Greetings, y’all! It’s been a little while since my last post and so I knew that my next post would have to be extra spectacular! This one doesn’t disappoint!! This week we will be learning some very useful and doable event planning tips for success from my friend, Sarah Sanders. Like many modern women today, Sarah balances it all with taking care of a family, working full-time, being involved in several volunteer and community organizations, and being a fabulous entertainer. Every party that Sarah is involved in has that special creative touch, details you will never forget, invitations you don’t want to throw away, and fun memories that you hold close to your heart. So, it’s my pleasure to have Sarah join us this week to share her fabulous tips for success in event planning at every level.
Thank you, Sarah!
I Dream of Pretty Things
So you want to throw an amazing party? Who doesn’t?! No one hopes that people will walk into their party and think, “Well, this is mediocre.” Party planning is not in everyone’s blood, but it’s a lot easier than you think. With just a few easy tips, you really can throw the party of the year.
1. The invitation is the first impression of your party.
You may be someone who thinks that an Evite is a perfectly acceptable way to let the world know about your soiree. And you are absolutely right—if you have no desire to make a fantastic first impression that sets the stage for a truly memorable event. A fabulous invitation is the best way to get people talking about what is sure to be a highly anticipated event.
People often think, well I’m just not that creative. That’s fine! There are a lot of people out there who are. Use them. Etsy is a great resource for customizable designs. Visit your local stationery store. These people think about paper all day long. I never would have learned about rubber-stamping, heat embossing, envelope lining and all the other great tools that I use all the time now if it hadn’t been for them. None of these skills need creativity; they can all be taught.
A big misconception about snail mail invites is cost. Are they more expensive than dropping your address and phone number into an electronic template? Sure. But they do not have to break the bank. Nowadays, you have tons of options to keep costs low. On Etsy you can just buy the digital proof and print at home! Total cost is usually $15 for the file and $1.50 for card stock. Papyrus has cute “fill-in the-blank” style invites that run around $20 a pack. I once created an invite in PowerPoint and printed in at FedEx Kinkos! Cost is not an excuse to have your invite get lost in someone’s junk folder.
2. Don’t overwhelm yourself on Pinterest!
Pinterest is a double-edged sword. I feel both sad and lucky that I planned my wedding prior to the birth of this particular phenomenon. It’s a wonderful place to find inspiration; it is also the devil. If you have even one ounce of ADD or tend to feel overwhelmed by large amounts of information, Pinterest is not the place to plan your party. You can type in “1 year old’s birthday party” and end up in tears when you can’t figure out how to incorporate Elmo, monkeys, Mickey Mouse, sailboats, crowns and an adorable LSU onesie into one party.
Pinterest is a great resource when you already have a vision. If you looking for cake ideas for a princess themed party, then by all means, pin away. Use it to share ideas with co-hosts or explain your vision to a vendor, but try to stay focused. If you do open the door to a hurricane of pins, pick one element of your party at a time (banners, fruit trays, food labels) to avoid a full mental breakdown.
3. Find vendors that you LOVE.
Throwing a party can be smooth sailing or a complete nightmare based on the vendors that you choose to work with. I’m going to share some of my own personal favorites, but make sure you think about what is most important to you when you pick whom to work with. Is time of the essence or do you need it cheap and simple? High quality may be your priority or vendor reputation. Make a list of your must-haves and don’t compromise, or you will end up disappointed.
The number one thing I always get asked about at my parties is the cake. I have used Alphorn Bakery, owned by Peter Hobi for more than four years. I can’t say enough about their great work, and they are the only bakery in Houston that makes all of their cakes from scratch. When you look for a baker, as a few questions: Can you do a taste test? When will the cake be made in relation to the actual event? What ingredients do you use?
One of my favorite decorations vendors is mardigrasoutlet.com. They have everything you could ever want for a Cajun themed event, but also have a lot of general themed staples. I use them for wreath frames for all seasons as well as fun items for all of the theme holidays like Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day.
Paper Source is my one stop shop for all my paper products. They give you all the tools you need to create beautiful products, whether you want to make envelopes liners from scratch or buy everything perfectly assembled and ready to go. The products are not as cheap as other options like Michaels or Staples, but the girls there are beyond helpful and I always leave feeling inspired about my high quality project.
Finally, Amazon is great if you use it efficiently. Similar to Pinterest, it can be overwhelming, but it’s a great place to look for very specific items, like a 90” navy blue round tablecloth. $10. Check.
