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A Grown-Up Gathering

© ALFONSO D’AGOSTINO | Dreamstime.com

When your child’s social calendar, filled with play dates and birthday parties, is more interesting and varied than your own, it might be time to throw an adult party at your place. Many people see entertaining as a daunting task but just a few straightforward steps can lead to creating the right atmosphere for an event that is relaxed, festive and fun—even for the person throwing the party.

Addressing a few important elements will help you through the planning process:

• Find your reason to celebrate. Will you celebrate the holiday season; a significant birthday or anniversary; or do you want to party for no reason at all?

• Choose a date far enough in advance to give you time to prepare. Leave at least three weeks’ lead time for planning and for getting invitations out.

• Decide on your budget for the party. The options range from an inexpensive and casual potluck get-together to an elegant candlelit soiree with fancy food and drink.

• Make a guest list. Include neighbors, friends, parents of your child’s friends; mix age groups and interests for a diverse crowd

• Pick a theme or style for celebrating. Having a simple theme will help you narrow down the decorations, menu and timeframe.

• Plan your menu. Keep it simple with a potluck, go elegant with make-at-home fancy appetizers and desserts, or go all out by having a caterer provide the food.

• Decide on your party beverages. Serve beer and wine and a mixed cocktail that can be made in batches like mojitos or sangria but always offer a nonalcoholic option.

• Spread the word with flair. Design and send computer-generated invitations or use a free online party planning service like Evite.com to e-mail invitations and track responses.

Leslie Yacavone, proprietor of the Peppermill, a specialty cookware and kitchen accessories store in Hamilton, believes parties are easier to plan than most people think. “In this day and age, you don’t have to do it all yourself or take on a big expense to have a social gathering,” Yacavone says. “People are happy to have a reason to get together and will enjoy pitching in.” Hosts might provide the drinks or main course and ask those coming to the party to bring side dishes or appetizers.

When people offer to help, say “Yes, thank you!” You’ll have plenty of things to do just before and during the party so enlist the help of those who offer to assist by having your guests pitch in with dishing food or assign close friends specific tasks like refilling the ice bucket or replenishing the snack bowls. You will feel more relaxed and able to enjoy the party if you aren’t constantly on watch for every little detail.

“The best way to have fun at your own party is to do as much as possible in advance,” Yacavone says. Prepare foods that will keep a few days in advance and pop them in the oven or arrange them onto serving trays just before the party. Choose finger foods and menu items that are easy to serve and eat.

If you have guests bringing food, advise them to bring items that are ready to serve and do not require any additional assembly or cooking time. Labeling foods with unusual ingredients will help those with dietary restrictions to identify things they should avoid.

Parties do not need to center around alcoholic beverages in order to be fun. Serving plenty of nonalcoholic options like seltzer, flavored waters, or a fruity punch will let people pace their consumption. “Sparkling apple cider and non-alcoholic beer are also fun options to serve,” Yacavone says.

Consider asking each guest to bring their favorite beverage rather than trying to cater to everyone’s tastes. Set up a special area for drinks with glasses, ice, corkscrews, bottle openers, and a bin for recyclable bottles. Having self-serve drinks rather than requiring you to tend bar will encourage your guests to help themselves.

Make sure guests know well in advance that you are having an adults-only party so they can arrange childcare. Consider contacting a local baby-sitter to watch everyone’s offspring. Having a sitter at the ready might make the difference for a parent who might otherwise decline your invitation.

Having a theme makes it easier to set a mood and most people like an event that has a purpose. Creating an atmosphere, whether it be an indoor beach party in November, or hosting a chili cook-off, will lend excitement and help guests know what to expect. Choose food and drinks that fit your theme and use simple decorating to liven up your party space.

You needn’t get up on a ladder and hang streamers to create a festive mood. A few yards of colorful, textured fabric will add a nice touch to the center of your table, while dozens of candles in the same color or shape adds a special touch.

In the days before the event, check your guest list for a count of those who will be attending, make your final food and drink shopping list, tidy the house but don’t go overboard with cleaning (people will not be there to see how clean your home is), and begin to organize the items and spaces you’ll use for the party. Locate or borrow serving dishes, linens, or other items you’ll need, and begin preparing the things you can make in advance.

Make a checklist of things still left to do. The day of the party, go over the checklist and tackle the last-minute tasks.

Above all, have a flexible attitude and be prepared to delegate some of your responsibilities to friends and guests. Then relax and enjoy the party.   

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York