Dina Manzo's Party Planning Tips for the Holidays and Beyond
As an interior designer, I used to help clients create spaces they loved to live in. Now as a party planner, I design a day, rather than a home, but so many of the same principles apply. I want to create a special feeling, make an impression and, above all, I want family and friends to enjoy themselves! And hostesses can—and should—enjoy themselves, too!
If you're entertaining for the holidays or any special occasion, here are some of my tips for party planning success:
- Know Your Guests. Of course you need a guest list, but you also need to get inside your guests' heads. Think about what they love and what they love to do and you can't go wrong. I have some friends who would have a blast getting crafty together, scrapbooking and sipping fun drinks. Other friends would want a great playlist and plenty of room to dance. Different guests require a different experience!
- Try Something New. To get fresh ideas, I love to pick up home decor magazines or surf online. Sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are full of concepts that could apply to your theme. I never would have dreamed of painting an old table with chalkboard paint, but someone else did! It's a genius way to entertain kids during a party. Look around and you'll be amazed at how one photo might inspire you to bring some new twists to a basic brunch or a holiday dinner.
- Organize Early. You can never start too early! Make lists for everything like food, decorations, and entertainment. Freeze foods you can make ahead of time, and decorate before you get caught up in cooking. You can't forget about the pretty! It doesn't matter how delicious your food is if it isn't served in an attractive way. Set up your party areas before kitchen duties so it doesn't get left to the last minute. And enlist good friends to come over early to help with set up. (The really good friends help with clean up, too!)
- Express Yourself. Everyone has their own aesthetic and style, so let it shine through rather than trying to be someone you're not. I'm not the greatest in the kitchen, but I know how to make my table beautiful. So I might put out chips in a gorgeous bowl and serve basic sandwiches that I make fancy with creative cookie cutters. Focus on your strengths and use them to impress your guests!
- Make it Meaningful. Activities at parties are key, especially with children around! I love to go beyond a basic craft project and do something that lets the kids help others while entertaining themselves. If you host a DIY ornament-making party or gingerbread-decorating bash, donate the finished products to a nearby senior center. Or incorporate a book exchange into your plans, with young guests recycling a book by passing it on to a friend. You can even have a mini-toy or toiletry drive and have your younger children decorate bags in which the donated goods can be delivered to a shelter or children's hospital.
- Roll With It. Remember that, unlike on reality TV, you're not going to be judged or kicked out of your family if things don't go perfectly. Nobody knows what you had planned except for you! So accentuate the positive and let go of any nagging concerns or disappointments before you open the door for your first guest. A hostess who is relaxed and happy ensures a good time will be had by all!