10 Party Building Blocks
I had the recent pleasure of meeting Tara Riceberg in Hilton Head, SC when Party City invited me to their Perfect Party Weekend extravaganza. Tara, a Los Angeles based celebrity stylist and party planner extraordinaire, was hired by Party City as their Celebration Expert to plan the eight parties that made up our four day event. She is the definite go-to expert on all matters related to hosting parties; from being a perfect guest to gift wrapping to table-scaping and everything in between. We are thrilled to welcome Tara as our monthly party planning & entertaining contributor and so look forward to her posts where she will share her creative ideas and wisdom on Everything Party.
Audrey van Petegem
By Tara Riceberg, Guest Contributor – Party Planning & Entertaining
You couldn’t erect a home without a strong foundation, so why would you host a party without the same attention to detail and substance? First, you must determine the theme. Try to be specific. Instead of Halloween go with antebellum Gothic. A baby shower becomes Lions, Tigers, and Twins, Oh My! Next, make your guest list. Then, choose your color scheme. I like to use three core colors and a fourth just for flair. Finally, you’ll need these 10 essentials for building your fabulous party.
Invitations set the tone of your party. While I appreciate the trend for paperless invites, I’m old school and believe that the best parties are the ones with physical invitations. Just think about the joy you derive from checking the mailbox and finding one colored envelope that you know isn’t a bill. You can’t wait to tear into it to see what was sent to you. Invitations do not have to be limited to paper either. Though, there are so many beautiful cards on the market that you could either have printed or hand-write yourself. To really up the game, I suggest making gifts out of the invitations. Have them hand delivered. Imagine receiving a plastic bowl shaped like a football, filled with bright green shred, team beads, face paint, nail tattoos and a printed season kick-off party invitation. This absolutely would receive a RSVP YES!! Not only is it memorable, but also your guests will anticipate a FUNtastic night.
Balloons are the international sign for PARTY! They should be posted outside the driveway, especially if you have a house number that is difficult to read. Grouped in clusters, they fill empty corners and tied to weights they function as centerpieces. Experiment with different balloon weights like favor bags, shout cones or stuffed animals. You can never have too many balloons and they are the least expensive decoration on the market. Don’t limit yourself to only using curling ribbon. Try fabric ribbons, boas and beads. If you’re really courageous try making towers and arches for more punch!
3. Room Décor
The design rules are the same for decorating a room or adorning it for a party. Before I decorate the house, I do a walk through as if I were a guest. Where am I looking? What rooms am I wandering into? Find the focal points and make a wow statement. Don’t leave out the ceiling, floors or windows. I try to use things in ways they weren’t intended to create that remarkable experience. Crisscross streamers on a window to create lattice. Hang garland on a chandelier. Wrap a room with a scene setter then attach wearable items to it to create a 3D effect. Remember to adorn all the rooms where guests will be and again stay true the to theme and the colors.
4. Table Décor
Since the dining table is a focal point of any party, be sure to wow your guests with a dramatic table scape. The more layering and texture you create, the more interesting the food will appear. For seated tables, I set a tablecloth, mats, charger plates and dinner plates. It is visually more dynamic. Napkin rings, once removed, become table jewelry. Centerpieces should be kept low so you can easily converse with friends seated opposite of you.
Bring in color through your napkins, cloth and serve ware. Simple is the new trend in entertaining so it’s now becoming acceptable to use paper and plastic. There are so many fantastic products on the market that look just like the real thing. In fact, I tell clients that in the same way it’s socially acceptable to travel with costume jewelry, it is now ok to entertain with faux pieces. “It’s not a party until something gets broken.” Well, who wants Grandma’s Waterford smashed? While it’s wonderful to use heirloom pieces, it may stress you and your guests to use them. Since the comfort of your guests is key to a successful party, you must decide for yourself if you want to use the “good stuff.
Catering and tableware are dependent upon the menu. I’m a true believer that crudité does not count as a vegetarian dish. Ask your guests if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. It’s not fun to attend a party where you can’t eat.
To set the buffet table, I write the food names on post-its and place them on the serve ware. Then I elevate the serving bowls and platters with risers, made of books or empty gift boxes. Not only does this create more table surface for condiments and sauces, but it also is pleasing to the eye. Next, I place a cloth. Then the serve ware is arranged according to the menu. I present colder dishes at the front of the table and have guests work their way to the hot ones. Finally, I drape another cloth over the boxes, bunching the fabric at the base of the boxes. These folds are ideal to hold smaller bowls and buffet cards. Also, being well prepared, I set the dining table and/or buffet table the day before the party, which allows for extra time for last minute changes.
I always have candy out during the entire party, as people tend to enjoy munching on chocolate. Candy not only is an essential snack, but also it can be used for decorations. Fill a clear glass bowl with color coated chocolates that match the theme. If you tie a coordinating ribbon or add fun lollipops, you can create a playful centerpiece. Candy also makes a perfect party favor. Simply fill little bags with custom printed M&M’s to pass out when guests leave or if you hired valet parkers, have them place the candy in the car. It’s a great surprise and will keep your company talking about your party on their drive home.
Most hosts forget about favors. Lately, they only appear on wedding tables or at events. Do not underestimate the joy of guests receiving something that they can delight in opening. Just as we want to tear open an envelope for the great reveal of the invitation, we love unwrapping a gift. No one really cares what the gift is- they just want the joy of opening and surprise. Inexpensive yet thoughtful favors can range from candy to small souvenirs to items that guests make at the party.
Organizing activities keeps a party flowing. Invite friends to decorate mini-cakes, go on a treasure hunt, or trick-or-treat the house. Though these sound like kids’ party entertainments, they most certainly appeal to adults. After all, aren’t we all kids deep down? Wouldn’t these be fun to do at an “Inner Child” fête? Be careful not to make a fatal party mistake. Do not push your guests into the activity. Wait for an opportune time to suggest they move into another room for the enterprise to begin.
10. Wearable items
Dressing up also becomes an activity. Even for those not inclined to attend costume parties, adding a mask or beaded necklaces is fun. I’ve asked guests to come attired in all black or white. Then at the front door table where I have a mirror, they can prink. (Love this word from the 1930s- it means to ornately adorn oneself). I arranged boas, beads, tiaras, hats and masks. Not only will this make for fun photos but also the wearable items can then double as favors. Every time your guests see their zebra cowboy hats or Venetian masks they will no doubt recall the fun evening spent with friends at your home. Since we’re all addicted to social media, there is nothing more fun than tweeting silly pictures or posting playful party photos on our favorites sites (like Facebook) and blogs.
When planning your party, you’ll find that some of these essentials double for one another. Candy can be a favor. Dressing up can be an activity. Don’t stress when throwing a party. You have the building blocks you need to create a fabulous event. Just remember the most important tip – HAVE FUN!