Finding Fabulous Invitations

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This post is part of the Party Primer Series. Answers to all of your party and event planning questions.

Now that your guest list is set, its on to the fun part – invitations!

There are about a million ways you can invite someone to a party, from custom designed formal wedding invitations, to a quick phone call before a cookout. The important thing to keep in mind with invitations is that they are generally the first impression someone is going to have of the party.

So, keeping this in mind, it is important that they fit the theme and tone of the event. A formal wedding is going to have a swankier invitation then a three-year-olds birthday party (most of the time). It’s also your first chance to play with your party’s theme – so have fun with it.

What kind of invitation should I send?

For formal events an invitation should traditionally be mailed to the guests homes. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of websites out there where you can design your invitations and have them printed. These are generally the most expensive types of invitations, and there is not set price range. It depends on the printer you use. You can also design and print your invitations at home, but this is not always a less expensive option. Depending on the event, you may also have a response card for guests to mail back, or include a phone number or email address for guests to contact with their responses.

A few of my favorite sites for printed invitations

tiny prints

minted

invitationbox

For more casual impromptu events like dinner parties and birthdays, my favorite way to send invitations is with an online evite service. These fun sites allow you to design an invitation that looks a pretty as the printed versions, then emails them to your guest list. They also have great tools for tracking your RSVPs.  Sometimes these are completely free and sometimes there is a charge associated. You can also design a simple invitation in a program like Word and email it out to your list for free.

A few of my favorite sites for online evites

Evite Postmark

Paperless Post

When should I send them?

For a formal party like a shower, wedding, etc. invitations should be sent out 6 to 8 weeks before the event. Since you are probably asking for RSVPs for this type of event, make sure the invitations are set to arrive soon enough that guests have 3 to 4 week before the RSVP deadline.

Invitations to a more casual party the invitations should be sent out 4 to 6 weeks before the event. Again, make sure your guest have a few weeks in between receiving the invitation and the RSVP deadline.

If you’re e-mailing an invitation, whether though an online service or just via regular email, try to send it out two to three weeks before the party and at a very minimum 4 to 5 days before the event.

What is the best invitation you’ve ever received?

All Wrapped Up “Pinspiration”

The only thing better than finding the perfect gift for someone is finding the perfect way to wrap it up! Here are some quick and creative gift wrap ideas that will add some flair to the next gift you give.

All Wrapped Up Pinspiration1 Yarn Ribbons from Babble
2 Tissue Poms from Martha Stewart
3 Paint Chip Garland from d.Sharp Journal
4 Velvet Ribbon from Real Simple
5 Tower of Boxes from Martha Stewart
6 Fabric Flowers from Ada and Darcy

How to Create A Party Timeline

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This is part of the Party Primer Series. Answers to all of your party and event planning questions.

There are no set rules when it comes to establishing a timeline for your party planning. I know, that’s not such great advice. In general, the larger and more complicated the event, the earlier you’re going to want to begin the planning process.

The most important factor when deciding your timeline is the type of party you’re having. This will help you determine your time frame  Some of these things will seem natural, you wouldn’t send out invitations before deciding on a location or theme. Other ideas will hopefully give you some insight into how to save yourself time and organize for a stress-free event.

I have put together sample timelines for two types of parties that each require a different level of detail. I hope this gives you a good idea of all the things that need to be done as well as the approximate timing.

For large parties that will take place outside of your home, or involve a lot of rental items (like tents, tables and chairs) you’ll want to start planning at least 4-6 months in advance. If the location you’d like to us is a popular one, you may want to start even sooner. These events are usually milestone anniversaries or birthdays, showers, baptisms, communions, retirements, graduations, and family reunions. They have a large guest list and a lot of details, so allowing yourself a good window of time will save you from stress and headache as the event nears.

Timeline 1

For smaller parties, like birthdays and holidays, planning begins about two months ahead of time. Again, if its not being held in your home, you may need to book the location earlier than this, but you shouldn’t need to do too much else until about two months before the party.

