No matter the size of your event, there are a few seemingly universal tips to the success of any party. I’ve listed five guidelines below to keep in mind when planning your next event, no matter the scale.
1. Create a thoughtful guest list.
One of the best parts about any party is the people who will be attending. Put thought into your guest list, and make sure that you don’t invite more people than you can commit to hosting. As a general rule you can expect that approximately 20-30% of your guests won’t be able to attend your event, so that can factor into the size of your overall guest list. When I was planning my own wedding, a friend gave me an excellent piece of advice: With a few exceptions, don’t plan to invite anyone you haven’t had dinner with in the past year. That rule can become a helpful criterion for narrowing your guest list!
2. Send out invitations in a timely manner.
Depending on the scale and location of your event, guests will likely need to make arrangements in their personal schedules to set aside time to attend your wedding or party. For a wedding, guests usually need to book travel and lodging accommodations, and even for smaller parties your guests might need to arrange for childcare.
For weddings or formal events, it is generally accepted to send invitations six to eight weeks in advance. Less formal events such as birthday parties can be sent a couple of weeks in advance, but extra time should be allotted near the holidays due to busy schedules. Another option is to send a save-the-date announcement as much as six to eight months in advance of your event, so guests will know to expect a formal invitation.
3. Think about flow and space.
Whether your event is in your backyard or a ballroom, it’s important to consider the size of your space in relation to your guest list. There are a maximum number of seats per table size (be it round, square or rectangular), and even if you aren’t having a sit-down dinner, you don’t want to squeeze too many people into too small a space. If you’re only serving drinks and appetizers it’s great to have a few high-top tables for guests to gather around and sip their beverages. Also be sure to think about how people will move from room to room, and remove or add furniture as needed.
4. Plan for enough food and drinks.
One of the quickest ways to send your guests searching for the exit is to run out of food or drinks! Be sure to allot an appropriate amount of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and account for how much food will be needed for each course of a meal. Passed appetizers are always a great option — just be sure to have approximately eight apps per person on hand. You can find some great estimates and charts online to help plan for the right amount.
5. Send thank you notes.
If any of your guests were kind enough to bring a gift, an appetizer, bottle of wine, or contribute to the party in any way, be sure to send a handwritten note of gratitude. I think emails are great and surely serve their purpose, but a mailed thank you letter seems much more personal. Even the smallest contribution deserves recognition!
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