There’s just something about Summer that screams ‘PARTY!’
Maybe it’s because here in New England, after surviving the never-ending, cold, rainy Spring, we all just need to celebrate that accomplishment!
We certainly can’t IGNORE Summer’s command, right!? That would be rude. So, let’s PARTY! Let’s have 3 specialty cocktails, a variety of easy, nibbles to pass around, and lots and lots of fresh flowers. Now, let’s grab ourselves a few friends and celebrate the new season!
Look, it’s easy to order a few pies, throw down some paper plates and plastic utensils, and guzzle beers straight from the bottle. I have plenty of those impromptu, no-pretense gatherings, and they’re always fun.
Sometimes it’s nice to up the ante a bit, and really throw down a beautiful, thoughtful event to share with your friends and loved ones. All it takes is a bit of pre-planning and a little extra effort, and you’ll be amazed by how it pays off!
Here are a few of my personal party planning tips that I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Inspiration Gathering: Put together an idea board. It could be a manila folder that you jam torn magazine pages into. For me, it means I open up a fresh new board on Pinterest and start pinning away inspiration…. Recipes, décor, playlists, DIYs. Save (or pin) whatever grabs you right away.
2. Cull the Inspiration Herd: Once you’ve gathered your inspiration, you can halt your search and start culling the herd. This is fun - Go to your inspiration and see what is now really jumping out at you and working together. Trash the rest…you don’t need the extra noise. Ah, now doesn’t it feel good to begin envisioning your custom event? Now you can start hammering out the details.
3. Decide on your food: Narrow down the recipes that jive with each other --- one meat, one vegetarian, something substantial and something easy to nibble on. By all means, make life easy by mixing in quality pre-made items. Bowls of nuts and olives are beautiful and delicious and all you do is buy ‘em and dump ‘em! A tall glass filled with store-bought delicate breadsticks look great on a party table. When choosing your menu, look at what dishes can be mostly prepared in advance and for items that can be served at room temperature.
4. Decide on your drinks: For our party, we featured three separate cocktails just for fun, but that’s totally up to you! Try just one signature cocktail that you can make in advance and present in a beautiful pitcher or jug. Your signature cocktail can take the main stage, and be flanked by a selection of white and red wine, and some good quality brews. Oh, and I tell my wine merchant that I don’t want to spend more than, say, $13 per bottle. They like the challenge of finding great wines for your event within your budget! Trust!
5. Decide on your general décor and floral direction: Now, I say “general” direction because you can bet that your floral and décor will change right up to the very end. For this Summer Party, the entire direction was bright orange and green florals with modern white accents. Well, guess what?!? When I went to buy the florals the day before, my grocery store had NO ORANGE FLOWERS AT ALL. Not one! Adjustments were made on the fly, and the result was beautiful!
6. Raid Your Pantry: Take a peek through your cupboards or pantry to see what you already have for décor and supplies. We realized for this event that we didn’t have enough cohesive serving platters. Realizing this a few weeks prior to the party, there was still ample time to fill in those gaps, and a trip to a tiny, cramped store in Chinatown stacked to the ceiling with dishes, platters, bowls, carafes, was the perfect solution. No Chinatown near you, you say? Try Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat Re-Store, yard sales – all goldmines of inexpensive household items!
7. List Time! Get your marching orders down on paper so you can see everything that needs to happen between now and then. Put together a master shopping list for food, liquor, décor and floral. For the last week, it’s nice to have a checklist of what needs to happen each day.
PARTY DAY! Follow your checklist as best you can, and get ready to improvise!
The planning process is fun. It builds excitement for the amazing event to come. With a plan, we’re more in control – or at least we feel that way. Follow the ‘playbook’, and everything will turn out just perfect, right!? Dead wrong! Truth is, nothing ever turns out exactly the way we envision, no matter how much we plan in advance, but the trick is to roll with the punches, adapt on the fly, and have one or two or more ‘make it work’ moments.
There is simply no way that everything will be or can be perfect! And that’s totally okay; in fact, it’s MORE than okay. It’s those imperfections, accidents, mishaps, those make-it-work moments that make your party YOURS. We plan our little hearts out, cook and mix, arrange and decorate, and the results may not perfect, but they’re PERSONAL, and they come from a place of love. And when you invite friends, family and loved ones together to celebrate – for whatever reason – it’s that personalty that is remembered and that makes such a great event.
A note from Elizabeth: "Friends, I second every single one of Meredith's party planning tips! Have fun with your party planning as no one will ever know what was "supposed" to happen! Thank you, Meredith, for some great tips!"
Photo credit: Sabrina Cole Quinn Photography