Monday, December 2, 2013

37 Holiday Party Planning Tips & a Printable!

This past week we hosted a small gathering at our home to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It wasn't a giant affair, however, it was a good way to amp up for larger celebrations that come with the holiday season.


I will admit, throwing a shindig can be a bit overwhelming.  You have to prepare the guest list, create a plan for drinks and food, scrub your home, decorate and maybe even DIY some of your own decor.  However, with a little planning ahead, many of those stresses are sure to melt away....

This month, Target is partnering with their Inner Circle team to put together a Party 101 series!  This is a series I will be stalking following very closely.  Although I am a planner at heart, there is still so much to learn when it comes to throwing the perfect party and the Inner Circle crew will be covering everything from invitations to cocktails to figuring out what to wear.  Today, I am kicking off the series with a few tips that help me when it comes to planning a party!


Make a List!  Check it Twice!

It should come as no surprise; the key ingredient for me is a checklist.  Checklists make my world go round so when it comes to putting together a holiday celebration, I stick with what I know.


The party planning checklist is part of a bigger holiday planning binder I started building.  Of course, I found the fabulous binder at Target.


Because planning a party doesn't happen overnight, I created a checklist that covers everything that needs to be done a few weeks prior all the way up to the minute you open the door for the first grinning guest.

As soon as the thought of having a party comes to mind, it is smart to start jotting down a few of the important pieces of the party puzzle.  Will there be a theme?  Who do I want to invite?  Where will I host the event?  What date and times make the most sense for my guest list?  Do I have a strict budget to stick to?  Should I serve a few appetizers and drinks or a full course meal?


Once I determine the event date, I flip to a separate calendar at the front of the binder and write in when I need to accomplish some of the key items on my to do list.  For example, I will write in when I should have the invites sent out by, when I should start deep cleaning, when I should start decorating and even my trip to the grocery store.


The checklist contains two pages; the second expands on some of the key to do list items by helping me manage the guest list, plan my menu and create my shopping list for the big fiesta!



Plan ahead!  

Typically, a few weeks is all one needs to throw a successful party, and much of that time is to give your guests enough of a chance to clear their schedules {because your party will be off-the-hook amazing}.  And right off the bat, it is as simple as compiling a guest list and sending out the invitations.  Sometimes, I save time by going the digital route with my invites, although, you can never go wrong with a hand-written option.  Then, I get excited and make some lists and about a week before the party I spend a little bit of time each day doing something quick and easy to prepare.  Doing some of these tasks ahead of time reduces the risk of me running around with a towel on my head while dusting the bookshelves while grilling the shrimp while pouring the drinks and setting the table three minutes after the doorbell rings... that would never happen....

The weekend before I will do a good deep cleaning our home.  That ensures that on the day of the soiree I just need to do a quick pick up and vacuuming.  I will also head to the grocery store and begin to prepare items that can be made ahead of time.  I even like to set up the table and put out any decor items, to be sure I haven't forgotten anything and that I am happy with how it should all come together the day of the event.


The checklist is also great for a few of the other little things I like to do in advance, which I almost always seem to forget.  Things like washing serving dishes that have been stored away for a long period of time, charging my camera battery and creating a music playlist.  Again, by checking those items off of my list ahead of time, when the day of the gathering comes about, all that is left to do is pamper my toes, curl my eyelashes and pull the appetizers out of the fridge.


Get Inspired!

As much as the checklist is a partysaver, I added a few bonus items into the binder as well.  Behind a few pre-printed checklists, I added in clear sheet protectors, which I filled with party ideas galore.  I tapped into my Pinterest page and printed out inspirational photos of pretty themes, decor, invitations and recipes.  I also slid in some pages from holiday store catalogs and glossy magazines, which offered even more decorating and treat ideas.  Sure, we live in a digital world, but I am an old school gal who likes everything in one place.  And if I am sitting down to plan out a gathering, then it works for me to have some of my favorite ideas and inspiration right behind my checklist.





Keep it Simple!

We try and keep our appetizers and dinner menus fairly basic, and haven't had any complaints yet!  If you love to be a showstopper, create a single shining star menu item and let the rest act as back-up dancers.  Cheese and cracker platters as well as fruit and veggie trays are always a hit, and when displayed on pretty serving dishes they can still make a statement.



