Plan Your Party or Plan to Not Party

Let’s talk about a new phenomenon I’m seeing at gatherings….

Social media has made planning parties all the more accessible…YAY!

Problem: some hosts/hostesses think sending out a mass Facebook invite to all 176 of their local friends constitutes as planning a party. A few more ambitious folks will even look up some fun party platter on Pinterest to create and serve.

Keeping it simple right? What is the harm in that.

Let’s discuss….

Planning NO activities for a party is a major faux pas. I’m not saying you need party hats and pinatas to get a crowd going-but there is a reason people put that together for kids.

INTERACTIVITY IS CRUCIAL.

The last several parties I have been to have followed the same formula.

Some lights or balloons are strung outside so guests know where the party is at (good).

Guests walk into marked door and see other guests (hooray).

There is a food table somewhere near a kitchen (always a plus).

THE END

I’m sorry what? I’m a huge believer that parties are made so that we interact! Meet new people, get to know current friends better. If there is no structured activity people will talk with those they came with. Some brave souls will venture out and introduce themselves to one or two others.

SUBGROUPS BEGIN TO FORM. Don’t get me wrong, creating a more intimate circle is great-until it ostracizes you from the rest of the party.

My advice? Even having a simple round of catch phrase planned is better than inviting people to stand and stare at each other. Have a few ice breakers that facilitate mingling. The more your guests get to know each other the better the atmosphere will be.

So go on, plan some activities! Your guests will thank you for it.

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Expecting the Unexpected

Have you ever planned an event where you were unaware of the major details? Me neither.

This was definitely a first for me, and provided some fun challenges along the way. My favorite sister-in-law is expecting her second child. My family is a little spread out, so holidays are really unique times to have all of us together. For this particular occasion, my sister-in-law learned of the gender of her baby a week before our family gathering. Rather than just announcing the findings, we decided to make a festival out of it!

For those of you familiar with gender reveal parties and details, you know that there are a million and one ideas on how to execute this! The mother-to-be and I planned the event in separate states so we used a secret Pinterest board to share favorite ideas and sent lots of emails and texts to decide on details. She being the woman of honor, I wanted to make sure we did it in a way that was fun for her.

Early considerations were when, where, and who would be involved in the celebration.

At least that’s how it started

The date was moved…as far back as 2 weeks after the mother found out the gender of her baby. Grandparents insisted on knowing sooner, and those who were not a part of the festivities obviously had no desire to wait. So…we improvised! Rather than planning the festivity around the reaction to the gender (boy by the way) we started a whole new event that I expect to be trending 2015 😉

A Celebration of Gender

This celebration turned out to be way fun. I’ve heard of many stories where the gender reveal party gets so chaotic that many guests learn the gender of the baby in order to help and there goes the premise of the party. This celebration was focused on the excitement of adding a new son/brother/nephew/grandson to the world!

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Knowing the baby was a little man, we decided to go with all things blue! We made some delicious Oreo Truffles using white chocolate for dipping and then dying part of the white chocolate blue with food coloring to top it with a blue drizzle. This was done putting the blue-colored chocolate in a sandwich bag, cutting a corner off the bag, and then piping the chocolate into a drizzle over the top of each truffle (pictured on center of table above).

My nephew was delighted to sit by his sign of “i’m getting a little brother” while my niece was a little busy running around the house to stop and take a photo with her “i’m getting a little cousin” sign. I promise she’s excited 🙂

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The soon-to-be mother of two enjoyed them very much and she regaled us with stories of the parents reaction to the ultrasound, possible name ideas, and breaking the news to the soon-to-be older brother. 🙂

We enjoyed games, snacks, and excitement for the little man soon to join the family! I for one am THRILLED to be an aunt again.

With the baby being born into a doctor family, we decided a fun stethoscope photo-op would be fun to announce on social media the arrival of the new little one. It turned out great!

Just because a gathering doesn’t come together as originally anticipated, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be great! Be ready for anything my fellow planners. 🙂

Strive for Excellence

In the event planning world, details matter. This is why drafting a schedule for execution and a program of activities is so critical.

No one wants to be overwhelmed, so the goal is to simplify. This is done by mapping out game plans, alternate game plans, back up plans, and back up plans for your back up plans for your back up plans etc. Below are a few rules to help when it seems as though the details are getting the best of you.

1. Use What You Have

I was recently in charge of an event with a limited time frame and an even smaller budget. This is an opportunity to get creative. My team had a certain color scheme we were striving for and quickly raided our homes and storage spaces for everything that could be found in that scheme. The result? Some fun decor that had a more quirky flare than the classic party hats and balloons set up.

