14 March 2016

Life | Tips for planning a stress free event

There is nothing I like more than to entertain for my friends and family. Since we moved from our tiny flat (didn't feel small at the time, just lack of storage) into a house last summer I have been able to have people over more frequently to take seats at our new dinner table.

I bought an extending table for up to 8 people but I only bought 6 matching chairs then if I need to seat 8 then I have 2 foldable chairs for occasional use. 

In the flat we had one of those space saving Ikea tables that didn't let me entertain the way I really wanted. So when we moved, I was so pleased to be able to get rid of the mini table and now i look forward to planning the table and making yummy food to feed my guests.

I was inspired by Eventbrite to find out my top tips to planning an event / party - I thought this the perfect opportunity for me to share my dining table home decor with you, plus give you some tips you could apply to any occasion. 

If you're looking to plan an event, visit Eventbrite's event management tools.

I am usually the person to suggest an event or offer to entertain because I enjoy it, and thats really important. If you don't enjoy it, then you will not want to set the time aside to organise, invite and plan for the day.

I have organised work events, hen parties, birthday parties and my parents 40th anniversary celebrations and I always apply the same rules. 

1) Define the event - is it homemade or do you need to book some space? This will also depend volume of attendee's so points 1, 2 and 3 may have to be done simultaneously. 

2) Set the date - this is sometimes hard, as you want the maximum amount of attendee's to be able to make it but if its a birthday you can't move that so you can be flexible to a point. If some of the people are unable to attend, then thats ok. They are missing out on your event so don't feel bad. 

3) Write the guest list - decide on how many people you could invite for the space you have, no one wants to be a sardine. But is it just a girlie night or do you want to invite partners? This is sometimes driven by the time of year, as festive or bank holiday events sometimes everyone is on holiday and may want to only attend events together. But think about the full guest list, how is everyone going to feel if there are 5 couples and 3 singles, its sometimes hard to manage but something to think about, you want the balance. Remember its your event you get to decide. 

How do you invite? Facebook events or email are popular, but there is nothing I like more than to receive a paper invite (plus its a keepsake). However if its a small meal with family or friends, a simple text or phone call will do. 

3) Plan and set the budget - if you are on a set budget buffet food or a big one pot dish is always a good option. If you want to splurge plan a 3 course meal you enjoy making, you know will be a a crowd pleaser. 

I had a dinner party for 4 people and made a 3 course meal for £50 plus a couple of bottles of fizz. Whereas I invited 10 people for housewarming party last year on a sunday afternoon for a buffet and spent £50 and I received 12 RSVP's  from friends but only 5 turned up on the day. 

Yes its upsetting but this is why you set a budget, you decide what the event is worth, most food can be saved for the next day in most instances, but you don't want to spend alot of money as food is not the full experience. 

4) Buy the food  - Try to plan ahead and buy the items you don't need fresh the weekend before the event, less stress for you later in the week, then go back for the fresh items max 2 days before, but if you need bread, go same day.

I try to make as much homemade food as possible makes it feel more personal plus its cheaper. For example Lasagne always goes down well and tastes better next day so this is the perfect dish for a family meal.  

5) Drinks / cocktails - selection of alcohol and soft options.  As the host you are already  spending so much time on prep and money on food and drink its always amazing if guests bring a contribution to the drinks as you want everyone to have as much or as little as they want. But remember some may not so you will need to cater for this. 
At dinner parties I would have a couple of options of wine (unless you know what everyone's usual is). Volume of drink sometimes might out way the amount of food you should buy. 

Here is a couple of examples from my experience - A Summer BBQ starting at 3pm til late - means more drinks are going to be consumed, you might decide to splurge on the booze and just get meat, salad and bread items in which may not cost more than £20. 

Another time Booze may be more important that food is maybe at a cheese and wine party. This is actually my favourite type of do, there is nothing I like more than an amazing cheese board (previous post) and the snack tray to come out. This is actually the best option for a starter too. 

6) Setting the table - if it is a sit down meal, I always like to have the table set before everyone arrives, it's one less thing to worry about and something for everyone to see when they come through your door. My table essentials are, candles, cutlery of course, selection of glasses, flowers and a jazzy napkin. 

7) Entertainment - we have all seen it the people who provide entertainment at 'come dine with me' usually get higher points than those who spend the whole night in the kitchen and don't socialise with their guests.

At my last dinner party, it was a girlie night so I decided to order a 2nd hand copy of the 80's game Dream Phone. It was a great laugh and something fun to do after food and before dessert.  You don't have to do a board game, but I am not a huge fan of twister or karaoke so this looked like a good option.

8) Your event is over.. take 5 minutes the next day to evaluate the night, what would you do better next time, did you forget anything? what was the final cost? Did your guests enjoy the night? 

Hope my top tips will help you plan your next event.

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Disclaimer - All my opinions are my own, this is not a paid advertisement.

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