Some people make it look so easy to host a party. Is there some gene for this? As a child, did you have to live in “the cool house” where all the kids congregated and the snack shelf held truly tasty food, not just mini boxes of raisins? Maybe. But also? It’s actually very easy to host a party. Just think of it as hanging with friends—leveled-up a few times. The best way to host a party “isn’t just good food and good music,” says Jamésa S. Alexander, of Jayne Heir Weddings & Events. “It’s creating a unique element of celebration that guests haven’t experienced before.” To make your own party unique, Alexander shares her five best, funnest hosting tips.
Step 1: Find your inspiration
The earliest stage of planning a party is the most free-wheeling: Get in a positive, reflective mindset and “find the inspiration behind your celebration. Whether it’s a milestone, a major accomplishment, or business launch, think about what inspires you and what elements you want to incorporate,” Alexander says. “Creating a mood board or vision board is incredibly helpful and can provide you with a simple way to express your vision,” she adds. Even if you’re hosting a party “just because,” inspiration should still be part of your planning: “Embrace your uniqueness and entwine it with the base of the celebration,” Alexander says. “You are the special sauce.”
Step 2: Get the money, honey
You want your friends to have fun. Your friends certainly don’t want you to go broke. A budget will help enable both these things. Before you get too entrenched in wine selection or decor, set yourself a reasonable budget: “Understanding your budget and affordability of your vision is key.” Alexander says. After all, you can absolutely throw an excellent party but you might still need cash for rent, food, and all those other pesky (womp-womp) essentials.
Step 3: Find the perfect day
Not everyone is going to be able to be there. Don’t fall into the trap of rescheduling (and re-re-rescheduling around various friends’ availability). Pick a date that works best for your core people … and work from there without worry that some people can’t make it. Be aware, too, that if some of your guests have to travel to make the party, you may need to pick the date, time, and venue well in advance. For those guests who have come a long way, play host to them even before the party starts: “Provide welcome bags to make them feel comfortable while they’re in town. Include local artisan items in the bags as a thoughtful touch,” she says.
Step 4: Whittle down that guest list
For many of us, a guest list is the closest we get to an Oscar acceptance speech—and you do not want to hold back! Of course, your budget may not allow for errbody, so trim as needed. You also want to choose the best kind of invitation: “Electronic invite platforms like Paperless Post or Punchbowl are useful, but you may decide that traditional invitations are the best option and end up working with a stationer or graphic designer,” Alexander says. If you’re planning a party that has plenty of people in attendance—good on you, you popular thing!—it can become a logistical hassle. In which case, Alexander says that “for optimal RSVP tracking, use an app like RSVPify.”
Step 5: Adorn yourself
With all the fuss going into every other element—from invitations to tablescapes—you want to put a little fuss into your hostess look. Treating yourself to a cute little ’fit is a nice reward for reaching the finish line, and helps you flip that switch from brass-tacks party planning to good-vibes-only party hosting. “Rent The Runway is a popular option for fun and affordable designer attire. Wear something for your celebration that will make you stand out,” Alexander says.