Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Plan Ahead Parties

I popped into Pottery Barn last Sunday for another one of their free classes. This session was on holiday decorations and entertaining. One theme we kept coming back to was the age old advice that so many of us never seem to follow: Plan ahead and start early. Anything you can do ahead of time will make your life so much easier on party day, a day when you'll already be cooking, serving, greeting guests and more.

Here are a few tips on what you can do today to save yourself a headache on the day of your party.

One Week Ahead:

  • Purchase non-perishables like sodas, wine, mixers, and dry goods that will keep, like nuts and crackers.
  • Make paper crafts like place cards, favors, or labels for food if serving buffet style.
  • Draft an email to your guests thanking them for a great party. Include the recipes you're planning to cook if you know you'll be asked for them by at least one guest. This will help you avoid reciting the recipe during dinner or scrambling to find it the next day. Send this email the day after the party.
  • Pull things out of storage like extra seating or special serveware and dishes you'll be using. Wash them and store somewhere clean until it's time to set the table.
  • Decorate your room with anything other than fresh flowers. That means lighting, candles, vases, etc. The bonus is you'll get to enjoy a pretty room all week. You can even rearrange furniture in advance.
  • Arrange the music. Planning a special playlist to set the mood? Get it done well in advance and you won't have to think about it until you press Play.

Two or Three Days Ahead:

  • Arrange your florals. Creating your centerpieces and accents a day or two in advance will ensure that your fresh flowers have opened by party day.
  • Shop for fruits, veggies, and perishables.
  • Bake or cook in advance. Cookies or dough can be made ahead and frozen. Thaw them out on party day before serving.
  • Prep your table. Set everything you'll need on that table ahead of time, including linens, candles, and centerpieces. That way when you go to set the table on party day you won't be wondering where those votives are packed away.

The Night Before:

  • Start on any dishes you can. Are you serving a pie that can be baked now then reheated the next day? What about appetizer dips that can be mixed the night before?
  • For dishes you can't cook until the day of, prep the ingredients. Wash and chop vegetables. Measure out and mix dry ingredients to save time later.

Thanks to Rob and Carlyn at PB for all their great ideas, some of which I've included here! Host-It Notes readers, what do you do ahead to save time on the day of a party?


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