Party Basics

No matter what kind of party you're planning, if food and drink are involved (and they'd better be!), your guests will need something from which to drink and eat. You'll need a few basics:
  • Paper, plastic, or glass cups from which guests can drink cold beverages; guests will grab a clean glass at least once, so plan accordingly
  • Insulated cups or mugs for hot beverages
  • Large plates for eating the main meal
  • Small plates for desserts and appetizers
  • Enough knives, forks and spoons – plastic or metal – so that each guest has a complete set, plus a few extra, just in case
  • Twice as many paper napkins as you think you will need (linen napkins are great for the table, but guests will need cocktail napkins for drinks and appetizers)
  • An adequate stash of serving bowls, pitchers, and platters in assorted sizes, shapes, and colors
  • Any tools you will need to actually serve the food and drinks: large spoons, meat forks, a ladle, a corkscrew, a bottle opener, and a carving knife
Take a cue from moderately priced restaurants and make "rollups" several days before your party. Nestle a complete set of cutlery – knife, fork, and spoon – in one napkin, and roll it up. Secure the roll with clear tape (if you're using paper napkins) or some other festive touch, such as theme-related napkin holders, or tuck the end of the napkin into the roll.

How Much Booze Do You Need?
If you're serving alcohol at your party, how much booze do you need? Although this subject is covered in greater detail in Appendix B, it's worth mentioning a little basic math right here:

  • Plan for two drinks per person for the first two hours of the party, and then one drink per person for every hour thereafter.
  • One 750-milliliter bottle of booze (wine, champagne, or liquor) will yield about six 4-ounce glasses.
  • Plan two cans or bottles of soda per person – change that quantity to three if you are hosting a sober party.
  • If you're hosting a party heavy on drinks that require ice, such as iced soft drinks or blended or shaken cocktails, you'll need 1/2 pound of ice per person. Based on the preceding facts, we can calculate the following:
  • For a 4-hour party of 20 expected guests, you would plan to serve a total of 120 drinks.
  • To fill glasses 120 times, you will need 20 bottles of booze.
  • For this same party, you'll also need 80 cans or bottles of soft drinks or water, as well as 20 pounds of ice.
Of course, you can never predict what your guests will want to drink, so don't get 20 bottles of the same liquor! Purchase a mix of red and white wine, champagne, vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and scotch, plus a few six-packs of quality beer. You might also want to add a few extra bottles of wine, just in case the party runs late. No need to overdo it, though – many guests will bring a bottle as a hostess gift.

Thrifty Ways to Stock a Party Closet
Consider starting a "party closet." Similar to the fabled "gift closet," a party closet is a storage container large enough to safely store your party tools: dishes, cutlery, glassware, linens, candles, and leftover favors that might be put to some future use. Because these items are stored in one place, and only pulled out for parties, you'll always have a good supply on hand. One less detail to plan!

If you aren't independently wealthy and would like to stock your party closet nonetheless, scour local second-hand stores for dishes, glassware, and flatware. Keep one element the same – color, style, or pattern – and your guests will think of you as eclectic, rather than dirt-poor.

Whether you're using matched china or thrift-store finds, always make sure your party tools are clean, polished, and in good repair. Everything looks better when sparkling!

If you are thrift-store shopping for your party tools, avoid any plates or glasses made with lead. Generally, old china, glazed terra cotta or clay dishes, or dishes with highly decorated, multicolored interior surfaces can contain lead. If you are in doubt, err on the side of caution. Lead poisoning can lead to serious health consequences.

Cloth napkins don't have to be expensive! Most housewares stores sell white cloth napkins in bulk for under $20. Invest in a couple of packages and you'll be covered for a long time. Also look for plain, matching napkins at discount and closeout stores. Starched napkins fold and retain their shape better than limp napkins, so bust out that can of spray starch and heat up the iron.

Planning Party Entertainment
Although you might think your menu and your sparkling personality are enough amusement or any party, you might want to consider adding some entertainment into the mix. Whether it be music, activities, or professional entertainment, your guests will have a great time if the entertainment is presented with the right attitude – fun!

More on: Pop Culture

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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