How many of you have been stressed out from throwing a party and maybe so much so that you don’t even enjoy it and your guests? Or maybe you have been so intimidated from the thought of throwing one, you avoid it all together? I have been there and I get it. Over the past several years of hosting parties, I have learned a few lessons, tips and tricks that I want to share with you.
I have always loved throwing parties and will find any and every excuse to do so. My family and friends thought I was crazy for hosting a housewarming party only a week after moving into our home but I just couldn’t wait! I know some would say that parties could be frivolous and do not really matter a whole lot in life. This thought reminds me of the episode of “Friends”, when Rachel reconnects with her old sorority sister, Melissa. They begin to tell each other what their current jobs are. Melissa says that she left her job of real estate because she wanted to do something where she can really help people and make a difference. So Rachel asks her what she is doing now and Melissa responds with, “Party planning”. Of course you hear the audience laugh because the thought of really helping people by planning parties can sound kind of lame, but I would like to suggest to you that in a small way, throwing parties, big or small, really can make a difference and be meaningful. It is a way to connect people with each other, potentially creating life-long friendships, and at the very least, make long-lasting memories!
So let’s get down to it. I want to share with you 6 lessons I have learned over the years of throwing and hosting several parties. From my huge DIY wedding back in 2011 before the Pinterest and Instagram era, or large vendor fairs held at my house like the Galentine’s Day Spa + Market I hosted this past weekend, to the smaller bridal showers, baby sprinklings, costume Oscar parties and even smaller surprise birthday celebrations and dinner parties. All of them begin with the same basic principles that lead to a fun time with lasting memories.
1. Pick A Theme
Picking themes like a woodland animal baby shower or something more generic with just a color scheme can be super helpful in narrowing your decisions on how to decorate. It also makes your whole party look cohesive and put together if you stick to your theme/color scheme. Pinterest will be your best friend for this step! I can’t even tell you how many secret boards I have made for the different themed parties I have thrown together. What a great resource!
My Galentine’s party was spa themed, so I chose to run with the color green because of cucumbers, and peach because I just love peach and am not a fan of typical Valentine’s colors. Once I picked my colors, I incorporated them into everything from the DIY cucumber eye mask that each guest received, to the heart shaped peach-colored cantaloupe and green-colored honey dew skewers!
2. Decorate For Cheap
There are lots of really quick, easy and cheap ways to make your party look like you spent a lot more time and money than you did. Here are a few suggestions:
- Just a little paint and paper can go a long way! I love making bunting signs for my parties like the one I made this past weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right color peach paper I needed and I live in a super small town that doesn’t have any craft stores, so I took peach paint and cheap poster board and made some of my own which turned out great! I always keep inexpensive twine, mini clothespins, and washi tape on hand too.
- Another cheap option is to reuse decor items from past parties. For my wedding, I had used logs and tree stump plates that I had asked a local logger to cut down for me to decorate with (which he did for free!). Since then, I have kept them over the years and use them for most of my food tables at parties, or just around the venue/my house. I also used mason jars at my wedding and have kept them in my basement so that I can pull them out whenever I need a quick centerpiece.
- Paper straws are also a great way to add to your decor. I have a giant bag with all different colored straws I have collected over the years and just pull out what colors I need for the specific party I am throwing. Most people don’t use the straws so I just put them back in my bag at the end of the night and reuse them for the next party! I also typically get matching party plates and napkins from TJ Maxx because they always have a great selection that is cheap. I store whatever is remaining for the next party!
- I tend to buy green foliage like eucalyptus or myrtle or even filler flower, like wax flower or baby’s breath, to decorate with because they are cheaper than flowers. If I do buy flowers, I will usually go for alstromeria lilies because they are on the inexpensive side, but don’t look cheap like carnations. And the cheapest option is going out in your backyard and grabbing some wild flowers, pretty leaves or branches! For Christmas I always grab some pinecones from outside and get some clippings from my Juniper tree in our backyard. My husband and I also usually cut down a larger Christmas tree than what we want so when we cut it down even shorter to fit in our home, I will be able to use all the excess branches for decor.
- Investing in drink dispensers is a good idea too because you can use them for many years to come. Not only do they have a great function, they also can add to your decor! I always put in fruits that coordinate with the colors of my parties and the color of your drinks can match too! For the Galentine’s spa, I made cucumber, lime and mint water and then sparkling green tea limeade that was an invention with raving reviews!
- Along these lines, I usually try to make foods that go with my color scheme. This past weekend all of my foods were either green or peach/light orange and it made the tablescape very aesthetically pleasing! And let me tell you, the herbed cucumber chicken salad this past weekend was out of this world!
