This week, we begin our month-long series on entertaining.
The first step in entertaining is answering these three questions: Who? What? When?
Who do you want to invite? What kind of party will it be? When will it be? Obviously, these are related. A January barbecue is a bad idea if you live in Maine (though an indoor beach party would be a hoot). A formal sit-down dinner for thirty may be overly ambitious.
I generally start my party planning concentrating on my friends. Who do I want to invite? Do I want to invite a small group for more serious conversation or a larger group so folks can mingle and chat? I usually make a list of the people I plan to invite so I make sure I have a good balance. I like to make sure that everyone at the party knows one other person there or has something in common with someone else. The more cross-ties, the better. For example, two people may be from the same place or have attended the same school or have a similar hobby or be fans of the same team. That way, people will have something to start their conversations.
But before I can send out invitations (by mail, email, or phone), I have to decide what and when. For anything other than small dinner parties or happy hours, it may be best avoid weeknights. It’s hard to get on people’s schedules, plus preparation time is limited. And if everyone is having a great time, they’ll still have to get up early for work the next day! The type of event may also dictate the timing. A brunch will start late morning and go to early afternoon. A tea party is midafternoon. A cocktail party or happy hour will start in the early evening. On the other hand, a barbecue can be in the afternoon or evening.
The type of event will also depend on your budget. A simple soup and salad lunch party or a tea with finger sandwiches and cookies are fairly inexpensive choices. Hosting a potluck or a progressive dinner among friends keeps costs down as well. A cocktail party or dinner buffet can be expensive, depending on what you serve. Know your possibilities and limits and work within them.
Now that you know who, what, and when, it’s time to invite!
In our next installment, we’ll look at theme and menu.