Timeline 2

Casual events like brunches and dinner parties that focus more on good food and good company than a lot of little details, can be planned in just a few days (or a few hours in some cases) thought I usually like to give myself a week or two.

I didn’t put together a formal timeline for the casual party, because its something we’ll discuss later on, and its much simpler to put together an event like this than either of the other two.

Once you’ve figured out the time frame you’ll be working with, you’ll look at all the things that need to be done and determine the best times to do them. I know this sounds simple and almost silly, but you’d be surprised how few people actually write down what they need to do and keep track of their schedule. I think that lack of a timeline in the beginning is the biggest cause of stress and trouble as a party draws near. The most important thing when it comes to party planning is to enjoy yourself! Parties are fun, remember?

Party Primer – 4 Easy Steps to the Perfect Party Plan

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You may have seen the first post in the Party Primer Series, and if not, make sure to go check it out – Why Have a Dinner Party? This series is designed to help you become an expert entertainer and event host. Whether you’ve never thrown a party before and have no idea where to start or you’re a party planning veteran just looking for new tips and ideas, I hope this series helps you. If you have questions about the topics we discuss, or want to know about things I haven’t covered, leave a comment or e-mail me and I’ll send you the answer!

When I first began hosting events, I didn’t know where to start. I figured as long as you had friends and food you had a party. And while that is technically true, I’ve gone through quite a bit of trial and error and learned a lot since then. Still, I find myself surprised that after each event I am left with a few new ideas for my bag of tricks.

One of the most important things I’ve found is that laying a good foundation with a few key pieces of information will make the rest of the party planning process run smoothly and can really make or break an event. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, right? So make sure you don’t start to plan a party before answering these key questions.

Why are you having a party?

This may be an obvious answer like a birthday party or bridal shower. Maybe you want to invite your friends to meet your new boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe an old college friend has returned from backpacking abroad for a year. Or maybe you just want something to look forward to after a long workweek. “Just Because” is always a good reason for a party – in fact, there is no right answer to this question, its only important that you know why you’re having the party as you begin to answer the next questions.

What is your timeline?

Knowing how much time you have to plan the event will help determine just what you can do with the event. Sure its possible to plan a surprise birthday bash complete with 200 guests and an amazing live band on just a few days notice, but its much more realistic to have at least a month or two to pull off something like that. On the other hand, it’s entirely realistic to plan a fabulous dinner party in just a day or two and you probably don’t want to start bugging your friends about coming to your awesome Superbowl party when its only November.

What is your budget?

As with the timeline, your budget is going to determine where you’re able to take the party. Of course its going to be easier to plan a huge bash with a big budget, but you just may be surprised how far a small budget can stretch with the right plans. I’ve thrown many a dinner party on $50 (or less!) so don’t be scared off by this question. Whatever your budget is, I know we can make it work.

Who are you going to invite?

Sometimes this is influenced by your budget, and sometimes it’s the other way around. It won’t be hard to throw a party for 8 guests with $100, but it maybe a struggle (but not impossible!) to throw a party for 50. Sometimes this question is answered as soon as you know why you’re having the party. If you’re throwing a wedding shower, the bride will probably give you a list of who needs to be invited and it may or may not be negotiable. If the guest list is in your hands though, think about your budget and how many people you can include without sacrificing your ideas for the party and go from there. Always be prepared for a few unexpected guests too! The standard rule  to be prepared for about 10% over, just in case, but with smaller events you’re probably safe as long as you could accommodate 2-3 extra people.

I hope this information gives you a good starting place. If you haven’t hosted many parties, this may seem like a lot of information to consider. Don’t worry, we’ll talk a lot more about these questions in the next few installments of “Party Primer”. As always, leave a comment if you have any more specific questions about what I’ve covered here.

Be Inspired By The Entertaining Experts

the best entertainment books

If you’ve ever found yourself lost in the aisles of the bookstore, overwhelmed by the gorgeous and intimidating covers of the “Special Occasion” Cookbooks, you’ve come to the right place. While its hard to go wrong with any of the pretty choices at the bookstore, I’ve read, (and studied) most of them and these are some of my absolute favorite entertaining books from some of the experts.

