And the festivities continue.  Having just celebrated my Mother Jan’s birthday, the Anniversary of Prohibition, and my birthday last week, it was time for yet another party this past weekend.  This one however was not at the Berghoff Bar with 150 of our closest friends and family.  Instead it was much more intimate, in my own home, and celebrating my middle daughter Sarah’s Confirmation.  Sarah has been diligently working towards this day for well over a year now and so a party afterwards was in order! Putting on events and catering parties is obviously my specialty, but it is usually in a much larger venue, with catered food, and a staff that helps plan, set up, and serve.  This time it was just me doing all the work and so I was reminded just how easy throwing a party can be…it’s all about the planning.

Since I live my life off of checklists, I find it easiest to do the same when preparing for a party in your own home.  Planning and preparing for your party in advance makes it able for you to actually enjoy the party and your guests.

Plan the Menu: Besides the obvious reason we are celebrating, parties revolve around the food.  Therefore at the top of your list and about two to three weeks out, should be planning the menu.  If you are cooking yourself, then you should always test your recipes beforehand.  The less prep work while the party is going on the better, therefore anything that you can make in advance and keep in the fridge or even freeze are great.   Sarah chose salmon for the main dish and so I decided I would make Tequila Marinade Plank Grilled Salmon with Tequila Sauce.  The prep for this dish can be done in advance and the sauce goes great with other sides such as grilled vegetables and a shrimp appetizer.

The last part to planning the menu is deciding whether it will be served family style or as a buffet.  For more than 8 guests, I recommend having a buffet.  Buffets can be served hot or cold and take the worry out of timing.  When choosing a buffet, you need to assess the traffic flow in your home.  The space where the most amount of time is spent should be the widest open.  The buffet should then flow in one direction and make it easy for people to get to their seats.

Set-Up: I love this step simply because it gives me an opportunity to go through my cabinets and dig through all my “stuff”.  I am then able to see what I haven’t used in awhile and hopefully get some inspirations.

The day before, I set up my tables with linens, different decorations (depending on the time of the year and purpose of the party), candles, flowers (luckily it was my birthday and we had no shortage of these around the house), cloth napkins, silverware, and a lot of glasses.  I then decide what dishware I will use.  For Sarah’s Confirmation I went with my Grandmother Carlyn’s china because it is classic and Confirmation is traditional.  I then clean the china, polish the silver, and label everything.  Besides checklists, post-it notes are my other must have in life, thus I label all my china and serving pieces with post-its.

Cook and Enjoy: Hopefully your menu has left you little to actually cook the day of the party.  Prepare your food (using your labeled dishes) and set up your buffet.  Enjoy your party and don’t forget to take pictures and save your menu for future party planning inspirations.