Planning Tips from Professional Experience
When you strip away all the glitz and glamour of being a professional party planner, what you’re left with is years of experience and lots of tips. There are no great secrets here, just some commonsense, practical advice, and lots of practice. Anything you can do to lighten the work load during the planning phase and ease the stress event week, will make you a more relaxed hostess, which is the goal.
Enlist help. There’s no medal of honor for going it alone. If you have a cohost or many cohosts, delegate the tasks and share the responsibilities. Husbands, children, and neighbors can be vital resources when it comes to napkin folding, furniture rearranging, and ribbon tying. And their involvement makes them feel like a part of the party.
Enlist professional help. Sure, you can clean the house, mow the lawn, or roll pigs-in-a-blanket by yourself, but if you have to give up a workday (or more) to do so, you might consider professional help. Hire a house cleaner for the morning, have a gardener do the lawn and flower beds, get help to serve and clean up, consider a caterer, or hire a florist.
Don’t procrastinate. The closer you get to the big day, the more things will pile up on your planning plate. Anything that can be done ahead will make you feel more in charge as the party approaches.
Don’t overschedule yourself. During the week of the event, make your schedule easier, not harder. Reschedule your dental hygiene appointment. Throw in a frozen lasagna, hand off your turn to drive carpool.
As the details of your shower begin to fall into place, you may discover the conscientious hostess’s worst nightmare—expenses add up quickly! As tempting as it is to forego the budget, stay on track and keep it simple. Here are a few money-saving tips in some of the “big ticket” party areas.Food Tips
Some ideas for saving money on your food budget include:
Appetizers. These tiny morsels tend to be more labor intensive than a plated meal. If you’re serving at home, keep the appetizers simple— a tray of olives, hummus dip with pita chips, or a silver bowl of spiced nuts; these will give guests something to pop in their mouths without breaking your budget.
If your shower is catered or at a restaurant or hotel, you can serve one or two passed hors d’oeuvres or a fruit or cheese platter before the meal instead of a canapé smorgasbord. This will satisfy the need to nibble without spoiling appetites for the meal to come.
Main course. Whether you’re cooking or someone else is doing the honors, too many choices can be a food-budget nightmare. For an at-home lunch, make the menu simple—a main-course salad, some crusty bread, and the dessert. If you’re away from home, the buffet is always a popular choice because it feels more casual, but beware— it may cost more. At a buffet, food portions are less controlled, so more food is necessary to accommodate the same number of people.
When serving a plated meal, don’t let the guest choose from the main menu—it can be a runaway train! Instead, give your guests menu options by preselecting two or three choices that fit into your budget. The venue will often print a special menu with just those options, which is an elegant touch.
Desserts. A cake is part of the traditional shower fare, but it’s not the only dessert option. If a fancy cake will break your budget, consider a tower of cupcakes, mini-brownie sundaes, or ice-cream sandwiches made with cookies.
Decorating and Entertainment Tips
Some money-saving tips for decorations and entertainment include:
Décor at home. While it is sometimes tempting to use the impending event date as the target for a major remodel or redecorating— resist the urge. This will definitely add stress and money woes to your shower. Moreover, it’s not necessary. The great news is that eclectic is in!
Walk around your home, and see what you have with “party eyes.” A mirror can become a tray, mismatched wineglasses can hold votives. The old silver teapot is the perfect vase for flowers. If you are willing to move your furniture a little, you can cozy-up a family room or living room by reconfiguring a few chairs. Borrow interesting serving pieces, extra silverware, or a beautiful water pitcher from your mother, sister, or friend—it’s amazing what a few pieces used in a different way can do for your décor.
The grocery store is another great source of décor—a wooden bowl full of lemons, a pedestal cake plate of pears, bunches of fresh herbs— all offer an affordable, and edible, alternative to flowers, plants, or paper decorations.
Décor away from home. The best advice here is to select a venue that is good-looking to begin with. And though these types of venues may at first glance appear to cost more, you may find that you spend far less on decorations. Many sites will provide a bud vase centerpiece or votive candles, which may be entirely adequate. Don’t rule out a fancier site until you have done the math.
Entertainment. Whether home or away, showers have a built-in entertainment factor. Ooohing and aaahing over booties and blankets can take some time, so you don’t have to get carried away with entertainers and circus acts. Music adds a much-needed layer to any party, so do plan to have something playing in the background, but don’t drown out the opportunity for great conversation.
The gratuity and tax at restaurants, hotels, or through a caterer can add an additional 25–30 percent to the total bill for food and beverages. For a $40-per-person estimate, that’s a whopping $12 more per person. It can be a budget buster if you haven’t included it in your estimates. And by the way, a gratuity is not a tip; it is added automatically to your bill, whereas a tip is optional.
The more time you have, the more options you may have available to you. When you are out of time, you can incur rush charges for printing and mailing or extra labor charges to complete work in a shorter time frame.
Some time-saving ideas include:
Plan ahead. As you sail through the event week, think through the details and have a mental rehearsal of how the shower will look and what needs to be done to make your vision a reality.
Prepare ahead. Somehow, the laws of time and space seem to collapse during the week of the event. Even with the best time management and planning, the favors that should take an hour to complete suddenly take two or more. Complete as many tasks as possible two weeks before the shower and keep those final days clear for “popup” problems.
Take one away. It is a well-known rule of fashion that when you’re finished getting dressed, look in the mirror and take one accessory away. It’s the same for parties. During the final planning approach, take a critical look at what lies ahead and do a little editing. You won’t miss the detail, but you will appreciate the extra time it will give you.