Party Planning Tips & Ideas

Do as much as you can ahead of time, and enlist the help of family members so you are free to enjoy your guests.

  • Set the table the day before the party. Or set out dishes and silverware for buffet service. Set out all serving pieces.
  • Floral centerpieces can be assembled and stored in the refrigerator to keep fresh.
  • For large groups, set up separate tables for beverages and desserts ahead of time.


  • Offer plenty of beverage choices. Water, punch and juice as well as coffee and hot or iced tea are good choices.
  • Plan on 2 drinks per hour per guest.
  • Have a good supply of glasses. Guests sometimes set down glasses and lose track of them. They will need a fresh glass.
  • Have plenty of ice in insulated containers and serving tongs.


  • Set out plates, forks, spoons, and napkins the day before.
  • Set out serving pieces the day before.

Decorations can be general, or reflect the party theme.

  • Fresh flowers are always appropriate. Bouquets can be set around the room/house.
  • Low arrangements of flowers and/or fruit make lovely centerpieces for dining tables, buffet, and dessert tables.
  • Choose tiny pots of fresh herbs for an informal setting.
  • Candlelight is great for creating atmosphere. Arrange tall tapers in silver candlesticks. Group low votive candles on a flat mirror for extra sparkle. Or arrange a few floating candles in a beautiful crystal bowl.
  • Paper and/or party stores carry general and theme supplies from invitations to table coverings, plates, napkins and decorations for informal gatherings. They also carry inexpensive but attractive plastic serving pieces such as platters and bowls.
  • A cherished collection can be an interesting centerpiece—a group of small figurines, a seashell collection, small antique kitchen utensils or cookie cutters.
  • Little extras can add a lot. Wrap individual gourmet chocolates in cellophane, tie with a ribbon and place one at each place setting. Place cards are fun for sit-down dinners.

Music enhances the mood.

  • Keep the music low and in the background so it doesn’t interfere with conversation.
  • Choose the music for the occasion—classical music for a formal affair, Irish music for a St. Patrick’s Day buffet, or country & western for a backyard barbecue.
  • Arrange the CDs in the order you want to play them, or make a playlist from MP3s on your computer.
  • To avoid changing music all night, try playing an all-music radio station.

Get acquainted.

  • Nametags are nice when all of the guests are not acquainted.
  • For an icebreaker, provide each guest with a large stick-on tag that says, “Ask me about...” Some ideas include “my garden,” “my dog,” “my trip to Paris.”

Ready? Turn on the music, light the candles, and enjoy your party!