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Choosing Party Venues

Open Houses
A variation on the traditional house party, an open house offers guests the opportunity to drop in when it is convenient for them. Generally scheduled as daytime affairs lasting from five to eight hours, open houses require the same amount of planning as a regular home party, but are less structured, enabling you to accommodate your guests' different schedules, especially around holidays.

A popular way to announce yourself in a new neighborhood, open houses are also great for graduation parties, holiday parties, and any other occasion when guests might have several things to do on a given day. As the name of the party suggests, you are opening your home to guests, who might need to arrive at different times throughout the day and stay for only a few minutes or up to a few hours.

  • Pros – You won't have to pay much attention to the progression of your party. At your open house, you'll block out a period of time for the party, during which time guests can come and go as they please. You won't have any activities or entertainment to plan, so all you'll really need to moderate on the party day is your available levels of food and drink. Because you won't be consulting your watch as often, ensuring your party is progressing as planned, you might even have a little more time to socialize!
  • Cons – Because open houses generally run the whole day, you'll need more sustained energy to last out the party. You'll spend more time on greetings and goodbyes, which means you'll need to remain friendly and flexible all day, in top form, regardless of how tired you might feel by Hour Six.
If you'd like to host an open house, plan enough food and beverages for each invited guest, plus about 10% more. As people drop by, they'll often have additional friends and family with them. Remain flexible and cheerful, welcoming additional guests with a smile.

Open-house fare typically includes plenty of appetizers, beverages and desserts, but no home-prepared main course, such as grilled food. Because the party is set up to accommodate guests coming and going all day, the food will need to be ready at zero hour and the platters replenished all day long.

If you'd like to include something heartier, cook or purchase a dish that will be ready to serve and remain delicious (and safe to eat) throughout the life of your party. A precooked, honey-glazed ham or a deli-meat platter can both be safely served cold and will accommodate a large number of guests.

Make sure your guests understand the nature of your party! Include a bit of text on your invitations that indicates your open house will last from noon to 6:00 p.m., asking guests to stop by any time during those hours.

Block Parties
Similar in scope to an open house, block parties take everything outdoors, expanding the ease and relatively low expense of potluck meals to a neighborhood scale. Second-tier national holidays, such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, Halloween, or Veterans Day are popular celebrations for block parties, but you can really have one whenever you want – why not have a spring or summer block party?

  • Pros – A fantastic way to get to know your neighbors, block parties are fun for everyone, including kids and pets. You'll be near your own home, to which you can retreat when you need a break, and you won't be responsible for much more than your share of the logistical details, a few dishes you'll contribute, and keeping an eye on your family members.
  • Cons – Because block parties are planned and executed by the whole neighborhood (save a few sourpusses who refuse to get involved), you will need to plan this party by committee, which can be harrowing. Also, because the party involves your neighbors (along with any guests you invite), you won't be partying with friends, family, and colleagues inasmuch as you'll be spending the day interacting with different personalities, not all of which will be to your liking.
If you want to organize a block party, you can expect a few obstacles you won't experience with other types of parties, such as getting permission from the city to block off the street, renting or locating enough tables and grills for everyone, delegating efforts to different households, and ensuring everything goes smoothly.

As soon as the idea for a block party begins to surface, immediately investigate your community's particular regulations for such events. Permits can take time to process, so start early.

Although a block party is planned by committee, you'll want one person to act as a moderator, keeping a checklist of what needs to be done: food, rentals, permits, inviting the neighbors, and establishing ground rules. Diplomatically allow the group to suggest the checklist items, wait for different people to volunteer for their preferred tasks, and then assign a date by which the task should be completed.

Next: Page 3 >>

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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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