Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cocktail Party Tips for Evening Events that Satisfy without a Full Meal ...

This blog post will mark a slight departure from the original theme of this blog ... because I am expanding the scope to include dinner party and other party planning ideas and tools here and on a new site I am building called (feel free to check it out ... it is under construction now:)))

That being said ... I recently had three wonderful reasons to throw a party:

1) John's birthday is this month ... this weekend in fact
2) I landed a new job in Boston at HubSpot and have hopped a plane to work here 3 weeks a month
3) ACL (Austin City Limits Music Festival) needed a kickoff!!!

Knowing how many people would want to celebrate these three occasions, I realized it couldn't be an intimate dinner party ... in fact I invited about 100 folks and we had around 45-50 over the course of the evening that were able to make it. Now, that may seem like a daunting number, but I was thrilled and find it so much fun to entertain. This is the reason that I'll be adding this theme to the blog ... there are so many things in life that deserve to be celebrated and taking the pain out of party planning is something that needs to be done.

So to keep it short and sweet ... what are the lessons learned and tips that I can share from this most recent party?
  • Be clear about food in your invitation: because this was such a large group and my home isn't huge, a full meal was not an option. My start time was 8PM because it was a 'school night' for many, but they all knew that there'd be heavy apps and snacks and therefore came prepared. I had enough for everyone without too many leftovers considering the size of the party.
  • Only serve things that you like and are willing to eat leftover: the above comment aside, we had hummus and cupcakes and a few other items after the party wound down at 1AM. Since I planned things I loved, John and I had great snacks all throughout ACL weekend:)
  • Don't serve more than 1 or 2 hot items unless you have an army of helpers: between the need to finish the item while your guests are arriving and trying to keep it hot doing anything more than 1 or 2 will just stress you out.
  • Consider a single hot passed hostess hors d'oeuvre: I experimented with a passed item (Pears with Sage wrapped in Proscuitto, courtesy of my gal Amy, blog post to follow) and used the passing as a really great excuse to chat briefly with all my guests making sure everyone felt welcomed and I could make quick introductions. If you have the right crowd, you won't feel like you are 'serving' - rather you'll feel like you have a great reason to mingle with speed:)
  • Make a list & a timeline: I had so much going on that week and couldn't leave most things till the final day of the party. I ran errands and did items in all four days leading up to the party ... and found that I wasn't missing anything when the time came for the corks to be popped!
  • Get all your serving dishes out early in the day: as you finish items, plan out what will go where. If you have a helper or two, you can even write up a quick post it note on each dish and let your helpers do some of the last minute 'placement' without distracting you from any of your last minute work.
  • Plan your music in advance ... or better yet ... use Pandora! OK, not so subtle plug for my favorite music service which will play a random list of music all based on a genre you select - saves you the hassle of creating a playlist if you aren't a total music buff. In fact, John even created an 'ACL' station for the party by putting in a few artist names of bands that we were going to see at the event ... fun and apropos
  • Keep the decor simple: If you are not hosting a themed party and it is at your home, you really don't need much in the way of decoration. Good food, beverage and laughs will be all you need to get smiles on your friends' faces.
That's it for this time around ... look out for more healthy recipes, party suggestions and thoughts on this channel. Cheers!!!

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