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A Party Checklist for Design Lovers

Thanksgiving is two days away! Whether you’re hosting Turkey Day or preparing for the ultimate party in any season, this checklist is for you. What you won’t find in today’s post is a detailed collection of recipes. What you WILL find is a simple list of tasks that will give your party, gathering or event a designer look. It all begins with a clean home, and from there, you can take things up a notch. How early should you start preparing? Is it possible to throw a stylish fete together at the last minute? Kate here, and today I’m sharing my party checklist with you!

The Big Picture

Let me start by saying that there is no one universal checklist for every party. But keep in mind that today’s post is for design lovers! If you’re like me, you use entertaining as an excuse to make your home look fabulous and share it with your guests. Am I alone here?! Of course, the main goal of your entertaining endeavor is to make your guests feel welcome. Let’s start with the big picture. [from Mirror80]

DSC00078 002 A Party Checklist for Design Lovers
Colorful party balloons and garland

I begin each party planning process by asking one main question: Is there a home design or organization project that this party can inspire me to embrace? There’s nothing like the motivation of impending company to kick it into high gear! My most productive bursts of design energy often occur the week leading up to a party. [from Finch Photography for Todd Richesin Interiors]

Backyard festivity A Party Checklist for Design Lovers
A festive backyard with hanging lanterns

Once you have a grasp on the design projects that may be facing you, it’s time to take a look at your party vibe, yet still in the larger sense. Come up with a plan for your decor. Without being too matchy-matchy, will your party have an overall mood or theme? Here’s a fun photo I snapped while coming up with a foodie design scheme for this year’s Thanksgiving:

Holiday cheese plate close-up
A party cheese tray for fall

At this point, I plan the menu and centerpiece, brainstorming a look for the event. Now is also a fun time to create a signature cocktail–an easy yet festive concoction that guests can mix themselves throughout the party. This will prevent you from playing bartender for hours! If possible, have the cocktail mirror the look of the fete. For example, if you’re going tropical, have fun creating a tropical-style drink. I call this one the Neon Rita:

A tropical party drink with neon flair
A tropical party drink with neon flair

With the big picture in place, let’s move on to the specifics…

The Party Checklist

Below is the party checklist! You’ll notice the first few items are the tasks discussed above. From that point on, the tasks get a bit more detailed, highlighting some key elements involved in getting your home party-ready. Let’s have a look! [from Rocco Borghese]

Festive modern kitchen featuring chromed glass orbs
Festive modern kitchen featuring chromed glass orbs

The Weekend Before the Party

Festive party front porch from A Beautiful Mess
Festive party front porch from A Beautiful Mess

1. Tackle any small design or organization projects that will beautify your space for the event.

2. Come up with an overall theme for the party.

3. Plan your party menu, including a signature cocktail for the fete!

While these steps are recommended for the weekend before your event, the earlier the better! It’s never too soon to start planning, especially if you’re a person who enjoys reveling in crafting party concepts filled with fabulous design elements. At the same time, don’t be intimidated by the thought of throwing a last-minute event. It’s amazing what you can pull together with little notice. Go for it! [image above from A Beautiful Mess, image below from Camille Styles]

Blooms by Bricolage Florals, and bellinis!
Blooms by Bricolage Florals, and bellinis!

2-3 Days Before the Party

Party supplies by Joy Cho of Oh Joy!
Party supplies by Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

1. Shop for party supplies, including food, napkins, favors and tabletop decor.

2. Clean up the yard, removing obvious weeds and debris.

3. Take care of significant housecleaning tasks, such as dusting and cleaning spotty windows.

These steps have the power to become larger-than-life tasks, but resist the urge to be consumed by them. Nobody should be scrutinizing your space, so don’t feel the need to make everything perfect. The idea is to create a clean, inviting environment for the party. Not to mention, don’t forget to have fun shopping for your party supplies. Design lovers thrive on this part of the process! [image above from Glitter Inc., image below from Bruce Clodfelter and Associates]

Outdoor dining space surrounded by lush greenery
Outdoor dining space surrounded by lush greenery

The Day Before the Party

Gleaming marble floor
Gleaming marble floor

1. Vacuum and mop the floor, and clean the countertops.

2. Set the table, including place settings and centerpieces.

3. Prepare as much party food ahead of time as possible.

Once again, don’t fret about making everything perfect. There will be time to touch up the day of the party. Think of these steps as getting a head start–anything you do the day before the event will help the party to be a success! [image above from Claudia Lujan Interiors, image below from Camille Styles]

Table design by Callie Jenschke
Table design by Callie Jenschke

The Day of the Party

Inviting party drink station
Inviting party drink station

1. Do a last-minute tidying up session, including blowing/sweeping outdoor leaves and vacuuming trouble spots.

2. Prepare the guest bath, completing one final wipe-down of the countertops and setting out fresh hand towels.

3. Cook the remaining party food and set up the drink center, including cups, ingredients and supplies.

On the day of a party, I spend most of my time preparing the food and putting the finishing touches on the decor. However, I also leave time for touch-ups of the cleaning variety, such as preparing the powder room and clearing leaves from the front porch and sidewalk. As party time quickly approaches, you’ll be thankful for the hard work you’ve done ahead of time! In other words, if possible, don’t leave everything for the day of the party. [image above from Le Partie Sugar, image below from Alex Amend Photography]

Crisp and clean designer bathroom
Crisp and clean designer bathroom

30 Minutes Before Guests Arrive

Marble and wood cheese platter from Crate & Barrel
Marble and wood cheese platter from Crate & Barrel

1. Set out appetizers and begin reheating any food that you will offer guests upon arrival.

2. Begin playing your party music to set a festive tone.

3. Strategically switch on/dim the lighting, fill the ice bucket and pat yourself on the back!

It’s almost showtime, folks! No matter how much I plan in advance, I always seem to be running around at the last minute. Didn’t get as much done as you thought you would? Don’t panic–embrace the flurry of pre-party activity. In other words, roll with it! [images above and below from Crate & Barrel]

Party drinks and an ice bucket
Party drinks and an ice bucket

On Being a Good Host…

The best party hosts don’t let their guests see them get flustered! There’s nothing like arriving at a party, only to be greeted by a host who is running from place to place in a panic. Being a great host doesn’t mean having everything done before guests arrive. It’s okay if you’re still finishing up. But don’t forget to smile and welcome each person who walks through the door. [from Crate & Barrel]

Sparkling wine glasses from Crate & Barrel
Sparkling wine glasses from Crate & Barrel

Not to mention, try to hold off on the bulk of the cleaning duties until after guests leave. If you’re at the sink doing the dishes while your guests are still finishing dessert , they may feel rushed. If you have to wash dishes to carve out additional space for party food, that’s one thing. But stepping away from the action for too long can send your guests mixed signals. [from Redbook]

Party cleanup etiquette
Party cleanup etiquette

Finally, don’t forget to have fun–you’ve earned it!

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