 40 people the idea of coordinating with a few of your guests and asking them to keep an eye on certain things sounds like a good idea.

Trash and dirty dishes can be a problem. I always feel like I'm in the way or should hurry up and leave when someone comes around with a bag and starts gathering stuff up. A friend puts a dish pan in her sink (no water)and when the first round of dishes fills it, she quietly puts it in the garage. Maybe she even put another pan in the sink again. I don't remember since it was pretty unobtrusive. There just seemed to be room to pile the dishes and she wasn't standing there loading the dishwasher. We have another friend who spends her entire party standing at the sink with her long yellow plastic gloves on, washing stuff. I hate to go to her house.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 1:43PM
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True enough!!!! -- Trash and Washing Up are really party chores that seem to be huge pains-in-the-butt. LOL!!!

And planning for them really does help -- love the idea of stashing the dishes in a plastic pan -- and hide them in the garage.

Maybe by clearing the dishes into the trash -- and simply stacking them in the dishwasher doesn't seem too bad.

The key -- of course -- is to have a very empty dishwasher -- and lots of easy-grab -- and easy-open trash bags. Plus folks who are willing to drop the full trash bags in the garage (or better that -- the garbage can!!)

AND my biggest thing to FORGET or leave-to-the-last-second-rush???? Me!!!!! I get so caught up in prep chores -- that I forget to schedule enough time to shower, change -- and perhaps dab on some makeup so I don't scare folks away!!! LOL!!!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 2:40PM
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OK, Gloria, I'm crossing you off the invite list due to no coffee... which will save me from having to introduce you to 40 people who already know everybody else! LOL

Dishes are EASY since I don't have 40 place settings. We'll be using our "good chinet" paper partyware. These are our nearest and dearest and they will expect this (though they'll be shocked that I cooked, because I don't do that).

Traffic flow could be a problem, but we all have small houses so that's normal to everyone, too. There will be people who stand and block the buffet all night but that's just how it goes. We usually have outdoor parties, and cold weather may not keep the men from their tradition, which would be a plus. I need to be sure to clean the laundry room and wet coats can be hung there (good reminder about the possibility of wet coats!).

I'm still trying to decide if party favors would be worthwhile or not. It would be different, that's for sure. And I don't think hostess gifts will be a problem, LOL. Actually some people will probably bring extra appetizers, but that's not something I think is necessary so we'll just say thank you and serve it if it comes. :)

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 5:45PM
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There will be people who stand and block the buffet all night but that's just how it goes.

You might try to get around this by having a secondary buffet area. Either smaller, or the same size.

Or you could just let the hungry folks elbow them aside.

And w/ the "good chinet," you might consider a few trash cans, or a family member or two to be on trash-can duty to empty them out frequently.

I love that "dishpan in the sink; move it to the garage" idea, and you could recruit a friend to do that w/o making her feel like she's doing dishes. Dishpans aren't that expensive, either, and you could have a couple of them.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 9:53AM
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I give a party for 100+ each Holiday season.. plus children of those 100 adults. Luckily it's a Open House and cookie exchange spread out over 3-4 hours so not all 100+ are here at one time. I have a full spread in the formal diningroom and then the cookies are put out.....welll I am not sure this year since I am crazy enough to do it this year in the middle of the remodel!

This year's menu has smoked Salmon with toast points, a large smithfeild ham with small biscuits, and stone ground mustard. a large vegtable basket with hollowed out veggies filled with dip. A fruit display and perhaps one of the chocolate fountains but I am undecided on the tacky/trendy/cool factor of this idea. Oh.. and maybe the stupid meatballs that I make that everyone loves except me ( go figure).... guess it's a good thing that my table is 12 feet long :)

my biggest to do for our party is getting a sink into the downstairs bathroom... I still have not found one I like but I think it would be tacky to have a party without a sink in there or to make people go upstairs to the bathroooms up there.

maddiemom, who needs to get her invites out by next week!!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 9:04PM
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