Help Your Guests Help You!

My last tip is not to help you prepare, but to help you clean up at the end of the bash.  Consider setting up self serve stations for snacks and drinks.  Make sure your trash and recycle bins are accessible and labeled so your guests can easily clean up after themselves.  Place a large, empty bin next to the sink for their dirty dishes, so you can keep the counter clutter to a minimum while you are hosting.  Stock the bathroom with paper products and clean towels to prevent awkward moments.  And keep a small cleaning kit with wipes, vinegar, club soda and salt stored in an easy to access location for those accidental wine spills.


We don't host a lot of parties, but it sure is nice to have ideas, a plan and reminders for when we do.  One of my top goals in 2014 is to make sure we are enjoying our home equally as much as we are working on our home, and I think that means cheers to more gatherings and cocktail parties at the Jones residence!

And here is the freebie Party Planning checklist printable for you to enjoy!


{click HERE to download a FREE Party Planning Checklist}

So how about you?  What tips do you have for organizing and throwing a successful, stress-free holiday party?  I would love to hear your extra helpful tips in the comments below!

And if you are excited to see more Party 101 tips, Target will be sharing a round-up of their Inner Circle posts on their A Bullseye View Blog.  You can also follow #mykindofholiday and #targetinnercircle on Twitter and Instagram and see all of the posts on this Target Inner Circle Pinterest board or by clicking the images below:



Party on my friends and....


As part of the Target Inner Circle team, I was invited to participate in their Holiday Party 101 posts, and was compensated with a Target gift card.  All opinions are my own and I fully support gold dot binders and party planning checklists.  


37 comments:

  1. I love lists and I love parties! Thanks for the free printable!

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  2. I love this! We are hosting a Christmas gathering for family in about 2 1/2 weeks. I'm excited to use these printable so to get things organized before the big event! Thanks Jen, yet again, for just being so darn amazing! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kaitlin! Have a great time with your family and Merry Christmas!

      xo!

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  3. I love all of the staging that you do for your pictures! It looks so professional. I hope that your Thanksgiving went well, Jen! Was your grandma impressed? :)

    Sarah

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Sarah! My grandma got happy tears in her eyes during dinner and it was one of my most favorite moments of the year. Thank you for asking, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well!

      xo!

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  4. Hey Jen!

    Can you do a post about how you organize your morning routine/ what you do? Or could you do a day in the life?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the suggestion, I know I am past due on another day in the life. Watch for it early next year. :)

      xo!

      Delete
  5. This is the perfect post today - my mom is retiring this month so my dad and I are planning something for her. Wish us luck....
    Thank you!
    xo
    Rachel

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    Replies
    1. Congrats to your mom! And have a blast celebrating!

      xoxo!

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the printables! We just had a party for Thanksgiving at our home, and we have 2 more in the works (one this weekend). I just love making lists for them and trying out new ideas for decorations and recipes. It's quite the addiction! And I should have my new Silhouette Cameo in this week (bought on the Black Friday deal), so I'm thinking I need to make some signs with it :)

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    1. OH yay! I am giddy excited for you! You are going to heart it like crazy! Congrats! <3

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  7. Once again thanks for making a very usable tool to keep me organized!

    I see the link party button. I've been waiting to see if you are having your November projects party today, I am DYING to show you my kitchen we just finished remodeling but I don't want to link here if this if only for party tips!
    Thanks!
    xoxo

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, it is coming super soon! Can't wait to check out your kitchen! I bet it feels great to be done!

      xoxo!

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  8. Totally random, but I must know where your pen is from! <3

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  9. I think the best tip is to keep it simple and make your guest feel at home! I also love making list of things to do but the shorter the list the better and less stressful.

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    1. So so true Christina! I love when I can cross half of the items off of the list right off the bat because they don't even apply. Those are the best parties :D

      xo!

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  10. So pretty! Thanks for the printables. We hosted Thanksgiving and I was running back and forth between the kitchen and the rooms trying to get everything clean...it was not very organized I must admit! :P

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  11. These are great--my addition would be to go back through it after each party. I host an annual Christmas party (a gingerbread house decorating contest) and that night or the next day I list anything I want to keep track of, like, "Make 6 batches of icing before party starts" or "everyone shows up early". My mom always told me to come up with one thing you liked, one thing you didn't and one thing you would change and its the best advice!

