12 Party Tips From Professionals Slideshow
The top rules experienced event planners always follow when hosting an event of their own
When hosting a party, a host's top priority should be their guests, and that they're comfortable. For Mitchell Crosby (@JMCCharleston), that means always being prepared for the weather. "Regardless of what it is, that means umbrella stands, coat racks, a fire, fans, or bug spray!" And never running out of food, wine, or music.
Make Sure Guests Are Comfortable
When hosting a party, a host's top priority should be their guests, and that they're comfortable. "Regardless of what it is, that means umbrella stands, coat racks, a fire, fans, or bug spray!" And never running out of food, wine, or music.
First the Theme, Then the Menu
So what should your first step be when planning a party? According to our experts, it should be the theme. "Think about what kind of event you want to host and plan your menu around that," suggests Megan Morrison of Berghoff Catering (@mmorrison2107). Nor should a theme just be limited to the décor and menu, adds entertaining expert Coryanne Ettiene (@housewifebliss). Use it to inspire your cocktails, playlist, and even party favors and attire, if you wish.
Candles, Candles, Candles!
Whether you're hosting a party during the day or at night, lighting matters, says Kate Sasnett at Soiree Catering & Events (@katesoiree). Candles are a natural choice, as they always lend a warm atmosphere, and a little goes a long way. Short on cash? She suggests forgoing flowers and instead loading tables with tons of small tea lights and votive candles.
Greet Guests with a Cocktail
There is no better way to make guests feel welcome than being greeted by a host with a large smile on their face and a tray of cocktails — lifestyle expert The Haute Wife (@hautewife) and Morrison agree. "Having a signature drink to greet guests with is always a fun way to start an event and keep guests happy."
Opt for Creative Centerpieces
When considering the décor for a party, begin with the centerpieces and don't feel limited by flowers. "Be creative," says The Haute Wife. "A bowl of citrus fruit can be just as beautiful as a floral arrangement," she suggests. Sebrell Smith (@sebrellsmith) likes using vegetables standing end on end in cheap vases — it works for lemons and limes at the bar, too.
Don't want to spend money on décor that won't last after the party? "Consider using plants that can be planted after the party, like herbs," suggests the team at Duvall Events (@duvallevents). Something unusual not only catches guests' eyes, but it can also act as a discussion piece for the night.
Offer Something Unexpected
“An unexpected element, a surprise, makes for a great party,” says event planner Linnea Johansson, who has planned events for the Kardashian sisters. Morroccan hotelier Maryam (@mymarrakesh) agrees, "It makes it memorable." If you have a budget like Kim Kardashian, you might choose a full performance by a team of synchronized swimmers, but for the rest of us, consider a face painter, or a fortune teller.
Save Money with Plated (vs. Buffet)
Can't decide between a buffet and plated food when hosting a dinner party? While it might initially cost more to pay for the extra service staff, the team at LRE Catering (@lrecatering) favors plated meals if you have a tight budget. At the end of the day, you'll save money when it comes to food costs by serving smaller portions. Plus, less food goes to waste.
Make Sure Guests Know Each Other
Once the planning is done, a party host's top priority should be their guests. Make sure they're comfortable by ensuring that they have a drink in hand and that they know others around them. If you don't know anyone in the room, the host should make introductions, says Juliet Douglas (@greenorchid). Sasnett agrees. "I love when a hostess stands at the front door and greets every guest personally and makes introductions."
Keep It Simple
The easiest way to get into trouble when hosting a party is to bite off more than you can chew. "Pick a few simple items for the menu and bar, a couple of small centerpieces, then good music," recommends Douglas. And should something happen, Tara Wilson (@savvysoutherner) reminds us to roll with the punches. "There is no such thing as a perfect party!"
While it can be nice to be left with some leftovers after a dinner party, sometimes there is just too much to pack into the fridge (plus, can a host really eat it all before it spoils?). Jennifer Grove (@skyblueevents) suggests making cleanup easy by having reusable storage containers for party guests to take home extras as favors. No waste!
Be Prepared for Emergencies
No matter how hard you try to throw a flawless party, some little surprise always sneaks its way in. Wilson always has an event kit, stocked with tape, Tide stain pens, aspirin, and safety pins, in case of accidents. Did a cocktail glass leave a watermark on your antique coffee table?
Smith always has a jar of Vaseline on hand to prevent the ring from ruining the surface. Hired staff to lend you a hand? Make sure they know where all the cleaning supplies are, recommends Sasnett. As for stains, Crosby avoids serving red wine and black caviar when possible, but should an accident happen, he always has plenty of Clorox pens and club soda on hand for stain fighting.
