Planning parties is fun for some and overwhelming for others. While I happen to be one that loves it, I've had plenty of experiences where I've felt more overwhelm than enjoyment.
The truth is, there are so many ways to host a meaningful event. As an enthusiast for thoughtful celebrations, I've compiled a list of guidelines that I hope will help free us and keep our hearts in the right place when it comes to parties.
This list is far from exhaustive, so feel free to comment with anything you think should be added!
1. Know what's important to you.
Focusing on what matters to you is the surest way to decrease overwhelm and increase enjoyment in party planning. I love thoughtful details like paper invitations that arrive in the mail, themes that run through the decor and food, and creative party favors. You may enjoy serving the best food, having fun activities, playing great music, having a huge crowd, or keeping it small and intimate.
Doing what is natural and important to you will energize you. Trying to be someone else and plan the party you think you "should" plan will exhaust you. Don't do this to yourself. Embrace what is authentic to you, and people will feel the care you've invested and love it.
2. Know what's important to those you're celebrating.
If you're hosting a shower or party in honor of someone else, ask them what is most important to them. This will help you put your energy into the areas that really matter to the guest of honor.
Remember, just because something doesn't matter to you, doesn't mean it's not important to someone else. For instance, I have friends who don't have a preference on invitations, but they know I love paper invitations, so for my baby shower, they made sure there was a lovely invitation in the mail. Similarly, I had one friend who had no interest in opening gifts at her shower and another who did, so we planned each event accordingly.
As much as we may want to do everything, budgets and time often limit how much we can put into a party we're hosting, which is another reason knowing the specific things that matter most to your guest of honor will ensure they feel loved in all the right ways and that your time and budget are put to best use.
3. Remember you can't do it all and do it well.
At work, we have this saying, "We're a Ruth's Chris, not a Golden Corral." This simply means we focus on doing a few things well instead of doing everything subpar (if you're a Golden Corral fan, forgive the analogy).
The same goes for party planning. If you'll focus on doing a few things with excellence, you'll really be able to make an impact instead of spreading your efforts so thin that nothing is quite how you like it.
This is why its helpful to determine what matters most to you or to your guest of honor, list the priorities, and plan accordingly. If you have time for some extras, great, but if not, you'll ensure the most important things are covered and you won't feel like you're leaving something on the table.
4. Ask for help.
You don't have to impress anyone by doing everything by yourself. I have a friend who loves having people in her home and can make a dessert that will keep you coming back for more, but party details just aren't her thing. She knows I love them, so she invited me to help with her daughter's first birthday. She created a budget and let me give her some ideas and help execute them, and it turned out so sweet. I got to do something I love, and she was able to focus on the parts of the party that were natural and easy for her.
If you need help with food or cutting a cake or selecting decor, don't be afraid to ask people for help. Chances are, you'll give someone an opportunity they'll love or get to support a local business, and make it easier on yourself to boot!
5. Focus on the people.
It's so easy for me to get lost in themes, colors, details and all sorts of party planning fun, but at the end of the day, it's the people that matter. There is no greater compliment to me than for people to come into my home and feel warmth, enjoyment, and ease. Connecting people and creating an environment where they can enjoy themselves is the most rewarding feeling.
The details are simply a way to show people you care, and if you can keep this in mind, it will help your heart stay in the right place. There's nothing wrong with receiving a compliment on your perfectly crafted floral centerpiece, but remembering that the joy it brings your guests is the point (not the pat on your back) will make your celebration more meaningful and rich.
Whenever I find myself starting to get in a tizzy over little details, I try to pause, reflect on my guests, and think about what they will enjoy experiencing most. Almost every time that helps me slow down, refocus, and find joy again in planning.
I hope this list helps free you to more fully enjoy planning your next celebration. Also, if you have more tips to share, I'd love to hear them!