2. Be Careful of Substitutions

When you are in a pinch, it’s easy to want to cut corners. Sometimes you may have no choice, and you should be open to such substitutions. But I beseech you, do not make substitutions for the sake of making substitutions! If you have the time and resources, make the effort. Don’t just simply find fake trees for the office party because its easier than decorating the room with the real thing. If it looks cheap, your guests will feel cheated. If they’ve invested in you by supporting your event, invest in them by catering to their expectations.

3. Remember the Purpose

Never isolate your focus so much on one thing that you neglect the main event. Remember how each piece fits into the whole. A smooth check-in process is necessary but only compliments the main event. If your preparations are spot on but the entertainment value of your presentation is limited, your guests will choose not to return.

4. Check-In with Your Partners

Regularly maintain relationships with your suppliers vendors, employees, supervisors, volunteers, guests, etc. If there is an organizational issue in your human relationships that becomes your number one priority. People who feel overworked or undervalued are not likely to make a lot of sacrifices for you when things get tough. Don’t be so single minded on centerpieces that you forget to treat your floral delivery person like a valued member of the team.

Celebrate the Moments

“Don’t save something for a special occasion, every day of your life is a special occasion.”-Thomas Monson

While there are a lot of things going on this time of year, remember not to get so caught up in the big celebrations that you are forgetting to enjoy the simpler moments.

Big festivities are great. They give us things to look forward to and provide opportunities to bring people together. So as you busily plan for next week’s dinner, don’t neglect enjoying the little moments that remind you of all the wonderful things in life that are being celebrated.

Favorite fall moment? A walk in the leaves with my nephew between celebrations.

Favorite fall moment? A walk in the leaves with my nephew between celebrations.

So in addition to hosting more, I hope you enjoy more as well.  Happy last week before Thanksgiving!

Lead By Following

Hosting an event means leading a new project. Leadership takes courage, but is not the only necessary ingredient to ensure a successful event. A host or hostess must incite the actions of a few followers in order to be truly successful in leading out any new ideas. This month, I’m putting a twist on my own new event idea thanks to the help of a few who really catch the vision. Look forward to seeing a detailed post regarding that in the coming weeks. 🙂

In the meantime, I hope you will dig into your own creative wells to create new ideas to bring in followers to your next event. To fully illustrate this concept, I have attached a clip of a great TED talk that I believe well-illustrates this topic. Happy planning!

 

A Bash for Birthdays

Some shindigs are a result of an already specified occasion. Birthdays fall in the realm of such shindigs, along with anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, or graduations.

THIS COMPLETELY FREAKS SOME PEOPLE OUT.

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Don’t go there! Seize every opportunity to host a gathering you can. 🙂 In fact, it gives you a helpful place to start regarding expectations and traditions.

The important thing to remember for birthdays is this: the guest of honor. If it’s you, then congratulations! You should  know exactly what you would like to see happen. If you are in charge of the festivities for someone else, be sure to have some sort of concept meeting with the guest of honor to ensure that your idea of themes, activities and decor will not make them uncomfortable.

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Birthday parties can cause an extra amount of anxiety for people. Most people like to avoid loneliness on their birthday. Make sure you do something comfortable. If a large gathering in your honor is not your ideal way to spend the day don’t do it.  Here are a few fun ideas for celebration to get you started on the planning process:

1. Go to Dinner

2. See a Play

3. Enjoy a Museum

3. Visit a Zoo or Aquarium

4. Join a Local Event

5. Have a Small Gathering

6. Throw a Large Party

7. Do a Sport (rock climb, hike, sky dive, race)

8. Take a Trip

9. Volunteer at a Service Organization

10. Start a Project

No matter what you do remember to relax and have fun. Always enjoy the celebration!

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More than Just a Meal: Thanksgiving Theatrics

Thanksgiving is easily one of the most overwhelming holidays for people.

To manage this stress, I like to take a page from Mary Poppins: “for every job that must be done, there is an element of fun!”

Like with any festivity, it’s easier to pull off when you add helpers to your preparations. Preparations are part of the experience. Guests are more involved when they have responsibility for the final result.

Some people have a long list of activities that are tradition on the big day. Others eat dinner and stare at each other for hours. Take stock of how your yearly celebrations go. Are some of your traditions ineffective? Are they really bringing people together or just adding more stress?

As discussed with previous parties, don’t be afraid to add a theme to this one! Sure, there’s a definite direction for the theme of your holiday…but how can you put your own spin on it? Decide on the tone of your feast. You could have a formal get together if your guests are predominantly adults. This could include guests dressing up and decorating the venue in elegant decor.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could always re-enact the classic Norman Rockwell photo like the cast of Modern Family

So not your style? Try having people wear fall-themed sweaters or the biggest jeans they own. Who are your guests and what do they want? Theme it around your guests. If you are implementing a theme for the first time, it may cause some confusion or even push back. If this is the case, fear not ! If you are setting up an empire, it will come to be a tradition that people love and look forward to in years to come…even if they are hesitant to get it started.