3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
I have a dear friend named Terri who always offers to help when I throw a party. Without fail, she will either come the night before or a little early to help with food or whatever is needed. Friends like these are keepers for sure! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends or family. I am very grateful for my mom who will make her famous veggie pizza and my aunt who makes her renowned cupcakes and cookies for my parties whenever I ask them to. This past weekend I had so much going on outside of the party that I enlisted some more help from one of the vendors who is an incredible chef and baker to help me throw the food together. I also have a handful of friends who I can always count on to show up early to help. Punctuality doesn’t make sense to me but I am grateful for them because they will always help with last minute food prep! I also am very blessed with a husband who will help around the clock for my parties. He is usually in charge of jobs like putting on the music, making sure the garbage can is never overflowing and taking out the trash when needed. He does plenty of last minute errands and always sweeps. Sidenote: I never mop before a party because it’s just going to get disgusting again with so many people in my house!
Delegating is key to keeping things simple so you don’t have to do it all, plus when people feel like they have a small part, they feel included and needed and can take some ownership of it too! Make sure to thank these people and give proper recognition where it’s due! If you show your appreciation, they will more than likely be willing to help you for your next party!
4. Easy Peasy Appetizers
My go-to appetizers are crock pot foods for sure! I am known now for my buffalo wing dip and cranberry meatballs. If you come to one of my parties you will likely see both of these dishes. I don’t branch out often because I do what I know people love and what is simple! Also throwing veggies (That match your decor) on a platter with store bought hummus is so easy. Or, my favorite, is making a simple and beautiful cheese platter with a variety of soft and hard cheeses, fancy crackers, grapes, almonds and rosemary to garnish. Simple but beautiful, and who doesn’t love cheese?! For my wedding I was gifted several white platters and server-ware, and for the past 7 years I have been using those for pretty much all of my parties! White goes with everything. Make the investment and you won’t regret it. Another idea to make the food prep easy and simple is to ask guests to bring a dish to pass! I know some could say this is tacky, but food is expensive, so people understand! I do this for my annual Christmas party every year. In years past I didn’t like doing this because I wanted all the food to look a certain way and to go with my theme (yes, you can roll your eyes, haha). But you can always request for friends to bring their food on a white platter or tell them you have a white platter they can use. Ultimately I have learned to just let the aesthetics go sometimes and not care; which brings me to my next point.
5. Imperfection is Perfect
Let’s face it, things are not going to go according to plan all the time. Life happens. Over the years I have had to realize that the party is ultimately about the people who you are hosting, and not the decor. You don’t want to be so focused on the way it looks or how things are running that you forget to connect with your guests and have a good time. If you do, people will not have a good time because they will sense the tension and the vibe – trust me!
6. Do It for the People
I realize some may not agree with me on this, and that’s fine, but I have found this to be an amazing mindset for me. To this day I still get people that tell me that my wedding was the most fun wedding they had ever been to and that brings me so much joy. I really think that this is because I made it a priority to make sure my guests and bridal party would be comfortable and enjoy themselves. I know a lot of people have the mentality that your wedding day is your day and you should do what you want despite people and their wants, but here’s how I see it: if people aren’t happy around me then ultimately it will rub off on me and then I won’t be happy. So really in essence I am making sure that people are happy so that I can be too. It’s honestly selfish, haha! But really when you think about it, the majority of your guests will lovingly supporting your marriage covenant throughout your marriage, so keeping them in mind when you’re planning is so important. For example, I wanted an outdoor wedding but I chose to move it indoors because in case the weather was bad I didn’t want it to irritate my guests or me! I made sure our venue (a barn) had AC installed for the hot July day and a nice bathroom was a must (a nice bathroom at any party/venue is really a must in my book!). Ample and easy access parking is always a good idea. Sadly the parking at my house isn’t awesome but my husband and I always make sure to pull into our garage to give more room. Thinking about the time of day for your party, the food you serve- having vegetarian options and sugar free treats are all great ideas. Be intentional with your planning – thinking about it from the perspective of your guests and what they would want.
Another way to make people feel more comfortable is to help introduce people to others they may not know. I realize not everyone loves doing this. For me as an extrovert, I love doing this like really love it! I love giving people topics to talk about and ways they can relate to each other. If this is not your personality type – ask a friend who is good at this to intentionally go around the room and connect people in this way. I feel for those introverts who hate introducing themselves and can’t think of topics to talk about so doing it for them will make them feel included for sure.
So when it comes down to it, it’s all about planning ahead in every aspect. No party has to be extravagant and huge but in order to make it a lovely time that brings lasting memories; it should be intentional, thought out and focused on what is most important – the people. I hope all of this helps make your next party simple, intentional and meaningful! I would also love to connect with you on Instagram! Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or if any of this resonated with you. Keep on planning those parties, friends! Everyone needs a reason to dress up once in a while!
Kimmy is a small town designer, letterer, painter and party planner enthusiast. She is obsessed with plants, running ‘cause chocolate, a minimal, tidy home and Jesus. She lives with her bearded musician and teddy bear of a husband, Ryan, in Upstate NY where they are the pastors of their church, Anchor Oneonta. Kimmy loves helping others realize their passions and encourages them to use their gifts to their fullest potential, to ultimately bring glory to God.
Check out Kimmy’s Shop – Drift Design Co. – handlettered paper goods, apparel and home decor
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