Hey Gals! We couldn’t be more excited to be filling in at A Little Glitter today – big thanks to Pam for the invitation! We are B and M, best friends and co-bloggers at The Sequin Notebook where we write about DIY projects, theme parties, beauty, recipes, and of course, glitter! We would love for you to pop on over and visit us sometime.
We love meticulously planning every little detail of the parties we throw, which is why we were particularly inspired by Pam’s posts about her daughter’s rock star birthday party. It can be challenging to keep track of all those prep tasks and it requires a lot of advance planning to execute a party with so many elements that tie into the central theme, so here are our Top 10 Party Prep Tips (and a few Don’ts!).
1) Make a master task list
…and refer to it frequently! The master task list is your jumping off point and your best friend throughout the entire planning process. Whenever we’re planning a party, the very first thing we do is create a huge list of all the crafting, drink mixing, cooking, decorating, and any other prepping that needs to be accomplished in order to throw the party of our dreams. No task is too small to add to the master list – you want it to be comprehensive so that nothing is overlooked, plus it’s very satisfying to cross things off as your planning progresses!
2) Divide and Conquer
Now that you have your master task list, give it a glance and divvy up the tasks based on your helpers’ strengths. Even if you’re reluctant to give up control on the big ones (guilty as charged!), look for ways that you can have your helpers knock out some of the smaller tasks, or things that they’d easily be able to accomplish without much hand-holding needed. Being a dentist, M’s husband Grill Guy happens to be very skilled at small detail work, so we often task him with tying the ribbons on the cake pops and goody bags, and M even enlisted him to glue tiny crystals to their wedding cake topper!
3) Details, Details, Details!
It’s all in the details, so never miss (even the smallest) opportunity to tie in your theme. All of the little things tend to add up to provide the biggest impact to your guests and we always receive feedback on how impressive certain, smaller elements are. At B’s Neon BBQ, she didn’t necessarily need to label the coffee creamer bottle with a matching tag, but you’d better believe everyone was taking a photograph of it once it got set out!
4) Stick with a signature cocktail
…and have more on hand than you think you’ll ever need! This is definitely one that we’ve learned (a couple times over..) after making one or two mistakes. In our early planning days, we’d kill ourselves making sure we provided tons and tons of liquor options, only to find that we didn’t buy enough of one thing and too much of another! Giving your guests too many options only makes it harder (and more expensive!) on yourself than it needs to be. People looove a signature cocktail, so why not take the drink guesswork out of the equation and just make a big batch of one cocktail, and then supplement with some beer and wine on the side (though again, don’t go nuts because most people will be reaching for that “special” cocktail!). And we do mean make a BIG batch because then you could run into mistake number two – running out of the signature cocktail at the party! Sadly this has also happened to us on more than one occasion, forcing the cocktail to “evolve” a bit to whatever liquor we had on hand, so save yourself the stress and make sure you have extra ingredients on hand!
5) Open packaging in advance
This is a good task for a night or two before the party when you’re just about to go to bed. If you’re like us, you’re probably exhausted from an all-night craft-a-thon but you still want to be productive, so this is the perfect mindless activity that still brings you closer to your party planning goals. We like to unwrap all of the plates, utensils, napkins, and other party supplies, and cut off all tags and remove wrapping from decorations in advance so that they are ready to go and you can just stick them where they belong right before the party. You don’t want to waste time right before the event struggling with tricky packaging and fumbling around for a pair of scissors!
6) Have a backup plan…
for when things (inevitably) take a turn last minute. For Baby M’s Monster Mash, we were planning on an outdoor affair, though when the forecast started predicting rain, we made the last minute decision to add in a tent and canopy and it was truly a lifesaver! It may mean a little added upfront expense, but in the end, the entire party would have been ruined if we didn’t have that tent, so it was well worth it (especially since we ended up needing it!).
