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Party Planning Ideas

By: Mary Mernda

So you've decided to have a little party. Congratulations!!! You'll have fun and it won't be as hard as
you're probably thinking right now. What's your plan? Inviting a few friends over for an evening of
conversation? A 30th birthday party for your spouse? A victory celebration after finally paying off that
mortgage that you thought would never go away?

It doesn't matter. Any reason is a good reason to have a good time. Whether it's a catered affair or you do
it all yourself, the object of the event is enjoyment, so why not enjoy getting ready for it also?

Remember, any event can be broken down into 3 easy steps:

- Preparation
- Presentation
- Produlation

What's 'produlation' you ask? That's the best part!!! It's when you produce the results of your preparation
and presentation and receive the congratulations of your guests (and yourself, of course).

Preparation

One of the keys to a successful gathering is preparation. And the earlier it starts, the better. We think it is important for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it is a way to get organized. But more importantly, if time is spent in the preparation phase,
you won't be running around at the last minute attending to details. This will better allow you to relax and enjoy your time with your guests.

We've divided the preparation phase into three easy categories:
- Menu
- Layout
- Cleaning

If you've follow the above steps, you should be able to get a good night's sleep and relax while waiting for your event to begin!

Menu

Welcome to the most exciting section on the preparation for your party. Sure, as you look at the different options under preparation you see that terrible choice called 'cleaning'. But let's not think about that right now. Instead, why don't we just have some fun and let our imaginations run wild.

The first decision you will need to make is whether you will be doing your own food preparation or using the services of a caterer. There is no right answer. We will tell you that once they were organized, many people have actually admitted that they enjoyed preparing the food. If that is your desire, read on. If you decide to follow the caterer route, it might still be a good idea to read the rest of this section to help prepare for the questions they will be asking you in order to help make your event memorable.

The two most important words that come to mind when preparing your menu are variety and quantity.

It's a good idea to provide your guests with a wide variety of choices. Some hot, some cold. Some dry, some with sauces. Add a few meats, vegetables, cheeses a couple of dips and maybe even
some fruit and voila, you have a menu. Do you have a special finger food that is a little bit out of the ordinary? Add it to your menu. It's always a good idea to have a few old stand-bys
such as chicken wings and chips for those with a less exotic palate. A typical menu we've seen included: wings with a variety of sauces (although they were just as good plain), pepperoni
bread with a little spaghetti sauce on the side for dipping if desired, a variety of potato and tortilla chips with a couple of dip choices a vegetable tray and a selection of olives and pickles.

Another idea to consider is having a few items on your menu that can be prepared in advance and reheated so that you are not rushing to prepare the food when you would rather be relaxing and thinking of the fun you will be having.

After covering the variety of choices, it is now time to look at quantity. Always prepare more than you think you'll need. It may seem like a waste of money at first, but remember, you get to eat the leftovers. Or, as the host, you will be able to offer your guests a little going home gift.

Now settle in and let your imagination run wild.

Layout

Layout is an often overlooked part of the preparation. At many events there is a last minute rush to try and squeeze everything in and a considerable amount of time is spent rearranging things to ensure that both your guests and the food will all fit in the desired area.

Of course, there are many factors which need to be considered when planning your layout. Such things as location (indoor or outdoor) and the amount of space you have. We've been to some events in 3000 square foot houses and others in 1000 square foot houses. Certainly the ones in larger areas made things easier, but even the smaller areas were successful because the host had taken the time to plan his layout.

If at all possible, it is best to create three separate areas to help provide a free flow of guests and help eliminate traffic jams. One area will feature the food. Another will contain your drinks and drinkware. The third area will be used for plates, napkins, utensils and items of that sort.

Without a doubt, the food area will be the most popular, so here are a few tips to help in that area. The first thing to consider is the option of setting the food on a table that will allow people to walk completely around it. The idea of setting plates, etc. in a separate area will allow people to pick up a plate and proceed to an open area of the food table in order to begin serving themselves. With the plates at one end of the food table, everyone feels obliged to walk around the whole table, even if the food the desire is at the very end.

Now in setting up the food itself, there are a couple of things to consider. It is best to put what you believe will be the most popular food in the center of the table. This will allow your guests to have easy access from anywhere. Also, it is always a good idea to place any sauces near the edge of the table. This will prevent accidental spills into other foods which may make them unpleasing to your guests.

Now close your eyes and start dreaming of the wonderful layout you have designed for your guests.

Cleaning

As the saying goes, "cleanliness is next to godliness". Unfortunately, cleaning is probably the least
glamorous task at hand. However, it is also one of the most important because it leads to the next major
area, presentation.

