Get a Head Start
Depending on how elaborate the party, start planning early. Here’s a sample timeline:
• Six to eight weeks before: Plan party’s theme, activities, and music; send invitations; hire any entertainer and/or caterer.
• Two to three weeks before: Order non perishable supplies and decorations; hire helpers.
• One week before: Call guests who have not RSVP’d; confirm entertainer, caterer, and helpers.
• Two to three days before: Buy groceries; make any dishes that can be prepared and frozen; begin cleaning the house.
• The day before: Thaw frozen foods; finish house cleaning; decorate party space and set up party table(s) and utensils.
• Party day: Complete food preparation; do a final check of the party space, bar, and kitchen; give yourself plenty of time to get ready; take a deep breath and enjoy!
Want to see party guests start gathering their coats in unison?
Just run out of food or drinks and see how long the festivities continue. Fortunately, there are time-tested guidelines. Here are the basics:
Overall amount of food: 70 grams per person for a meal; about 45 grams per person for a cocktail party.
Hors d’oeuvres: six pieces per person for a dinner party; twelve pieces per person for a cocktail party (or four to six pieces per person per hour)
Alcohol: Plan on two drinks per person per hour for the first two hours; half that amount afterward. A 750-milliliter bottle of spirits (vodka, rum, scotch, etc.) contains about sixteen (45-milliliter) shots; a 750-milliliter bottle of wine yields about five glasses.
Experienced party planners keep extra hors d’oeuvres in the freezer for such moments.
If that’s not an option, have someone slip out to the nearest supermarket. Most stock trays of prepared vegetables, dips, cheeses, and cold cuts.
If they don’t, here is a shopping list for a dozen hungry grazers:
500 grams sliced Genoa salami
500 grams sliced smoked ham or turkey
1 kilogram Swiss or American cheese
1 jar spicy mustard
2 boxes crackers
2 loaves French bread or baguettes
1 jar green olives
1 large bag bite-size peeled carrots
2 small baskets cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large bunch grapes
500 grams dried apricots
The phone rings, and suddenly eight people will be showing up in your living room in an hour. Not to panic. Here’s a formula for throwing an instant party:
Set the mood: Light some candles and pick out a few back-ground-music CDs.
Take an inventory of what’s in your refrigerator and pantry and let your ingenuity run wild.
If you run out of inspiration, try a food Web site, such as epicurious.com. Don’t get too fancy.
If you’ve got some potatoes and toppings (cheese, bacon, chives, sour cream, etc.), you’ve got the makings of a fun party center-piece – a mashed-potato bar.
If the cupboard (or liquor cabinet) is truly bare, you’ll have to make a quick run to the supermarket, but let your guests pitch in, too.
Turn the party into a participatory potluck affair by asking your guests to bring their own bottle or pick up a food item on the way to your place.
A frowning, uncomfortable guest is a danger to a relaxed, fun party and to your reputation as a host.
If you see a guest sitting alone, corral someone who’s a good talker or has something in common with the party pooper, and introduce them to each other.
Have a three-way conversation for a few minutes and then excuse yourself.
The trick to getting a shy person to talk is to avoid questions that can be answered yes or no. Instead, try conversation starters that invite longer answers and follow-up questions:
What travel have you done lately? What books are you reading – or what good movies have you seen?
You have dozens of people mingling in your home, but only one seems to be talking – the one standing in the middle of the room loudly braying jokes.
Sometimes it’s fine; a witty guest can keep the party rolling. But eventually the joking gets old, and you’d like to shift the spotlight. What should you do?
Often the situation resolves itself naturally.
Guests will get up and move elsewhere, and the dynamics will change. Or you can wait for a particular anecdote, then step in and say something like, “Oh, that happened to Jenny, too. Jenny, tell us what happened.”
But sometimes, as the host, it becomes your responsibility to absorb the loudmouth’s good cheer. Tell the big talker that you need a little help with a task, and ask him or her to assist you.
By the time you return, others will have had a chance to start up conversations.
Loud, soused guests don’t just put a strain on a good time; they can be a danger to themselves and others, and if they get into an accident on the way home from your party, you could be legally liable for it in some states.
If a guest in your home is being loud and obnoxious, take the person aside and say discreetly that while you’re glad he or she is having a good time, you’d like your guest to tone it down so everyone else can have a good time, too.
If you don’t know the guest very well, have one of the guest’s friends try to calm him or her down. If the party is at a public venue, such as a country club or hotel ballroom, here are other ways of reining in overindulging guests:
- Have the bartender stop serving them drinks.
- Have the venue manager intervene.
- For true troublemakers, call security.
Caution: Do all you can to keep a guest from driving under the influence.
Offer to call a cab for any guest who isn’t sober enough to drive. If you know the person well enough, offer to let him or her sleep it off overnight on your couch or in the spare bedroom.
Or discreetly slip out and give the person a ride home.
Here’s a technique that will help you defuse the situation.
Walk up to the two arguing people and say, “Is this a matter that you two can resolve? If not, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
This simple expression of question and consequence usually quashes the argument.
It makes both arguing people accountable for their actions, regardless of who is in the right.
And you, the host, are not forced to take sides.
The party is rolling along nicely: The guests are having a good time, the music is playing, and no one wants the evening to end.
No one but you, that is.
It’s 1 A.M., and you just want the last remaining guests out of your house so you can go to sleep. Take your cue from entertainment professionals: A half hour before you know you’ll want the guests gone, start telling them that the evening will soon be coming to a close.
Start putting away the drinks and the food, turn on a few lights, and turn down the music. In a half hour, thank the stragglers for coming and help them to the door. Be polite, but firm.
Maybe it’s a coworker out for your job.
Or the neighbour who keeps looking at your spouse the wrong way.
Whatever the case, you’re face-to-face in a social setting with someone you really dislike.
The key here is to keep your animosity from ruining the party. At your first encounter, greet your nemesis as cordially as possible and move on.
Parties are all about mingling and circulating, so there’s no reason to linger with someone you dislike, much less air your grievances.
If the party is a sit-down dinner and you know beforehand that this person is on the guest list, inform your hosts of the situation so that they can keep you well apart.
It’s inevitable: At wedding receptions or other parties with several generations of guests, the young people want the music cranked up, and the older people want it turned down.
If you can’t reach a happy medium, try this event planner’s ploy: Simply tell your noise-sensitive guests that you’ve made note of their wishes and had the music turned down, but don’t actually do it.
This is a psychological trick that usually makes the listener think the music is indeed quieter.