Opt for Make-Ahead Foods
Our experts agree — save time on party day by doing as much in advance as possible. Sasnett loves making a homemade peach salsa the day before, then topping crackers with a smear of goat cheese and a dollop of salsa for an appetizer — and anything braised or slow cooked for an entrée. You can make it two days in advance, and it will taste even better by the time you serve it. And don't forget foods that you can serve at room temperature, like sushi or beef tenderloin, adds Wilson.
Nothing is as simple or as satisfying as a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Turn it into a Mother's Day breakfast by toasting fresh bakery bread and spooning on jam in the shape of a heart. Even wee lads and lasses can help spread on the PB or J! Bonus: Cut off the crusts, just like she does!
Little ones who love playing dress-up and tea parties might want to serve mama these bite-site broccoli tarts. Fill fillo shells with chopped veggies, cheese, and eggs, then bake with the help of a grown-up. They couldn't be simpler! (Prefer a sweet tart? Your mini-mes can make these apple tarts, too.)
The Fastest Buffet Known to Man
Chef Art Smith says let the pork marinate in a zip-top bag while the oven heats up then, roast the meat for 45 minutes.
Make it: Cider French Dip
Top Chef Season 3 competitor Dale Levitski serves this wintry take on the classic sandwich with an apple-carrot slaw and a spicy mayo. Let guests assemble their own sandwiches.
Make it: Christmas Crackle Ham
This simple dish from Cristina Ferrare includes a glaze made from apple cider, orange juice, brown sugar and cayenne. You can serve it warm or at room temperature.
Buy it: Stuffed chicken
Meal delivery service Impromptu Gourmet makes its version of the classic chicken Florentine with Fontina and spinach Omaha Steaks offers chicken breast stuffed with artichoke and Parmesan, wild rice, broccoli and cheese, and other combinations.
Many supermarkets and warehouse clubs sell precooked half hams which weigh about 9 pounds and will easily feed eight people. The best-tasting ham is bright pink in color and does not have any marbling. If you'd rather order ahead and have the meat delivered, the HoneyBaked Ham Company is known for its hams' tender meat and crunchy, sugary crust. The Holiday Ham Company also gets raves for its hams' moist texture and hickory-smoked flavor.
There may not be a better deal than Costco's 6-pound package of Kirkland Signature Meat Lasagna for $13 it will feed about 12 people. And Michael Angelo's brand (which placed high in this lasagna taste test) comes in an 80-ounce "party size" that serves at least 10.
Make it: Sautéed Shredded Vegetables
It's amazing how much more exciting a dish can seem when the ingredients are simply cut in an unexpected way (here, julienned). You can change up the herbs to match your main dish.
Make it: Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale
This zippy, Parmesan-spiked combination of green beans, kale and cremini mushrooms is one of Giada De Laurentiis' go-to holiday sides.
Make it: Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root with Creamy Yogurt
An elegant twist on the winter workhorse, this dish can be made a day ahead of time and reheated.
Be sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the spinach. Adding spinach that is too wet could upset the creamy harmony of the rest of the ingredients.
Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.
For fall gatherings—everything from back-to-school to Thanksgiving—this colorful wreath makes an elegant centerpiece. The leaves are created by painting melted candy wafers on maple leaves, letting it harden, then peeling off the leaf to reveal a stunning edible replica.
These vegan AND gluten-free vanilla cupcakes require a bit of shopping (for ingredients like potato starch and arrowroot powder), but once you take a bite, it'll all be worth it.
Since 1995, Epicurious has been the ultimate food resource for the home cook, with daily kitchen tips, fun cooking videos, and, oh yeah, over 33,000 recipes.
Don’t scoff at the sour cherries! Their sweet bite and chewy texture are the perfect foil for all the crunch and salt and spice. But if you’re really not into it, sub mini chocolate chips instead.
What's better than an ice cream cone? Almost nothing. Well, except one that's covered in a thick chocolate shell dreamed up by the folks at Jeni's Splendid in Columbus, Ohio. This version calls on pretzel garnishes to nail that whole sweet-salty thing.
Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.
12 Killer Recipes for Shark Week Soirees
It’s the most wonderful time of the year &mdash and, no, we’re not talking about Christmas, here, people. We’re all about Shark Week!
Yes, it’s that glorious time of the summer when the Discovery Channel runs special after special about those beautifully vicious, sharp-toothed predators of the sea. And this year’s festivities promise to be crazier than any of the rest, because Michael Phelps is racing a shark. Yup, you read that right. This Sunday on Phelps v. Shark, the Olympic champ will be racing a being that actually has a chance to beat him.
In celebration of Phelps’ big race and all of the other Shark Week programming we are over-the-top excited for, we’ve rounded up a bunch of shark-a-licious recipes we’re dying to sink our jaws into. Whether you’re throwing a party or just binge-watching with the fam, these snacks are sure to cause a feeding frenzy.