It’s no secret that I love entertaining. Halloween, Christmas, New Years Eve, Easter, Birthdays, Spring or Summer – any excuse to throw a party. Drinks parties, dinner parties, and themed parties –themed parties are not just for kids, they can be a LOT of fun, from coming up with a fun theme to designing the invitations and decorating a space, and of course seeing all your friends in silly costumes! A few of my past fun themed parties include Wonderland / Neverland, Guilty Pleasures / Seven Deadly Sins, James Bond, Tropical and a Great British Bake Off fundraiser!
I love everything about throwing a party – and above all the party itself when friends from all the different corners of your life come together and have fun! By this point you’ve greeted everyone, made some introductions, drinks have been poured (ideally by waiting staff), and the food is taken care of so that you can finally join in the fun – there’s nothing worse than being at a party with a stressed out host in a bad mood!
Over the years I’ve learned a few little tricks that have really helped in making an event or party as successful and stress-free as possible, so you can finally let your hair down and enjoy your party!
Here are my ten top tips:
- People make the party. Make sure to invite fun people that are likely to get on with each other (no one too dull or too controversial), and try to invite enough people and far enough in advance – you’re more likely to end up with fewer people than expected than too many! If you put effort into sending out actual invitations, or inviting people individually (even if that’s over the phone or via text), they are more likely to come than if it’s just a generic Facebook group!
- Once you’ve invited your guests and got them to save the date, you can start planning! It’s hard to do everything on your own so if you are able to it’s worth booking waiting staff to help pass around canapes and pour drinks – this can be a friend’s younger sibling, neice, neighbour etc – or in my case I asked a friend’s rugby team to come and help out for a few hours in exchange for food & drink! It’s also worth booking a cleaner in advance for the next morning, to help clear up the mess!
- Food. It’s worth making a list of the drinks and canapes you’d like to serve, to put together a shopping list. If you have a car it’s easy to do a bulk shop, but as I don’t have one I find it helpful to order most things (especially the drinks!) online so that they are delivered in one go without having to carry any heavy bags! If you’re not confident with making canapes or are worried you might run out of food, it’s worth ordering some options from the frozen section and just storing them in your freezer as a back-up option (spring rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce, mini pizzas, potato croquettes – most supermarkets have a selection of frozen canapes!).
- Drinks. In the past I have always bulk-bought essentials like wine, beer, soft drinks and a few spirits, but I have found it helpful to also ask all guests to BYOB – that way you’re less likely to run dry half way through the evening, and most of the time I end up with a small supply left over for the next party! It’s also worth preparing a few easy pitchers with cocktails before the party starts so that it’s easy to top people up – white wine and red wine sangria are great in the Summer months, and mulled wine is perfect for a winter party.
- Champagne. Although champagne is a party favourite it can be very expensive – especially if you’re expecting a lot of guests! To keep the party at a manageable budget I would offer guests ‘Kir Royale’; just bulk-buy some supermarket prosecco and one bottle of Cassis syrup – pour a tiny amount of cassis into each glass and top up with the prosecco. Easy to make, looks fun, and nobody would know if it was champagne or not! If you have a bit more time you could also make your own bellinis – just buy some supermarket canned peach (or other canned fruit but not pineapple), blitz it up in a bowl with a hand blender, then pour the mixture into the bottom of the champagne or cocktail glasses, and top with prosecco. You can make the mixture in advance and save in the fridge for later.
- Music. It’s not a party without music! Always prepare a playlist or two with some party music to get people in the mood! It’s also worth it (if you are able to) to invest in either a DJ or a band – these don’t have to be expensive if you ask around!
- Entertainment. It’s not essential but some form of entertainment can add so much fun to a party! Whether it’s a raffle, a competition or a silly game, a performer, a magician, a musician, or even topless waiters or waiters who can sing! If the party is for a special occasion, perhaps you would like to ask a friend to prepare a speech.
- Lighting. Candles and fairy lights can add a warm and welcoming touch to any room. I would generally avoid any bright lighting – it’s better to not have any lights on at all and to just have fairy lights and smaller lights / lamps, than an overly bright room. Bathroom – don’t forget the guests will be using your bathroom – make sure it looks tidy, smells nice, and that there’s enough soap and loo paper! You might even like to place a few candles in here as well.
- Decorating. If you have gone for a theme then decorating is half the fun! Make sure you leave enough time to decorate – I usually start a day or so in advance to avoid last-minute stress.
- The calm before the storm. Make sure you leave at least an hour before guests arrive so you can get yourself dressed and ready, put the music on and pour yourself a drink for some Dutch courage!