How to Plan the Perfect Party…
I love to throw parties. I always have. Drew calls me “Party Girl.” His ring tone for me is a steel-drum band. I blame my parents. They had tons of parties for their friends, and one of my favorite memories was hiding behind chairs and under the piano, listening to the grown-ups talking and laughing at the dining table. It sounded so elegant and adult and fancy.
People ask me all the time about how I stay so calm when I’m throwing a big party. And here’s the deal. I do what I love. That’s the key. I love to cook, and I love to plan menus. I can sit for hours at night in bed, with twenty cookbooks around me, reading recipes and creating potential menus. I know…I’m kind of a nut. But my point is: Do what you love and your guests will love it, too.
Once you’ve decided on a party date, made a guest list and sent out invites (which could be as simple as a text: “Hey, we’re making pasta tonight. Wanna come over?”), you’re ready to really get the party going!
First, plan your menu. To make it easy, pick a theme to plan around: tea party, Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo, appetizers and desserts, backyard bbq, Sunday dinner, soup and grilled cheese, “The Office” marathon……
A theme makes it much easier to zero in on a menu. It gives you a focus so you’re not just trying to whip recipe ideas out of nowhere. Once you have your theme (and it doesn’t have to be “theme-y,” your guests might not even know what your theme is. It just helps you get started!) sit down and create a SIMPLE menu. Keep it SIMPLE! Did I say SIMPLE? Yes, SIMPLE! Haha.
Salad, soup, bread, dessert. Pizza and Italian sodas. Chicken curry over rice, salad and fresh mango with vanilla ice cream. Don’t complicate your life by planning complicated menus or food. You don’t want to spend the entire party in the kitchen working on the next complicated course, while everyone else is having fun together. Keep it real and you will be a happy host!
Next, make lists. Decide what you can do ahead and do it!
✓Set the table days ahead.
✓Make salad dressing a week ahead.
✓Chop and prep.
✓Grocery shop and buy flowers several days before the event. (Keep the flowers in fresh water in the garage, fridge or somewhere cool until the day of the party, so they stay fresh.)
✓Whip up a little pizza dough while you’re watching tv and keep it in the fridge for a day.
✓Make rice or mashed potatoes the morning of the party and then just heat them up.
✓Make brownies and freeze them two weeks ahead.
✓Make a salad hours before the party, without adding dressing, and just keep it in the fridge.
Everything that can be done ahead…DO IT!
And, btw, take a shower early the day of the party. I’ve made the mistake of just getting busy with cooking, and then finding myself blowdrying while people are arriving. Not so good.
Finally, when the party starts, put your guests to work! People love to help, and you know everyone will gather in the kitchen anyway. Give them a job. Make pizzas, and have everyone create their own. Send the guys outside to grill steaks. Guests can fill water glasses, grate cheese, arrange plates of food, stir gravy, light candles. It’s honestly more fun when everyone is helping, and it totally puts them at ease. Make it a group effort!
And say you’re not a cook. No problem. Get takeout from your favorite restaurant, serve it on pretty plates and just OWN IT! The main purpose in having a party is to bring people you love together. Don’t worry about your skills, or lack thereof! They will be grateful for being included.
A few weeks ago, I had a birthday party. I invited a bunch of friends and we celebrated all our birthdays. I just wanted to tell some of the people I love the most how I feel about them. It wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t spend weeks preparing.
I made simple food and we spent a couple hours together. Sweet and simple. Most of the food could be prepped beforehand, and I asked Sarah and my sister, Suzanne, to come help with the last minute stuff that morning. It was sweet to be with people I love so much. Eating food I love. That’s what it means to be a party girl.
Steel drums totally optional.
Happy Birthday Menu
Roast Beef, Brie and Pepper Jelly Sliders
Goat Cheese and Fig Jam Sandwiches
Butter Lettuce and Watercress Salad
Mint Ganache Brownies