Monday, September 21, 2009

Simple Party Planning

One of my favorite things to do is to throw a party. I love having friends and family in our home, and we enjoy the opportunity to share an afternoon or an evening together, to catch up on one another's lives, and to make some memories. It is important for me to keep things simple in order to focus on the fellowship rather than the process.

We had a great time hosting a party for my grandmother last year on her birthday. When all the guests had gone home, Grannie told me that she'd never had a birthday party before. I was speechless. I decided then that we would definitely be doing that one again. It's coming up very soon, and we are gearing up for a repeat performance.

When we begin our planning, we usually start with a theme. We arrive at our choice through various methods, choosing something we particularly like (superheroes or the 1950's), finding decorations on super-sale (luau in the winter), or even coordinating with the season of year as we will be doing this time.

The invitations can take any form you like. Evites are particularly popular these days, and I can appreciate their efficiency in both time and cost. I have to admit, however, that I am partial to a more traditional approach. It's hard to beat a sweet little card that arrives in your mailbox. It's an extra measure of thought that evites just can't provide.

The decorations will usually be chosen to fit your theme. Pick something you like, and don't be afraid to step outside the box. I loved this autumn leaf design, but plates, cups, and napkins in the same pattern seemed a little much. The coordinating stripe napkins added a touch of fun, I thought. These items and a fall centerpiece for the table will pretty much comprise the decorations for this party.

To save on cost, you may choose to use what you already have. If you have a few leftover plates from several different parties, stack them up in a random order for serving. Use a solid color for the napkins and cups. When you get ready to play a game, divide your teams based on their type of plate. We also have some inexpensive plastic plates and cups we often use for get-togethers to avoid disposable items.

We like to play games at our parties, and I find it to be a wonderful way to get things going. I always try to have an activity planned for the start of the party since early arrivals can feel at loose ends while they are waiting for everyone to arrive. When our children were small, we often had an art project for everyone to work on until things were in full swing. For older guests consider a jigsaw puzzle or two, a scavenger hunt, word find, or crossword puzzle. You can make up one of these with information about the party's honoree for a personalized touch. When your guests don't know one another, a game is a great ice-breaker and serves to get people talking.

I have found that party food can be very simple yet completely sufficient. Several years ago, some friends and I discovered that we could have one dish and a fun party drink, and everyone was more than satisfied. Most of us tend to watch what we eat anyway, and it is considerate not to provide the temptation. We would often serve key lime pie or cheesecake and a light and fruity punch. Open a can of mixed nuts if you'd like to offer something salty and wa-la! That was easy.

If you'll be serving a meal at the party, make less trouble for yourself by selecting a dish that will easily feed a crowd. A big pot of chili can be made ahead of time and warmed up just before your guests arrive. Cook boneless chicken and salsa in your slow cooker and serve with rice and tortilla chips. Offer a baked potato bar with an array of toppings for your guests to create their own masterpieces.

Though completely unnecessary, I enjoy presenting our guests with favors as they leave our home. For our fall birthday party, we will be giving these seasonal tissue holders. I have a feeling this one will be a hit with my grandmother's friends. Most likely, these ladies will be turning theirs wrong-side-out to view the construction and making their own by the next day. That gives me great joy! Last year we gave each guest a small pot of pansies. Choose your favors to suit the likes of your guests. Keep things simple and costs down since you will likely be doing several of these.

So plan your party and have a fabulous time!

Offer hospitality to one another... 1 Peter 4:9

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