Martha’s Entertaining – While this may not be the most practical guide for those of use with more modest party budgets, it is unbelievably beautiful and inspiring. Almost every single one of the 432 pages features full color photographs of some of Martha’s personal parties and events. Anyone who enjoys her work will appreciate this very personal look into her world.

Barefoot Contessa Parties! – Full disclosure here, I own almost all of Ina Garten’s cookbooks and refer to them on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Her works are flawless – the perfect blend of sophisticated and simple and Parties! is no exception. A great collection of amazing recipes and menus, gorgeous photography and brilliant tips that will leave you exclaiming “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Real Simple Celebrations – I am always amazed at the clever tips and great ideas from the team at Real Simple and this book definitely delivers. A fantastic resource if you haven’t hosted many parties – even the novice can pull off an amazing bash using their simple to follow plans, recipes and suggestions.

Williams-Sonoma Dinner Parties – Another gorgeous selection complete with seven seasonal menus and step by step instructions to execute a party in classic Williams-Sonoma style. If you’re comfortable in the kitchen, but have never hosted a dinner party, this is a fantastic place to start.

In Style Parties – Want to celebrate like a celebrity but lack the unlimited budget and personal assistants? Learn all the secrets from the A-listers best party and event planners. If you’re an In Style reader, you may already be familiar with their popular party guides and now you can have their best advice all in one place. Over 20 plans from menus to decorations to advice on where to buy the stars favorite party must have.

Party Primer – Why Host a Dinner Party?

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Why Should You Host A Dinner Party?

Because it will be fun. I promise. Okay, so maybe that’s not quite compelling enough for you.

Dinner parties are an excellent way to mark a special occasion, or just steal away from the world for a night with your nearest and dearest, relishing the chance to enjoy each other’s company away from the interruptions of the rest of the world.

 If you like to cook it is a great way to challenge yourself and show off your skills. And even if you’re not a genius in the kitchen, people rarely complain about free meals.

 If you hate to cook, well, you just may find that cooking food for other people in enjoyable in a way that cooking for yourself is not. Or maybe you’ll still hate to cook, but at least the party will be fun.

 There is something marvelous about inviting someone into your home to share a meal. Spending all our social time in crowded bars and restaurants is a new phenomenon, and eating a microwaved meal alone in front of the television is newer still. But the “Dinner Party” or at least the idea of the shared meal is as old as civilization itself.

Food shared over a common table, in the presence of friends stirs up such deep emotions because it’s how we have nourished our bodies and spirits for thousands of years. We can’t connect and delight in each other’s company over the the noise of a second-rate band and the attitude of an overworked waitress.

It doesn’t even need to be complicated, in fact it shouldn’t be complicated. The simplest of meals will be wonderful when prepared with good intentions and careful instructions. Or ordered in from a trusted restaurant – that’s right you don’t even have to cook.

Too many people are scared of hosting dinner parties because they think it has to be Martha Stewart-worthy or its not worth the effort. Please believe me when I tell you this isn’t the case. Have you and your friends ever eaten Chinese take-out or pizza around the coffee table and a board game? Guess what – that’s a dinner party. Sure the big formal affairs with place-settings and centerpieces can be fun if that’s your style, but it’s not the only way to do it. In fact, sometimes the impromptu casual dinners can be more memorable.

There will always be a thousand reasons not to – your decorating is unfinished, the house is too old, too cluttered, too sparse, you don’t have a “formal” table, you’re just too busy… but I challenge you to get past these excuses. There are simple solutions to almost any “obstacle” you can come up with. And maybe it seems like a lot of work, but you may just surprise yourself when you see how much fun it can be to create something that brings so much joy to the people you love.

Have I convinced you? Fantastic! So what now? Stay tuned for more of my tips, hints, tricks and advice about how to pull off a successful dinner party (or any other kind of party).

I’d love to hear more about what you would most like to learn about hosting a party. Leave a comment and let me know.