I’m a big fan of adding other activities to the feast. Do you have an athletic group you’re dining with? Try implementing a turkey bowl in the backyard or at the local high school. Have more culinary minded guests? Facilitate a pie baking or decorating contest. Do your guests like to pound the dessert? Perhaps a pie-eating contest would be more suitable.

Take note of the ages of your guests. A large group of small children can still contribute to your festivities without getting  in the way. Have them get involved in simple crafts that will contribute to dinner. This could consist of creating paper turkey place mats or pine cone centerpieces while the adults prepare the food. Writing down feelings of gratitude could also get children focused on the true meaning of the holiday.

If possible, try and implement a service element to your feast. This could take place on Thanksgiving day or another time the group is together during the week. Have guests bring an item to donate to a shelter or assign teens or others not working on dinner to volunteer at a soup kitchen. You can also assign each guest another person to look out for and provide actions of kindness or report to the group on things they are thankful for about that person. (This works best for family groups or groups that are more familiar with each other).

Be sure to photograph your celebrations. Getting a group shot is a good way to remember your Thanksgiving holiday in the future and use as a reference for how to improve future holiday gatherings.

Above all, enjoy the season. Give thanks for what you have and the people you share it with.

Don’t Wait to Appreciate

Any planner worth their salt will not underestimate the power of a thank you. Genuinely thank the people that have helped you in any project or event. Events can require a lot from people, so make sure they know that you value their time and dedication. This is especially true when working with volunteers.

When compiling a thank you, make it genuine. No one feels genuinely appreciated with a mass email of gratitude. While it’s a good start, try and personalize your gratitude. Take time to recognize people for their individual contributions for your event and reward them in a way that is special to them. A handwritten note is surely appreciated, but perhaps a gift card to their favorite place may be better. Above all, know your people. This will help you in every aspect of your event. Know why they are there, what motivates them, what they hope to get out of the experience, and how they want to grow.

 

A gift basket with the recipient’s favorite things is a fun alternative to a simple card

Don’t just pawn tasks off to people that you don’t want to do yourself, allow them to excel. This will make your event contributors want to work with you in the future. The same goes for your guests, put them in a situation at your event where they can thrive. This can be anything from logistics like food, temperature, bathrooms, and seating areas to personalized introductions when they don’t know anyone or inclusive activities that really get the party hopping.

Genuinely appreciating people takes time, but it is completely worth the investment.

What Matters?

As you busily prepare your party details you may question, is this really going to be meaningful to my guests?

If you’re thinking like this, you’re thinking like a party planner! I’ve seen many hosts and hostesses slave over a small detail of their gathering that is hardly noticed by their guests. Think through the following check-list before going through a huge undertaking of any event detail:

1. Does it supplement my theme?

2. Does it break my budget?

3. Does it require more time than I can allot?

4. What will be the effect on my guests?

5. Will the result be worth the stress?

Think about your answers to these questions. If they frame out in such a way that it does not damage your mental health then go for it! If not, please rethink the detail. Can it be simplified or modified in a way that is more effective? Sure there will be an element of stress in planning, but successful hosts and hostesses know how to manage that stress in a way that elicits a big pay-off and minimal catastrophes. So think big, then think practically.

It’s the Holiday Season

Now that Halloween is behind us, the winter holiday season is here which means only one thing…it’s party time!

The winter holidays can be stressful so I’ve put together a few tips to get you through it.  If you are like me and felt like Halloween totally crept up on you, it may be wise to start setting plans for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years and any other holiday you may be celebrating in the coming weeks.

The biggest factor that affects these particular celebrations is EMOTION. If you have multiple commitments to multiple parties, make sure to take emotions into account-especially if you have  multiple friend and family groups expecting to see you in the coming weeks. The best way to make sure no one feels neglected is to think ahead: which celebrations do you HAVE to make an appearance at? You know the ones I’m talking about. Arrange your schedule around those first before your schedule gets too crazy with shopping, cooking, and other holiday to-do’s.

Another key tip for you party-goers is do chores first. Don’t get so bogged down with finding the perfect gifts last minute that you neglect to enjoy your time with loved ones. Shop fast, shop early, and if you’re like me…shop online! For those looking for deals, Cyber Monday is creeping in to first for days that have the best holiday steals and is all the good bargains of Black Friday without leaving your home! Unless one of your celebrations is getting up early to bust doors…be my guest. 🙂 Which brings me to my next point: don’t do it alone.  Have a lot of baking to do? Make it part of the festivities by inviting over a few friends to make all your neighbor gifts together while enjoying some festive music and libations.

Once you organize around other commitments, you can start planning for festivities of your own!