Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan," and that is certainly true when it comes to giving a party. We all want our parties to be wildly successful occasions filled with laughing guests, great food and memorable moments. But parties like that don't just happen---they have to be planned. With advance preparation, you can relax and enjoy your own party as much as your guests will.
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Theme and Invitations
If your party has a theme, the rest of the planning will practically fall into place by itself. Some themes, such as "cocktail party" or "birthday party," are self-explanatory. You may choose something elaborate like a Hawaiian Luau or a Mardi Gras-style Carnivale, but simpler motifs work just as well. You can even build your party around a colour, with matching drinks, food, costumes and decorations. Whatever theme you choose, keep it firmly in mind when choosing the invitations---they can set the stage for your party from the very beginning. For example, you might glue a silk Plumeria blossom to the front of a luau invitation, while you could write an invitation to a barbecue on a folded bandanna.
Venue and Decorations
To a certain extent, the type of party you're having determines the venue. If you're hosting an intimate dinner party, use the dining room or set up a few tables in the entrance hall; if you're throwing a gala fundraising costume ball, you'll need a ballroom. Between these two extremes is a lot of room for creativity. If you hold your party in an offbeat location, sometimes the decorations will take care of themselves; consider renting a cruise ship for the evening or reserving the pool at your local community centre. Otherwise, choose decorations that fit your theme: a few straw bales and checkered tablecloths for a western barbecue, blue-and-silver baubles for a Hanukkah party or spider webs and jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween.
Food and Drink
Again, let the motif of the party determine the refreshments. Barbecues and luaus come with ready-made menus, while a French-themed dinner party gives you some creative scope. If you're hosting a cocktail party, decide ahead of time whether you want to offer a fully-stocked open bar or have a few special "house drinks" available. Be sure you have enough flatware, china, cups and serving items for the number of guests you expect; if not, borrow or rent the difference. You may also opt to turn the preparation and serving over to a professional caterer once you have decided on your menu.
Activities and Entertainment
Whether you hire a chamber orchestra to play waltzes at a wedding reception or make a "mix tape" of cowboy songs for a backyard barbecue, music sets the mood. If you've booked an entertainer, be sure to ask if you need to provide anything like a stool, lighting or a power outlet for the performance. If your party will include crafts or other activities, make a list of all the necessary materials so you have them on hand. If your gathering includes dancing, it's a good idea to have someone on hand to teach your guests a few basic dance steps. Even if your party is more of a sit-around-and-talk affair, have a few party games in reserve to break the ice; have these set up ahead of time, just in case.
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