How To: Throw a GREAT party!

My kids want me to share the Independence Day party that I did for them in my daycare last year. This got me thinking about fun or beautiful parties that I have attended. My mom threw a few great New Years Eve parties for us when I was in high school. One year we got a Mystery (think "Clue") from one of my cousins which is acted out by the guests throughout the evening. Every guest played their own character and we had  one course of our meal between each "act." Our friends loved it - and mom and I were surprised how one particularly shy friend came out of his shell to be the person that he was pretending!

Another time we did a "mystery dinner" where each item on the menu was given a code name (including utensils!) and we had to order what we wanted. We laughed as we received our meals. Few of us had figured out the codes so we ended up with things like spaghetti noodles without sauce, dressing with no salad and chopsticks... What fun! We ended the evening by sledding in the cemetery across the street at midnight.

Yet another party was a group effort on the part of several homeschooling mothers. Kids from all over the county were invited and mom decorated to the nines! I think the theme had something to do with candy because she made a Gingerbread House out of a huge cardboard box, using colored paper plates for shingles. The windows had "cotton candy" curtains and the garden was complete with lollipop flowers and a small tree painted white with yellow marshmallow cheeps in it.

My inspiration for wonderful parties did not end when I got married and moved away.

My neighbor in Allegan is "The Hostess to the Mostest." She threw a great Christmas party while we lived in the neighborhood, even though her health had been failing and she had not been up to it for quite some time. She has the most lovely things for hostessing and she has the most beautiful touch (so does her daughter)! Her attention to detail is exquisite. I had the privilege of learning a few things from her as she helped me to host an elegant Bridal Shower for my sister in law by loaning me some of her beautiful serving items and giving me helpful suggestions along the way.

I decided to share this party as a "how to" in case you were looking for ways to make an up-coming event more special.

1. Pick a theme.

Sometimes the theme is the holiday that you are celebrating - so that makes it easy. Otherwise picking a theme gives you the parameters for what you really want in your party so that you are not distracted by all of the possibilities. Your theme decides your colors, your linens (or paper products), and decorations.

Are you sweeping out your barn and having a Hoe-down? Then haybales could serve as chairs and you might consider using red gingham table cloths and bandanas for napkins. Your menu might include things like baked beans, potato salad and BBQ. Use a big old rusty washbasin filled with ice to serve chilled soda pop, play blue grass music in the back ground, and invite your guests to dress in Western attire.

Are you throwing a Garden Tea for a group of ladies? Then you may want to use a silver tea service, china tea cups and real linen napkins and table cloths. Classical music would be appropriate, and you would serve finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, and light deserts. Your guests would probably wear spring dresses, but you could also encourage them to wear hats - - if you want to take the theme all the way!

2. Be Inspired!

For years I have collected pictures from magazines, gleaning ideas from them and duplicating them when given the opportunity. Since I've never had much spare cash for things like this, I've had to be more resourceful - but that is where it gets fun!

I got the idea for throwing great 4th of July parties from one of those pictures. When I saw the flags in white vases I loved the idea! A trip to the Goodwill produced several milk-glass vases - so my collection was conceived. Ever since then I have kept an eye out for milk-glass because white goes with any theme so I don't have to have a large collection of service items for each season or holiday or event - I just use the same ones and change the table cloth, napkins and decorations! The fabric for these table cloths came from the $1 yd. fabric at Walmart. This theme has served me well for several years now. I enjoy breaking out this decor every year at our big family picnic!

Your inspiration can come from anywhere. Be creative. Use your imagination.  Look around your home with fresh eyes to see what you already have, and don't be afraid to try using something in a purpose for which it was not intended

3. Give attention to detail.

Sometimes the small things make a big difference. These are the things that show your care and personality.  Give it YOUR special touch. If you like to do homemade crafts, consider making something for each guest.

Don't just serve your pretzels in a bowl, put them in a (clean!) toy dumptruck. Cut your hotdogs before boiling them so they will turn into Octopuses.

These details will set your party apart and make it memorable for your guests. What's more, this type of care does not have to cost a thing for the "wow" factor to be phenomenal!

4. Put your menu to work.

Since your meal will most likely be the primary expense of your party, use your food to your advantage. It should enhance your theme or your color scheme. Use strawberries, cherries, blueberries, or watermelon for your 4th of July party - not oranges or pinapple. - - Save those to go with the roast pig at your Hawaiian luau! 

What is the time worth to sort out the red and blue M&Ms? It does not cost a thing, but it can make a bigger impact.

 It is just fine to serve sandwiches the way they are, but why not take a few extra moments to cut them into fun shapes with a cookie cutter to enhance the theme?

 5. Make it Do-able.

Whatever your skill set or level of motivation, YOU can throw a great party. Maybe you want to keep it simple and have a backyard BBQ. Maybe you love to go all out and make homemade pinwheels for every guest, or create a backyard circus for your child's birthday. Whoever you are, JUST DO IT!

Don't forgo a party for lack of funds or fear of the amount of work that it would take. Have a pot-luck or make it a group effort. Pick a theme and call your friends. See what you and your friends have in your homes that can be used.  Have your guests dress to match your theme. Play games like the limbo for your luau, or do a barn dance at your hoe down. FUN is FREE.

6. Remember Mary and Martha.

Be Martha BEFORE the party as you prepare for your guests to arrive and give attention to detail, but become Mary DURING the party and turn your attention to your guests.

My friend Lucy tells of a party that she attended with lots of other guests. The hostess was so concerned that every thing go smoothly that she was scarcely seen the whole time. Lucy felt as if her hostess did not know or care when they left that evening.
Months later Lucy and her husband were invited to dinner in another family's home. The hostess forgot to take the cardboard backing off of the frozen pizza before she placed it in the oven so they spent the meal in cheerful conversation - all the while peeling cardboard off of their pizza! After dinner the hostess placed brownies in the oven and forgot to set the timer, so the brownies burned. As they left, their host family followed them out and waved to them as they drove away. They left feeling loved and cared for regardless of the food fiasco.

What do you want your guests to remember? Your presentation - - or your love?
Don't think of your party as a contest to show what a perfect hostess you can be and stay in the kitchen micromanaging every detail - get out there and enjoy the party yourself! The point of having parties is to build relationships.

Just do it!


marlene said...

This was great! I loved your 4th of July party ideas :) What fun. Too often we become Martha's and forget to be Mary's. Keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Loved the reminder to enjoy your guests. You're right. Relationship is what it is all about. You had some good ideas to make a party special.
Love you, Aunt LaVila

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