Whether you’re throwing a dinner party for your girls or a birthday party for your neighbor, it’s not all about the never-ending series of big bangs, fireworks, and jaw-dropping surprises. To throw the “perfect party,” focus on a few key components that your guests typically remember, and the rest will fall into place.
The beginning is everything
While the first 5 minutes can seem unimportant or “forgettable,” it actually has quite an impact on your guests. Consider the first moments when your guests enter the door the “first impression” of your event. If you get too wrapped up in the main course and decorations, you might have a lackluster beginning to your get together which can be memorable to your guests. Make sure that extroverts and introverts feel equally comfortable and that your guests are instantly integrated into the party. Something as simple as greeting them at the door is a great start (instead of hollering from the other room to come on in). Eliminate questions such as “Where do I put my coat?” and “Do I know anyone?” by leading the way from the beginning. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and try to anticipate their questions before they even have to ask.
An interactive moment
While this isn’t required for your party, it can be a great way for people to relax and get to know each other. This is especially important if your guests haven’t known each other for 10 years, and are acquaintances rather than besties. S’mores is an interactive dessert that gets your guests passing things around and chatting as they build their own treat, which can take the uneasiness out of small talk. Not only does a simple interactive experience help build bonds, but it is a memorable moment that your guests will be talking about once the night is over. A build-your-own mimosa bar is a fun way to add an interactive element to your birthday brunch that doesn’t require a bartending background to complete. An interactive activity can be just about anything; just don’t make it rocket science to figure out and definitely don’t make cleaning up after dinner your special “interactive experience!”
Sounds of the night
There’s nothing that kills a party more than silence! What is memorable is an awkward silence or quiet lull in the party that is noticed by all. If the chatter at your party dies down, ensure that there is something in the background lifting your party back up! The sounds of your event play a role in the feel of your get together, so don’t forget about the tunes! Have music playing when your guests arrive so that it doesn’t feel so quiet at the beginning of the party, when there are only a few people in the living room. Music sets the mood of your party, so choose some tunes that fit your ambience and style for the night. Make sure that your playlist is on repeat so that you never run out of background noise! The only thing worse than running out of music, would be running out of food or drink!
The peak of the party
Find one thing that will make your party “special.” When guests are driving home at the end of the night, they’ll tend to remember their favorite part of the party, or the high of the event. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a celebrity guest show up; it just means that you have to put thought into giving your dinner party a special touch. Does the recipe that you made have a special story behind it? Is there a slideshow that plays during dinner of photos of your college memories with your guests? You’re just looking for a few ooos and ahhs that will be remembered once the night is over. To help with the peak or the high, reduce monotony by having various “stages” in the party, so that everyone isn’t having the same experience all night long. A dinner party is not as simple as throwing dinner in the crockpot and calling it good; it actually takes a little programming or planning, and choosing a “peak” can help with the flow.
Goodbyes and farewells
The last few minutes when everyone is gathering up their things and heading out the door are just as important as the beginning and middle! We typically “evaluate” the night immediately after walking out the door, whether we are internally thinking of what happened or gossiping with our spouse about who said what. The end will be the first thing in your guests’ minds when they’re driving back home, and it could set the mood of their entire experience. Yes, your guests know where they put their coat and can find the door they came in, but it feels more comfortable to be guided. Leaving can be an uncomfortable part of a party, especially for an introvert, a guest that is leaving early, or someone who isn’t as familiar with the group. If you have a large group of invites, be cognizant when the party is coming to an end to make sure that you aren’t so wrapped up in a conversation that you miss someone leaving!
You don’t have to be an experienced party planner to throw a fête to remember. What is important is that you focus on what your guests will remember when they leave. Being a hostess that your grandmother would be proud of is not about having the most expensive champagne or the most elaborate itinerary. Keep your focus on the environment, the experience, and your guests’ needs, and your party-goers will only have good memories of the night.
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