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    Replies
    1. Such great advice! Thanks for sharing! <3

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  12. So pretty! Hope your Thanksgiving was awesome!!
    Do you happen to have a link for the calender you used in this post. It would work great in my binder for my daughters birthday party planning. I looked in your Etsy shop but I might have overlooked it.
    Thanks SO Much

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    Replies
    1. Coming soon Cassie! :D And happy early birthday to your daughter!

      Delete
  13. OMG! What a coincindence! I just posted about my new Christmas Notebook on my blog too! This is definitely an awesome idea =)

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  14. This is much more organized than any party I've ever thrown! I suppose that's no surprise though - you are incredibly organized! Thanks for the advice.

    Just a minor grammar thing because I'm crazy that way - "To Do's" should be "To Dos", no apostrophe. Feel free to take it or leave it. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for catching that! I always seem to Google it and see it used both ways and really never knew for sure. I am happy you clarified for me. I updated my printable. xoxo!

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  15. Loved this Jen - such beautiful photos and a great reminder that party planning can be fun - a little organization takes the stress away :)

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  16. This is pretty awesome and that binder and planner are just gorgeous! This will be so helpful for any get together throughout the year. :-D

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  17. You are such a talented lady Jen! Just when I wonder what on earth you could organise next (because surely you're done everything by now!) you pull out another little surprise. We don't have Thanksgiving in NZ but it's the start of summer for us over here and of course the Christmas season so your printable will come in super handy! Thanks for sharing.

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  18. Jennifer you are so organized. I thought I was until I started reading your blog. I have let organization go because of health issues. But before that I was uber organized. Thanks for the free download. I will be sure to use it the next gathering I plan to have. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

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  19. I love love love this binder! I keep seeing the smaller size in this style at Target and am dying to get them, but with the odd size, it seems difficult to use. Is this the regular full size one or the smaller one? And if it the smaller one, how are you using it? Cutting paper down? Thanks so much! I love this idea!

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  20. My Party Planning Rules:
    Rule #1 The party is for the hostess also! No complicated recipes and one or two baking recipes for the day of the party!
    Rule #2 Everything that can be done in advance, should be. Procrastination steals joy.
    Rule #3 Window shop (without buying) at least three weeks in advance. If an item is not at your store, you will have time to order it or find it elsewhere.
    Rule #4 If you are going to change or try a new recipe, practice it before the party.
    Rule #5 Be prepared with every serving utensil needed for each dish in advance, and a few extra. If you have to borrow, you will have time to.
    Rule #6 Be prepared for leftovers with disposable containers. If presents will be opened, bring a large garbage bag and a scissors also.
    Rule #7 Allow plenty of time to dress and primp before guests arrive. Only details should be left to do, and do them in an apron! Frosting is hard to remove!

    Simple ways to make plain food elegant:
    Cut bars or sandwiches into triangles w/o crust
    Display food on a platters whenever you can
    Drizzle sweets or plates/platters with melted chocolate
    Use paper doilies on plain dishes or platters
    Display foods at different levels (cake stands, etc)
    Use fruit and/or berries in punch
    Garnish, garnish, garnish! (Mint, paprika, whipping cream, parsley, chocolate shapes, lemon zest, powdered sugar, etc)
    Even the simplest menu can look elegant and sophisticated with the right display!

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  21. Just wanted to say I love love LOVE your comment about your goal of enjoying your home as much as working on it. Made me think. And with teenagers in our family having a houseful of people of all ages is even more important to me now....I want our house to be a place our kids' friends want to hang out......;-)

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  22. Jennifer, I love your e-mails/blog. Where do you have the one page portrait calendar layout? I can not find it.
    Thanks

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    1. Hi Jennifer!

      You can find a free download for months Nov-Jan in this post here: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2013/12/holiday-planning-binder.html

      Otherwise, you can snag a full version from my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/IHeartOrganizing

      Thank you!
      Jen

      Delete
  23. Hi Jen, if you don't mind me asking, what type of printer do you have and what kind of printing paper do you use?

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  24. I loved this post. Really wonderful.

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  25. If you want to set-up repeatable checklists and routines you can use this web application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    ReplyDelete

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