Tips and tricks to make entertaining easier.

Eggplant Appetizer_
Eggplant Appetizer_| Photo by trinity2k2

Party Basics

Whether you're planning a big event or a cozy get-together, the basic steps are still the same. Then you decide how simple or elaborate it gets. A party-planning checklist could help you organize the details.

Just set the stage, anticipate the needs of your guests, and let everyone get on with having a good time.

Food & Drink

Whether you're serving casual finger food, potluck, or a multi-course feast:

  • Cater to your guests. Ask ahead of time if there are food issues you should know about.
  • Offer a variety of choices but go with what you know. Now is not the time to spring untried dishes on innocent bystanders.
  • The bar: Consider hiring a bartender for a large crowd. For a smaller gathering, make one or two signature cocktails in a pitcher. Beer and wine can be self-serve.
Metropole Cocktail
Metropole Cocktail | Photo by lutzflcat


  • Invitations. Send two weeks ahead of time (or four weeks ahead for major holidays). The more details you give, the better. Include a map.
  • Logistics. What's your budget? If it's a big to-do, do you need to rent party equipment? Can you hire help? Enlist a couple of friends? What about parking, bathrooms, and where to sit or throw the coats? How about your pets? Does your 80-pound dog like to leap on guests? Is anyone allergic to your cat?
  • Decorations. Your budget will be your guide, but there's nothing wrong with keeping it simple.
  • Entertainment. Music sets the mood, so make a party mix. Games are optional, but decide when you want them to happen. If kids are coming, keep them entertained. Maybe hire a couple of babysitters so the adults can relax.

Ready to plan your party?

Tips from the Pros

  • Prep dishes ahead of time to avoid a last-minute kitchen crunch.
  • Time hot appetizers to come out of the oven every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Give yourself time to shower and relax.
  • Lavish attention on guests as they arrive, set them up with drinks, introduce them to someone friendly, and move on to the next new people.