It is best to do as much of the major cleaning as possible on the day before the special event. This will
help prevent wearing yourself out on the appointed day or cleaning too early and finding it necessary to
reclean. We've included a handy check list and some pointers that we've learned from experience.

This is all going to sound like pretty common sense information, but while being in the middle of
preparation, it is sometimes easy to overlook even the most basic elements.

Checklist:

Kitchen:

_____ Clear off as much as possible from coutertops. This will help the area to look neat and uncluttered.
It is expected to see certain things on a counter top such as a coffee maker, canister set or a
cookie jar. But the 3 cans of soup you bought last week should be put in their proper place.

_____ Clean all dirty dishes. Nothing says unprepared like walking into a kitchen with a sink full of dirty dishes.

_____ Once the dishes have been cleaned, store them properly.

_____ Have a trash can available in the vicinity of the serving area if this is not a formal dinner. Always be sure to use a clean trash bag. If necessary, take a half full bag and store it out of the way until the event is over.

Bathroom:

_____ Clean the toilet (including the top of the tank) and the sink.

_____ Again, clear off as much as possible from coutertops.

_____ Do you have a large family? Are there various towels and washcloths hanging around? Put them all in a clothes hamper. It looks so much neater that way.

_____ Place clean towels in a area where it is convenient for your guests to dry their hands.

_____ If you have one of those liquid soap dispensers, ensure that it is atleast half full. Totally filled is best.

_____ Place a spare roll or two of toilet paper where they can easily be seen. A small basket holding these can add to the overall appearance.

_____ It looks best if the shower curtain is drawn shut. This will also hide any clutter from shampoo bottles, etc. If there are doors on the shower, shut them.

Serving/Eating Area:

_____ Clean all corners and baseboards. These areas tend to be neglected during routine cleaning.

_____ Dust any horizontal surfaces. This is another area that can be overlooked from time to time.

_____ If you are using a room that will feature a view of the outdoors, take time to thoroughly clean any windows.

And you're done! Now that wasn't so bad after all.

Presentation

Congratulations!!! You've made it through the most difficult section, preparation and moved on to presentation. This is the area that is featured by most people, but we believe good preparation leads to good presentation.

While it is important to consider the layout and presentation of the food serving area, we feel that some time should be taken to consider the overall appearance of your event area with the food starting out as the focal point. As you are undoubtedly aware, the serving area will become unkempt, therefore, it is a good idea to include the entire event area when working on presentation.

One point to consider is the style of the serving dishes. Once again, this will be somewhat dictated by the location of your event. There are those who prefer the clear or colored glass type of serving dishes. Others prefer a ceramic dish. The choice is yours. Since this is a special event, we suggest refraining from the use of cheap plastic serving dishes if at all possible. Many people have told us they've picked up quite a collection over time discount stores. Some have even told us of finds they've made at dollar stores.

The next thing you might want to think about is the use of a center piece. While there is nothing wrong with this, we are of the belief that the food itself is the center piece.

Now that your guests have enjoyed the food that you have prepared, it is time for them to relax, mingle and talk with each other. A nice idea that we've seen to help promote conversation during the quiet periods is to place a few photo albums in an area where your guests can browse them. This is especially helpful if you have a group of people that tends to spend a lot of time together. As they flip through the pages they will recall bygone days that you've spent together. If you have children, maybe an album of kids photos as they were growing up. This may spark memories of their own children or even their childhood which can lead to some pretty interesting conversations.

Another idea we've been made aware of is setting out a conversation starter book. An example we've seen is a book that asks questions about Christmas. There were questions such as 'what was your favorite Christmas gift.'

Remember, even though you may be dealing with adults, they're still children at heart.

Produation

You may be asking yourself, as many before you have, "what is produlation?" It is the euphoric feeling you
get when you PRODuce a premier event and receive the congratULATIONS of all who attend. You've done such a
fine job you can even congratulate yourself.

You've put all of the hard work behind you. As you were preparing, I'm sure there were times when you were
asking yourself if it was worth it. Now you know it was, so ENJOY yourself!!!

One last thing, which will help the produlation continue. If you read the menu section, the produlation will
continue as you pull out some of the food you've held back and restock your party feast.

ranchandpenthouse.bravepages.com

© Ranch and Penthouse 2003. All rights reserved.

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About The Author, Mary Mernda

I'm a 50 year old happily married housewife with 3 nearly grown children. Through the years my husband and I have enjoyed entertaining family and friends in our home. As a result, we've created a small list of do's and don't's that make party planning easier and more enjoyable.
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