Party Planning Tips and Tricks

Each year we host a family holiday party and I have been perfecting the planning each year.  We decided on a taco bar theme which allowed everyone to customize their meal.  We have a mix of vegetarians and meat-lovers in the family so it also gave everyone options.  The downside is that there are TONS of toppings that you can do with a taco bar, so planning it out was a must.  I also find that the more time I get to be a “guest” instead of the host during a party, the more I enjoy it.  So I do end up thinking ahead of ways to have the guests answer their own questions like “Where do I put my coat?”, “Is this the hot or mild salsa?”, etc.  Hope these tips help you if you are planning a party.  Enjoy!

  • Plan out the layout of the buffet = Couple of days before the party, I pulled out the dishware to hold all of the toppings, chips, shrimp/beef taco mix, etc.  I used small pieces of paper to mark what each dish would hold.  This allowed me to know if I had enough serving plates and bowls as well as tongs and spoons to serve each of the toppings for the meal.  I ended up borrowing a Crockpot for the shrimp tacos and a few spoons from my mom.
  • Print out menus = Anytime someone stops over for a party you ask them soon after they took their coat off, “Can I offer you a drink?”  Then of course they ask “Sure, what do you have?”  That is when I hand them a menu instead of repeating all of the options.  I also created a menu to list out the taco toppings.  In order to make them look pretty for the party, I used some decorative frames and placed them on the table.
  • Label toppings (especially those that look the same) = For the party we offered both hot and mild salsa options.  In order to not have to explain which bowl is which type, I used mini chalkboards and a chalk marker pen to label them.
  • Prep for coats/boots in cold months = Especially during the winter, guests will arrive with coats, boots, hats/gloves/scarves and handbags.  In order to make sure that their entrance to the home is welcoming, I setup multiple boot trays as well as baskets to hold cold weather accessories.  I also used a clothing rack with empty hangers for coats.  The clothing rack that I have dissembles for storage as well.
  • Vases = I love to use small short vases to hold silverware, candy and even just to put fairy lights for decoration on the table.  It makes it look neat as well as pretty.
  • Snacks on the table = In order to save room from the buffet setup on the kitchen counter, I put the snacks like veggies/dip, chips/salsa directly on the table.  This not only freed up space from the kitchen counter, but also allowed folks to chat and snack while enjoying the party.
  • Other tips (not pictured)
    • Party invitations = I order the invites via Shutterfly when they have their 10 free cards coupon.  So it ends up being both a holiday greeting card and invite combo and I just have to pay for shipping.
    • Family trivia for prizes = Each year we have a trivia question sheet that goes over vacations and events we have done in the past year.  This allows for the family to not only try to guess the most answers for a prize, but also as a way to tell everyone what we did that past year.
    • Photo slideshow = We are not able to share all of our vacation pictures with everyone so I set up the laptop with a photo slideshow to display them.  These also helped to answer the trivia questions.
    • Stickers for cups = I had gift tag stickers with everyone’s names on them in order to apply to the cups.  That way no one lost their drink and we did not end up throwing away extra mystery cups without owners.
    • Good for the Earth cups/plates/silverware = I wanted to reduce dishes to wash after the party but also wanted to be kind to the environment.  I opted for cornstarch based silverware which are completely safe to use and biodegradable.  The plates where from Greenplate company and made from sugarcane which is made from a renewable resource and compostable.  Cups were also from Repurpose brand and were compostable and plant-based.
    • Grocery shopping = I broke it out into two separate trips.  The first one was one week prior to the party and I purchased all items that would still be fresh (frozen shrimp, chips, jars of salsa, olives, etc).  Then two days before the party, I ended up buying anything I had forgotten the first trip plus items that need to be fresh (flowers, lettuce, tomato, etc).  This allowed me to not feel overwhelmed with buying everything just a couple of days before the party.