Thursday, December 1, 2011
PARTY PLANNING PART 1: STAGING
Received a call this morning from my friend Robert who is giving a party in 3 weeks. He asked me if I would help him get organized. Of course I said as long as I'm on the guest list.
Do you remember the MARY TYLER MOORE show? Every time she announced to her coworkers "I'm giving a party" they moaned and tried to get out of it. Mary usually had some insanely funny thing happen that wasn't her fault, but I still think she didn't spend enough time figuring out her evening before hand.
There are all types of parties and events, with too many variables to list but one thing holds true:
PLAN WELL IN ADVANCE
We have 3 weeks and that should be enough time. There are 25 on the guest list and emails were sent out this morning. ( Yes, I still love beautiful stationery but email is fast and efficient and there are great E invitations available.) Already 16 have replied 'yes' so we know there will be enough guests to get a sense of pre party ordering though that comes later. It will not be catered so it is up to us to pull it together.
Robert has decided the party will be cocktail / informal dinner. That means the appetizers become the meal. This is truly my favorite kind of evening. Before any thought is given to food and drink though, I know the first thing is to "stage" the living room to figure out accommodating the guests.
To make any type of party seem effortless, you must determine how much seating you need and how many small tables for your company to place their glass or small plate of food. He has an exceptionally generous home, very Hampton's, so all that needs to be done is borrow furniture from other rooms to create the floor plan for the evening.
Don't be daunted if you have a small residence. When I was 21 and living in a Boston townhouse studio apartment I invited 75 for cocktails...one of my best parties ever. Guests flowed into the hallway and I have a recollection of my bentwood rocker being placed in the claw footed tub so the guest of honor could have a seat. It all worked. If the space is not perfect for the amount of guests, so what?
It is nice, however, to entertain without necessitating the use of your bathroom.
The other aspect to party staging is to figure out where your drinks will be served and to make sure the kitchen is ready for action. I like a separate room if possible to be the bar area. Make sure you have enough space for the the beverages, mixes, glasses, cocktail napkins. Have it all out and orderly and usually someone is happy to play bartender, at least for a while.
Regarding the kitchen as Ina Garten, the Hampton's Barefoot Contessa, would say "clear the decks". You will need all the room possible on your countertops. The refrigerator also needs to be "prepped" at least 2 days befor the party to allow for comfortably accommodating your food. It's a great opportunity to review all that's in there...do you really need that empty bottle of dried out mustard? Don't forget the freezer. Make sure there is more than enough ice made or purchased to last the entire evening. It happened more than once, in my youth, that I was set to go and 1 hour before the first guest arrived I realized I had forgotten about the ice and had none.
Tomorrow we'll work on the next aspect of the party...what to eat and offer for drinks! Speaking of parties, I have to end this now as I am going to a little gathering for my friend Jennifer's birthday. Life isn't always a party, but it sure is wonderful when it is and you're having a great time. Cheers!