Tips on party planning for a family celebration

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Whatever the family celebration, whether a Holiday party, birthday party, going away party, anniversary bash, New Years party, here are a few party tips and party ideas to help make your family celebration a smashing success!

First a few questions:

What is your budget?
How many people do you want to invite?
Where and when do you want to have it?
Once you've got those then it's time to move forward.

Party Planning - Plan ahead, it's attention to detail that makes the difference. Allow plenty of time to prepare for your family party, make a list and shop smart. Things are hectic when party-time approaches so stay organized.

Party Invitations - Just like all first impressions your invitation will entice your guest so be creative. If you want to send an unusual size or shape check with the post office for the cost and send a sample to yourself first to make sure it holds up to the process. Use "RSVP" so you get an actual count and avoid "regrets only" it sends a negative tone and people often don't respond. Let people RSVP by email as well. If you're planning a dinner party include the menu. Include a map and directions.

Party Hors D'oeuvres - Choose your finger snacks carefully. Choose foods that complement each other. Try setting a theme for the food in each room or on each table. Allow 4 to 6 hot hors d'oeurves per person. Don't serve gooey, drippy sauces near expensive rugs or furniture. Keep some carpet cleaner on hand, just in case.

Party Food - Go ahead and label the food -creatively "Ye ol" bucket of bread" at a Swashbuckling party. Be sensitive to food allergies and label foods that contain seafood and/or nuts. Be sure you include at least one vegetarian dish. A few beverages every party should have are water, juice, coffee and a punch.

Party Invitation Ideas - Written invites are a great idea. Try to make them fun and different. Use your personality but don't forget the basics like: hours. Tell your guests when the party starts and when it will end. Specify the hour in advance to avoid confusion. Let your guests know what kind of attire is appropriate. If your anticipating a semi-formal gathering let them know.

Name tags - If you have a lot of people that don't already know each other have nametags ready. You can be creative here too by adding theme stickers, quotes or an interesting fact about the person may be added: "Best Peach Pie Maker". Be creative with the name too (Renaissance Party write "Lord Tim"). Have the tags ready at the front door in alphabetical order with a few extras on hand.

Guest Books - Providing a guest book can be much fun and help make the family celebration memorable. Don't be afraid to put out a guest book and invite your partiers to sign-in as they arrive.

Party Atmosphere - Create a festive celebration atmosphere with decorations, scents and music. Use scented candles or simmer a pot of water with cinnamon and citrus fruit to fill the house with a delightful aroma. Choose your favorite music and have it playing softly in the background when guests arrive. Consider unplugging or removing your television if it's located in the party area. Nothing spoils the interaction of guests quicker than a group of people huddled around a television set. Kill your TV!

Party decorations: Go to the fabric store to create cheap tablecloths just make sure that you know how many yards of fabric you need. Cut the edges with pinking shears or tape up the hem. Use a large piece of paper to cover the kids table and put out little buckets of crayons (washable, of course) and let them create their own tablecloth. Table centerpieces should not take up a large portion of the table or be tall (guest should be able to see clearly to the other side). Raffles off these as fun party favors. Do decorate the buffet table too. Visit the thrift store and the 99-cent store, you'd be surprised at the stuff you can find there to decorate the tables. If using candles be sure the holder is secure, votive candles in water are even better. Never use candles with children at the party or at costume parties. There is some type of flower or arrangement for every party. Ask your florist for ideas. Order early or make if yourself using dried or silk flowers.

Party Lighting - Creative lighting will contribute much to the atmosphere. Try replacing some bulbs with colored lamps or low wattage bulbs. Strobe lights and black lamps can add to the fun.

Party Music - Music is an important element of most celebrations. If pre-recorded music is to be used, consider the musical preferences of your guests. Have a variety of music available. Put your depressing music selections away, keep the music upbeat and "mass appeal" for best results. Music helps set mood, so use with discretion. Your music choices include: having a DJ, a band, and a selection of CDs and a good CD player. If you are hiring entertainers children be sure to make arrangements early.

