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Party Planning 101

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.

About Allrecipes Staff

Your friends in the kitchen with expert answers to all your burning food questions. Because we’ve been there, done that.