4. Plan the event flow.
People congregate around two things: food and televisions. It doesn’t matter if you working with 2,000 square feet of party space, if you cram the food in one corner, that’s where your guests will stay and you will have paid for all that lovely space for nothing.
If your goal is to get people outside on the patio, there best be some food (or at the very least drinks) out there, or no one is setting foot out the door. If you want people oooohing and ahhhhing over your new dining room chairs, throw some appetizers on that table, stand back, and prepare to be complimented.
5. Create a focal point.
When you inevitably ignore step 2 and go Pinterest crazy, you will notice one thing about all of those fabulous photos that look impossible to recreate. They all have a focal point. Choose a table, counter or other surface in the center of your party’s flow area. This is where the majority of your design elements should go. Whether it’s hanging decorative paper on the wall behind it to create a more festive look, adding a pop of color with a table cloth or throwing up a few pennant banners, decorations tell your guests “look over here!”
This is also where the majority of your food items should be as well. Use a multi-level approach to avoid looking boring. Cake stands do not just need to be used for cake. Throw your deviled eggs on there! Vases aren’t just for flowers. Veggies look yummy and pretty in a square vase.
Finally, people often overlook the space between the top of the food and the ceiling. This a great space to add major focus, and it’s doesn’t need to be ornate. Hang a few cutouts from the ceiling, or throw up a few balloons. Filling that empty space adds serious wow to your focal point.
6. Avoid lots of “day of” to-dos.
This is one where I need to follow my own advice. Packing a million things (or even four!) into your party day prep can cause major stress. Pre-assemble fruit trays, meat kabobs, and bake cookies the day before. Decorations can go out as soon as the house is clean (usually a day or two before to avoid kids ruining your hard work). I even get out all of my serving dishes and trays and put a Post-It on each, labeling what it will hold. This keeps me on track and helps me organize the whole flow of the party with plenty of time day-of to realize that I forgot to get ice.
This also allows you to save time for you. Take a long bath, or go for a walk with your dog. Do something that releases some of the anxiety. I am almost always a huge ball of stress when my first guest walks in and it’s not cute. Carving out an hour in the day to get a blow out or just sit and have a glass of wine does wonders for your stress level on the day of your party.
7. Never try something for the first time at your party.
I’ve seen it happen a million times. Your party host tries out a “great new recipe” for their fiesta, and you end up in a cheese coma because that’s all that ended up being edible. Do a test run!!! Can’t stress this enough. If you see a promises-to-be-delicious-Paula-Dean-crab-dip that you just must make, try it out for your family or coworkers a week ahead of time. There is nothing more frustrating that feeling like you have failed before the party even starts, or falling flat in front of your guests when something doesn’t turn out the way you planned. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, let’s start a support group.
8. Know your strengths.
What are you really good at? You might be able to mix up a party playlist that gets your guests dancing every time, or you might be great with paper products. Maybe you make fabulous margaritas or know how to fry shrimp like no one else. Whatever your strength, let that be a major element of your party.
My husband happens to make the best crawfish this side of the Louisiana border, and every year we throw a fabulous crawfish boil for our friends. It is one of my favorite events, and everyone looks forward to the best crawfish they get to eat all season. Don’t try to throw a baby shower where you ask everyone to decorate onesies, if you haven’t held a paintbrush since third grade. Be an expert in your party’s activities. Your guests will follow your lead and you will shine in your own element.
9. Make your guests feel welcome.
You may be thinking ”well…no shiz, party lady.” Obviously if you invite someone to your party, you consider them welcome, but it often takes more than that for someone to really feel like you are excited that they are there. Have you ever been to an event where it feels like the host invited everyone they have ever met? Unless it’s a wedding, it has a way of taking the “special’ out of your relationship. I never want to feel like I am at your event to make you feel popular. Try to take time with every guest; making sure you let them know how happy you are that they came. Ask them questions about them, not just if they are having fun at your party.
Also, give your guests plenty of notice. For more casual shindigs, three weeks is appropriate, with closer to eight weeks for more formal events like showers, baptisms, graduations, etc. People want to share special life events with you and they will feel slighted if you don’t give them the notice they need to make it to your big day. You will also be disappointed when treasured friends have to miss your event.
10. Be a great guest!
(See below for separate post information all on being a great guest!)
IDOPT thanks Sarah for sharing her fabulous event planning tips for success, favorite vendors and photos from her most special memories with friends and family! But the fun and advice doesn’t stop now! Hop on over here to learn more about how to be a thoughtful guest! You can also follow her on instagram at mrssanders1127!