Party Games - Not essential for every party but for smaller parties or if children are coming have something planned. Prizes should of course be theme related.

Party Favors & Prizes - Party favors are a nice touch and it doesn't have to be expensive just creative. Prizes should be fun too they don't have to be costly.

Party Parking - Try to make provisions for parking in advance. If you will be allowing guests to park on the lawn or in the back yard, let them know in your invitation. Ask your neighbors about parking options or warn them that guests will be parking on the street. If your attending a party why not arrive in style? Rent a Limo and you won't have to worry about parking or driving yourself home after.

Seating - Consider removing all the chairs from the party area. This will create more room for people to mingle.

Party Extras - A scented candle in the bathroom is a nice touch. Leave an extra roll of toilet tissue in easy view.

Accidents and Spills - Accidents are part of life. Don't let an accident or spill ruin the party. Have some spot remover on hand just in case. You may want to remove extremely valuable items and/or furnishings. Move that rare Persian carpet to a safe place until the party is over.

Party Gifts - It's always a good idea to bring a small gift to a party even if the host or hostess instructs you not to in the invitation. Bring along a bottle of wine, some flowers, or chocolates to show your appreciation.

Party Snacks - You can never have too much food at a party. Be sure to have plenty of hot coffee and snacks on hand for late in the evening.

Party Jokes - If you (or one of your guests) are skilled at joke telling, try some tasteful jokes and invite your guests to participate. This exercise can often "break the ice " and get your guests sharing jokes and humorous stories.

The Law - Sometimes even the quietest of family parties will precipitate a visit from the local law enforcement agency. If the police arrive be courteous. They may have been called to your party by an irate or concerned neighbor (who may not have been invited!). Try to answer the concerns of the police officer outside your front door. Stay calm and respond to reasonable requests ("keep the noise down, move vehicles that may be blocking the roadway, etc.") If you are intoxicated, don't attempt to negotiate with the police, send your spouse or trusted friend to the door, an intoxicated host gives the police a valid reason for concern (and possibly further action). Lesson #1 never get out of control, especially at your own party!

At the Party - If your busy in the kitchen or with the caterers assign a friend or relative to be the official greeter to welcome guests, take their coats and direct them to the refreshments. Put another friend in charge of taking photographs, this is a good job for one for your shy friends. This allows them a great easy way to interact with others and helps you out.

Other things to consider - Remove any fragile or breakable objects from tables and arms length, accidents do happen. Secure or remove rugs that slip easily, you don't want anyone breaking an arm. In the bathroom: Have a roll of paper towels, often the towels become wet or dirty and people will appreciate the paper towels. Have a new air freshener near the toilets as well as a can of spray freshener and a full roll of toilet paper. Have liquid soap or lots of little soaps available. If someone offers to bring something - take them up on their offer: soda, bread, cheese it all helps.

Now that the work is done, relax! Let your guests enjoy themselves. With the proper ingredients in place everyone should have a great time. With good food, good cheer and good friends you can't miss! Party hearty and have fun. Make room for guests who have had too much to eat or drink. Don't let a guest who over drinks drive, it could save a life and it could save YOU from a lawsuit. As the host, you are responsible for the safety of your guests.

After the Party - Send a thank you for coming along with a picture of them at the party.

Whether it's an intimate gathering or a huge bash, planning is a key to its success. With just a little planning your party will be remembered fondly by your guests (and you). Don't forget the details often it's the details that make your guests feel special.

Clever Party Planning: Party Planning Ideas and Themes for Kids, Teens, and Adults is a complete party guide packed with over 90 themes including detailed instructions for invitations, decorations, crafts, games, food, activities, favors, and cakes.

There are party planning tips, alternative ideas for where to hold a party, and ideas on favor bags. A special section provides templates for easy custom made invitations.

This is a must have reference for moms and dads, event planners, and party enthusiasts!

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