Instead of boring you with a blow-by-blow of my time spent getting ready for and executing this event, I figured I would just give you a few highlights of the lessons I learned:
1. The details really do make all the difference...they take a party from been there, done that to really nice. Sure, it would be a lot easier to make coctail meatballs, pigs in a blanket, and a few other standard party favorites, but having foods like beef skewers, roasted shrimp, and baked brie make an ordinary affair seem gourmet somehow. In that same vein, taking the time to tie the untensils with a pretty ribbon, even when those utensils are plastic, or having pretty food markers (see below) instantly adds charm and takes the affair to the next level.
2. Speaking of food markers, they are my most favorite party tip. How many times have you stood around a party table wondering what the hell something was?!? Well, I have one too many times (I'm a pretty picky eater, so it really matters to me). Providing a place card displaying the food's name totally eliminates the problem and takes away those awkward moments. Of course, finding those pretty cards to do the job makes it even more beneficial. (By the way, the ones in the above picture are actually thank you notes that I cut the "thank you" off of, but the orange and brown were just too perfect to resist).
3. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. A week before any party, I set out my party map. I get together a complete grocery list, as well as a decorations/miscellaneous list. I also map out what temperatures each food needs to be cooked at, when it can be realistically cooked (day before, morning of, right before) and when it can realistically be prepped. I, then, make my week-long party schedule, including such ridiculous things as get out the toilet paper. I always get all of the shopping done days in advance of the party, start setting up the decorations days before, and begin cooking at least the day before. I stick to my schedule like the OCD person that I am, and have never really had a problem getting everything done in time. Which brings up numbers 4 and 5:
4. Account for the baby! So, this was my first real party experience where I had a baby to accomodate as well (we had one other housewarming/meet Colton party when he was a couple months old, but at that point, he was still sleeping away most of the day so it doesn't count). Well, having a 6 month old makes doing everything twice as difficult. I want to cook, Colton wants to eat; I need to put the flowers out, Colton wants to be held and played with. I will never again agree to have a party without firmly lining up someone to help me take care of Colton during the prep time
5. Delegate appropriately. If you can't tell, I have some control issues when it comes to party planning. I get a vision in my head, and that's the vision I want presented in the end. In the past, I have had my sister or others who have shared my vision to help me execute. This time, though, it was pretty much just me, so I had to learn what kinds of things I could and should let others do for me (buy the groceries, clean the house, buy the beer/wine (my lovely husband's duty) and which things, I knew I wanted to still control.
So, that's it...my party planning advice. Anyone else have some good tips?