Thursday, February 19, 2009

Party Planning 101: Guest List, Invitations and Menu

This week's topics focus on party planning. So far, I've discussed occasion and event style, and budget, location and date/time. Now, let's turn to the guest list, invitation and menu.


Once the occasion is announced and the style, budget, location and date/time of the party determined, many other details fall into place.

Guest List: This is a no brainer. Mostly. Invite whomever you and the guest/s of honor want to invite as long as the number jives with your budget and the amount of people the location can hold. Keep in mind that for any event, approximately 20% of the invitees will not attend. With that in mind, it is always better to invite more people (the more the merrier) than less. If the guest count has a large impact on your budget and other plans, then it is both wise and appropriate to request an RSVP. Give invitees a phone number and email address to respond to, and give them a deadline by which to respond. If your event is at a location where you need an accurate head count for meals, then feel free to call guests who have not responded at your deadline to ask for a response. I don’t know Miss Manners’ opinion on this, but when your money is involved, I recommend calling people to find out if they plan to attend.

Invitations: Every event requires an invitation, and the type of invitation is determined largely by the occasion and the formality of the event. For example, if the host has determined that the 40th wedding anniversary party is a formal occasion held at a restaurant, then it stands to reason that formal invitations will be used. If you are having a simple cookout with friends, a phone call or email will suffice. Many people use the Evite service—simply choose your e-invitation design, type in the details and email it to your guests. The Evite web site keeps track of who has responded and can send out reminders as the event date approaches. For extremely formal events, such as weddings and anniversary parties, send invitations out six weeks in advance. For other formal and semi-formal events, you’ll need to give people four weeks’ notice. Anything less than that and you run the risk of people having other plans.

Above is a Halloween party invitation from Martha Stewart. Not that she sent me one. But isn't it festive? You can tell that her Halloween party is going to be awesome just by the invitation. Maybe Martha will have room on her guest list for me this year. What do you say, Martha? Anyways, you can find directions to make the invitation here.


These days, there are a wide range of invitations. It’s the opinion of The Martha Initiative that you put time and effort into your invitations, as they set the tone for the event weeks in advance. Get creative! Write a poem, include a funny picture, highlight some event activities, whatever. Let your guests know that you want them to attend, and that they’ll have a great time when they do. But don’t break the bank on your invitations. Printing out the invite on fancy stationary bought on the cheap at Factory Card and Party Outlet is fine—it’s what you write on the invitation that counts!

Menu: The choice of food and beverages is reflected largely by the wants of the host and guest/s of honor, and the style of the event. Just about anything is acceptable as long as it fits with the mood and occasion. Sloppy joes or ribs at a formal event—not such a good idea with everyone in their Sunday best. But for a backyard bbq or summer birthday bash? Perfect!


It’s better to go with one or two big items, several sides and a few desserts rather than cook everything under the sun. It’s better to do a few dishes really well, rather than make many dishes that are so-so. And when people ask what they can bring, unless you are dead-set on being the only cook, let them bring something. Suggest an appetizer, dessert or side dish. If they have a specialty that you really like, request that. It will flatter your guest, make them more involved in the event, and give you one less thing to do. Finally, if someone really wants to contribute but has no cooking skills whatsoever, you can always suggest that they bring a drink to share.

For Dear Hubby's party, the guest list was simple: friends and family. We sent an evite invitation, and the menu is basically everything that DH likes...so expect lots of cheese/crackers, jello jigglers, chocolate cake with white buttercream frosting, and lots of pizza. Good times!

2 comments:

Chicagolandia said...

One of my favorites parties is the grown-up take on a pizza party. DH loves pizza, so for his past 2 birthdays, this has been a way to celebrate.

Sarah Eliza said...

Thanks for the advice! I tend to donate things I don't use pretty regularly, so I think I need to break down and analyze which of those stockpiled craft supplies I'm actually going to use. I hate parting with craft stuff! But I just have so much of it... I think I'll tell myself that the good stuff is getting buried in the things I'll never actually use, and psyche myself up for the purge that way. Also, I can probably stand to lose some of the clothes I don't wear lol...

So yeah, good advice. :P