By Guest Contributor Jenni Shanks
I love to throw a party! My daughter used to hesitate when inviting friends over to the house for fear that I would turn a simple night “hanging out” with friends into some BIG EVENT. She would supervise and have veto power over any guest preparations – menu, table layout or (gasp) decorations. Needless to say, I believe love is in the details and that too much of anything, when done well, is fabulous!
It is helpful to know that I come from a long line of “party people.” My mother came frome a family of 11 and growing up we would always have something or someone to celebrate. I would watch my mom and dad frequently open our home for Christmas and constantly host dinners with friends and family.
My mom would turn table arrangements into works of art and effortlessly plan the most delicious meals. Before Martha Stewart was around to show us what you could do with pine cones and pasta, my mom was covering boxes with tin foil and fruit for the most amazing New Year’s Eve centerpiece.
Being raised with “super host” parents gave me the confidence to want to follow that tradition as an adult. But as in most things in life, watching someone do something is very different than actually doing it yourself. Early on in our marriage my husband and I decided to throw our first big Christmas party. We invited over 30 people and we spent the entire day preparing. Although our event was a success, we were exhausted and I felt a lot of the elements of the party could be improved upon. Like anything else you want to get good at, practice makes perfect. That first party was over 20 years ago and I have learned some things along the way.
Hospitality Made Easy
It is fair to say that hosting comes easier for some than others. But, I believe practice makes perfect. So, if you have the hosting bug and want to either just make party planning a little easier or get out of your shell and give throwing a party a chance, here are some things to consider:
1. Start small. Practice with a small group. Don’t go and plan a wedding if you are new to this! Have a few friends over for dinner or host a movie night.
2. Know your strengths. Know what you are best at and put all your energy into planning that well. You love to cook? Wow them with your fancy cuisine. You love to decorate? Go all out on your table setting. You struggle with both but want to have people over? Get your event catered and look up stuff on Pinterest to copy.
3. Have a good playlist. Music just makes everything better. If it is a themed event, have fun looking for songs that go with your theme.
4. Plan ahead. Start picking up and buying items early for your party. Buy stuff off of Amazon weeks in advance, pre-order any big food items if needed, and start setting up your dinner table days in advance. Any prep work will help you from feeling overwhelmed the day of your event.
5. Surround yourself with party people. Ask for their help! Brainstorm with them to help you with themes, food selections, party favors and any other details that you can integrate into your party.
6. The day of the party make time for yourself to relax. I always make sure to take a long , hot bath a couple hours before the party starts. Just having that relaxation time allows me to get out of the frenzied- “omg I’m forgetting something!” headspace and into the, “I am going to set the happy, relaxed vibe for this party” mood. Remember the party always follows the energy of the hostess and if you greet your guests harried and stressed, that energy will bleed over to your guests. Instead pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath, turn up the music and dance before guests arrive.
I will never forget the day my high school daughter came home from school and gave me the most amazing gift. Her lacrosse buddies had asked her if I could throw them a party. They literally told her I could do anything I wanted and to go all out. After years of being held back I had no limits and took full advantage of my freedom. I made an itinerary of events which included an afternoon full of games and crafts, I spent days looking for all kinds of round and yellow food (lacrosse balls are yellow) and even found a cheap way to make huge LAX letters for our front yard. Although she still prefaces most events with, “it’s NOT a party, mom” I will never forget the time she let me love on her and her friends with every party trick I could think of.
The best part of a great party are not the frantic preparations, but the love your guests feel when they are in your home. If you are having a good time your guests will feel it and ultimately, that is all that really matters.
xo, Party Momma Shanks