Party Planning 101

As I have mentioned over the past few weeks, we have been building a new guest room/office in our house for what seems like forever. The project got started before we went to Ireland in May, and it is thisclose to being finished now. Really its just the moulding that needs to be put on, and a few pieces of furniture need to be put into place and it will be done. My mom is coming to try it out this coming weekend :)

Since the house has been in total disarray with tools, boards, dropcloths etc. all over, we haven’t really had much company this summer, and I am super ready to change that! I thought it would be fun to share with you how I plan a party. A lot of this stuff  you likely already know, but I love planning events, both professionally and personally, and wanted to share.

1) Start with your guest list. We know a lot of different people from high school, college, past jobs, current jobs, neighborhood, and family. One of the key things for me at a party is for people to feel comfortable and engaged with at least one other person in the room, hopefully more! Depending on the size of the party, it could be anywhere from a dinner party of 6 to a tapas get together for 20. I look to create a list of people who will have complementing personalities and interests. To me this doesn’t mean everyone has to be the same. Quite the contrary! If I know person X has recently been on a great trip that person Y would die to hear about, I definitely like to make that happen.

2) Choose a date. Our friends get SO busy, and its difficult to nail people down. We often have to plan months ahead to see people, and sometimes a Sunday night or Thursday night are the only days that will work. Once in awhile, its definitely worth it to lose a couple hours of mid-week sleep to catch up with friends! I actually really like doing some simple entertaining on Thursday nights. Its a good way to welcome Friday and the weekend!

3)Choose a theme. Now when I say theme, I think some people picture their niece or nephew’s Disney princess party or the like. I like to pick a central idea and to work around that. If the party is around a holiday like Cinco de mayo or St. Patrick’s Day, it could be that. My favorite party theme is a Spanish tapas night because its easy to prep ahead, and our kitchen was designed to reflect the colors of one of our favorite tapas bars.

4)Plan a menu. I think planning a menu in advance is really important because you need to make sure you have enough food and enough variety for your guests. If I am doing a tapas theme, I might use the following sample menu:
Pan con tomate- sliced bread and rubbed with cut garlic cloves, drizzed in EVOO, and rubbed with cut tomatoes. A Catalan favorite, I ate loads of this in Barcelona.
Queso de cabra Based on something I have eaten at Boston’s Taberna de haro, this dish is SO easy! I buy canned pureed or diced tomatoes and jazz them up with some sauteed garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. I cook them in a small frying pan, then cut generous slices of goat cheese and carefully float them on top of the tomatoes. Right before serving, I toss the whole thing into the oven and put the broiler on to get the goat cheese a little browned and more melty. Served with bread, this is filling, gooey, and delicious.
Spicy chorizo and meatballs So easy! Store bought chorizo and mini meatballs sauteed in a little oilive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Serve with toothpicks or little forks. I am not a huge meat cooker, but these are always a HUGE hit with guests!
Ensalada verde Another easy crowd pleaser, a crunchy green salad pairs perfectly with the hot, slightly spicy meatballs and sausage. Shredded carrots, some great romaine or bibb lettuce, finely chopped red onion, and tomatoes with a homemade vinegarette with red wine vinegar, chopped shallots, olive oil, and herbs.
Cheese and olives I love a good Manchego as a must have for these nights, plus a few others that may or may not be Spanish. Little bowls of olives throughout the party space (with empty bowls for pits!) are great for snacking.
Sangria and other Spanish drinksI always provide plenty of sparkling and still water, coffee, tea, and usually some soda (bleh) in addition to a Spanish red and white wine, Estrella beer, and homemade sangria, which I make a variety of ways. A simple red sangria for me is red wine, chopped apples, orange and lemon slices, brandy, and some sparkling water and ice. I also like to make white sangria with chopped fruit, Trader Joe’s vinho verde, and sparkling water.

Several days before the party, I like to do waves of cleaning, leaving the bathroom and kitchen for the day of the party if possible. I also like to get as much grocery shopping done as possible and to prep any food that I can. I hate being rushed and stressed when my guests arrive, so keeping the menu simple is key! I can prepare the tomato sauce, sausage, meatballs, and sangria the day before, which leaves me with just the goat cheese, salad, slicing cheese, mixing salad, and plating things on the day of. I usually have a lot of water while doing this to make sure that I am full enough and won’t overindulge in wine or food.

When my guests arrive, I make it a priority to make sure everyone knows someone, and try to make the introductions with a little bit of interesting information about each person (haha a la Bridget Jones’ Diary). Then I put some music on and just enjoy!

(I have a pretty standard party playlist which I will definitely share at a later date.)

I hope these tips are helpful. I am really looking forward to planning a party soon, and you will definitely be hearing about it!

  1. MarathonVal’s avatar

    I want to come to one of your parties!! :) Love the idea of a tapas party, I’ve never done that theme before but it sounds like a winner!


  2. burpexcuzme’s avatar

    If you do a menu like that, I’m inviting myself, totally!
    I once did a party dinner for 14 people…wow, what a crazy day! but SO worth it!


  3. Allie (Live Laugh Eat)’s avatar

    You make it seem so easy! I think the cleaning part is the worst. I like the cooking and setting up parts but cleaning? Blegh.

    Can’t wait to see/read about your own party…what’s the theme gonna be?


  4. leslie’s avatar

    that menu looks perfect! i don’t do a lot of entertaining, but i do really like the planning process. i always pick food themes – spanish tapas, british tea, etc., since of course food and drink are the key elements of any party! :)


  5. Maria’s avatar

    Thanks for those tips! It is always great to have a list and be organized :) Guests would definitely be impressed with this. Love all the crowd pleasing meals suggestions too!


  6. Riandi’s avatar

    Good list on party planning …. but sometimes, light party (sort of hanging out with friends but with a bit more spesific themes) can be more enjoyable … the informal feeling of the party give another “free feeling”


  7. traveleatlove’s avatar

    I love the idea of doing a tea! We have had some really delicious tea time food at my husband’s house in Ireland. I could definitely recreate that here!


  8. traveleatlove’s avatar

    At this point our next party seems like it will be so far away, it will be some sort of fall theme! Which I love since fall is my favorite season. Its SO difficult when I realize every weekend through October is booked!


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