Party Planning Dos and Don'ts

Thinking about hosting a party in the coming weeks or months? Whether you are hosting a BBQ, pool party or weekend getaway with your squad, there are small and stylish ways to elevate your gatherings for all to enjoy.

Photo credit: A Practical Wedding

Photo credit: A Practical Wedding

Guest list


Start with your guest list. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Think about everyone whose company you enjoy and then make sure there is balance and diversity of personalities, professions, ages and gender. It's fun to mix it up, plus it will keep the conversation interesting.


Naturally, it's easy to assemble the usual suspects: ‘mommy and me’ group members, the guys your husband plays basketball or golf with or your co-workers. Restrain yourself from inviting too many people from the same group. Trust me, no one wants to be stuck having a conversation about the Cavs chance of winning the NBA finals or the chances of the new company VP making changes to management.



Do your best to have a mix of hot and cold dishes, err on the side of having ample appetizers and 2-3 main dishes if you are serving dinner.

Ask your guests ahead of time if they have any food allergens or specifications and make sure you have at least a few items for them to eat.

If your budget allows, hire a private chef or caterer.


Don’t kill yourself making all the dishes yourself. Have friends come over early or ask them to bring their signature dish.  Or pop in a few frozen appetizers from Trader Joe’s or Costco in the oven to ease the burden. Its no fun if you are in the kitchen the entire evening instead of enjoying the company of your guests.

Asparagus wrapped in phyllo. Photo credit: The Gardening Cook

Asparagus wrapped in phyllo. Photo credit: The Gardening Cook



Keep it simple. I am of the mind (most times) that less is more. This is especially the case for a casual gathering of friends or a backyard party. Think about unique items that you can use to decorate the table. Do you have a range of glass colored vases in various shades of blue or in jewel tones? You can leave them as is, or fill them with garden roses, lavender or palm leaves. Another options is to use fresh produce and create a runner.


Leave it bare. Let’s say you don’t have a theme or time to spruce up the place. Candle light and a dimmer (if using overhead lighting) can go a long way to set the mood. Even bringing out patterned china or a bright table linen will center the space and provide a warm welcome.


Name Cards

Name cards are not necessary for a party but can be an extra special touch for celebrations like adult birthdays, post elopement celebrations, or bridal showers. The easiest route to take is to print them or write them out yourself if you have nice steady handwriting. You can also contract a calligrapher to create them for you.

How to display the name cards

For a more formal look, display them on an escort table. If your party is intimate place them on the dinner table beside the place settings. You can get creative with the display in either case. If you place them on a separate table, make sure the table is close to the entrance so your guests don’t miss them. And provide something eye-catching that will wow the guests to get excited about the party, like a lush floral arrangement, life-size picture of the host or guest of honor or a bunch of balloons. Anything that helps to set the tone and mood for the party.

Photo Credit: Mikkel Paige Photography

Photo Credit: Mikkel Paige Photography

Party Favors

The sky is the limit when it comes to favors. This is where you can really think out of the box.  Favors are a small token of your appreciation to  guests for their presence. They are not necessary in all settings but we see that clients still enjoy to do them for corporate events, birthdays and other milestone events.

Favors can match the theme if you have one or provide small pleasures that your guest can enjoy. Fun ideas for favors include potted succulents, candles, mugs, or miniature figurines.  

  1. These can go on the table where your guests will be seated in front of or on their place setting.

  2. They can go on the escort card table so guests can pick them up before the party begins.

  3. They can be placed on the same escort table after the party  for guests to pick up as they leave.

How you display the favors depends largely on the size of the favor, style of the party and your personal preference as the host. A general rule that I like to follow: larger items should be provided at the end of the party while smaller items can be placed on the dinner table or escort card table.

These are our top tips for having a stylish and fun party. Let us know your top tips!

Copyright 2018 By Sophia and Co. All rights reserved.