7) …but also expect that unexpected issues will still arise at the last minute
No matter how well you plan, there will always be some last minute hiccups. At M’s recent Monster Mash party, she had crafted some adorable monster centerpieces in advance which had been standing proud and strong indoors but as soon as we took them outside, a light gust of wind immediately knocked them over. Since they clearly would not be able to withstand the party, we immediately jumped into action and came up with a solution – add rocks to the bottom of the centerpieces to weigh them down. This required unwrapping the base of each centerpiece, adding the rocks, finagling the top back into the base, and rewrapping the bottom. All in all, it added at least an additional half hour to our party prep, so it’s a good thing we had completed as many tasks as possible in advance to build in some extra time to deal with this unexpected issue!
8) Account for no-shows and surprise add-ins
Speaking of last minute issues, you should also keep that in mind as far as your guest list is concerned! Having many parties under our belts, we have felt the pain of trying to track down and account for every last invitee, but no matter how diligent we are with those delinquent guests, there’s always a possibility of people flaking out at the last minute or showing up unannounced! While you can’t do much for the flakes (though we’d like to personally develop some sort of punishment program!), you can deal with the additional guest or two by being prepared. We always have a few extra goody bags on hand, especially for that time your little cousin decides to bring three friends with them! Along those lines, make sure your menu is versatile enough to account for the guest with dietary restrictions that were previously not mentioned. By no means should you go crazy since they should have alerted you to their restrictions in advance, but just have a veggie burger or salad on hand so it’s one less thing to take you away from your fabulous party!
9) Cross one item off the list
Remember that master task list we told you to make in #1? Well, we give you full permission to cross one item off that list, guilt-free! You can’t always do it all, and sometimes you need to let go of a project or two in order to maintain your sanity and focus on the bigger picture, like we did during our two most recent parties. M was originally going to make pom pom drink stirrers for the Monster Mash and as adorable as those would have been, we simply ran out of time so they had to be crossed off the list to concentrate on more important items. During a late night cake pop dipping session prior to the Neon BBQ, B was planning to eliminate the red sprinkles from a mix of orange, pink, and green sprinkles so that all of the sprinkles would be part of the official neon party colors (yes, we can admit now that this task may be bordering on being just a liiiiiiittle too detail-oriented!). The final cake pops had red sprinkles (much to B’s dismay), but the party was still a major success and we gained lots of time in party prep by just pouring the sprinkles on without separating them!
10) Take good photos in advance
Months of preparation can go into planning a party and then it all flies by in a blink of an eye – capture these moments and relive them forever by taking lots of photographs! You’ll want to make sure you build in extra time before the party to take pics of the decor and set-up so that every detail is documented. As the host, you’ll be very busy throughout the party so it’s helpful to ask a close friend to take on the role of unofficial party photographer so that they can capture the event details while you are tending to your guests.
In addition to our top 10 party prep tips, here are a couple of things to avoid:
* DON’T neglect yourself while party planning
Too often, we spend so much time creating one more DIY project or decorating one more dessert, that we forget to put some effort into making ourselves party-ready! We’re both guilty of swearing we’ll do our nails the morning of a party and then getting so caught up in the last-minute prep that we’re forced to sport raggedy, chipped polish at the party. Take some time to treat yourself by scheduling a mani/pedi or maybe a nice blowout the day before the party – after all, you deserve a nice, pampering reward for all of your hard work!
* DON’T get too caught up in the fun the night before
|B is clearly NOT prepping (but not to worry, we did figure out we’re “BFF fo life”, haha!)
Most likely you’ll be burning the midnight oil in the days leading up to the party, so beware not to burn out which will leave you feeling like a zombie on party day! Get plenty of rest, and be careful of that wine bottle! We find that a little wine while crafting really helps to get our creative juices flowing, though it’s important that you don’t overdo it and end up hung over! And again, this last one is coming from personal experience (photographic evidence above!)…luckily, this photo was taken two days before the party, so we had time to recover from this slight diversion. We had planned a major craft session two nights before B’s big Neon BBQ, but let’s just say…a couple of hot chocolate martinis, combined with M’s new chalkboard wall, and lots of cackling and gossip did not result in any sort of party prep! We were certainly cursing our gal-fest the next night when we were hungover and racing against the clock to get everything done in time (but on the plus side, M’s chalkboard wall is still covered with our fun pre-party scrawls)!
Thanks again to Pam for inviting us to post here today – we hope you’ll come visit us over at The Sequin Notebook soon!
B & M