Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ask the Experts #1

(don't know what's going on over the next two weeks?  Read the intro here, and join the party here!

I don't know about you, but I could definitely use some help when it comes to party planning.  My parties are never anything big and elaborate, and even though I actually like keeping them small and intimate, a little advice from those who know better than I never hurts!  Therefore, I've asked some of my blog buds to help me out.  I asked each of them:
What tips, tricks and advice do have for making your parties successful and (potentially) less stressful?
And now I'm going to share their answers with YOU!  You better pay attention too, because these guys are good.  

Periodically throughout the next two weeks I'll share a post with party advice from three different "experts" along with my introduction and any notes or thoughts I've got (which you'll find in italics)- not that those are super important but it IS my blog after all and you know I've got to put my two cents in...  (on a side note, in every response I got to my inquiry, the very first thing every one of these bloggers said was 'I'm no expert, but...' which means they are either a) lying, b) very modest, or c) actually not experts, but I think they are.  Just wanted to clarify)  


Today I am pleased to introduce you to Jessica Sykes, Ashley Sisk and Athena!

Jessica blogs over on Two Shades of Pink.  She's kind of a regular here on bugaboo, mini, mr & me.  She is my go to source for DIY parties.  She's creative, frugal and detail-oriented.  Her style is pretty, somewhat vintage, and delicate.  If you check out her blog, you'll stay for hours.  Guaranteed.  

(My favorite party from Jessica's blog.  It's a Picnic birthday party for her two girls!  Everything is DIY, and adorable AND she shares all the tutorials.)

I love, love, love planning parties.  But one thing I have learned is that what is in my head is never what is executed.  So a few things I have learned over the years have helped me immensely in making party planning easier.
1.  DIY and use what you have or what you can get on the cheap. I find that DIY parties are less expensive if you do it right! For example:  for a table centerpiece I've used a row of metal cans (crushed tomatoes), painted them and used baby's breath and greenery.  Simple and so pretty.
2.  A thoughtful touch is to always individually wrap utensils.  Just tie them together with pretty ribbon.  It makes such a difference!
3.  Create a checklist as soon as you send invites out to keep you on track. Menu, names, emails and numbers of people who want to help, Favors, Decorations, Activities, etc.  And under each category, list what still needs to be purchased or borrowed.  I like to put stores next to each item where I know I can pick it up so if I can pick a few from each category at the same store, I already have it on my list. And a schedule of events. Don't make it too rigid but at least know when food will be served, activities, gifts, etc will happen.  It will run much smoother with even a rough schedule.
4.  I am an old fashioned girl and love paper invitations.  But our world is changing so fast with technology that it is hard not to use a great resource like evite or punchbowl.  But you can use both: use a paper invitation but then send a reminder email to all invitees about an RSVP.  That way your guests can respond immediately if the pretty invitation got stuck under a pile of junk mail.
5.  Buy your food and make it LOOK homemade.  You can buy a veggie platter but make a homemade dip. Buy a fruit platter but put them on skewers.   Artful presentation is everything!
6.  Individual servings make all things cute. I have been doing this for awhile (and it makes me sad that pinterest makes me feel less original (boo)) but think ice cream in mason jars, french toast sticks in cups of syrup, yogurt parfaits, mini kabobs, fruit on a stick.  And you can make a "bar" out of anything.  Popcorn bar, pancake bar, sundae bar, cupcake bar, pizza bar.  You name can make a "build your own" bar out of it.  It makes a party super fun.
7. Make your printer your BFF.  There are so many free or inexpensive printables out there and you can sometimes find free complete party kits like cupcake wrappers, cupcake picks, labels, etc. It makes a party look custom and thoughtfully planned.  
8.  A DIY photobooth is so trendy right now but so EASY.  Just a sheet or tablecloth backdrop and a digital camera and some fun props.  Perfect for any party and you can always designate someone as your photographer.
9.  Set a budget, shop your house, and borrow as much as possible!  Oh, Jane has a beverage dispenser!  Mike has a tripod! Aunt Bea has those serving dishes that would be perfect!  You get the idea. ;)
10.  KIDS! I have thrown several kid's parties and here are some of my themes where every activity centered around the theme...Ice Cream Social (build your own sundae), a Bake & Make Party (decorated their own personalized aprons, decorated sugar cookies, and made candy jewelry), Picnic Party (Pack your own picnic basket), A Fairy and Pirate Party (scavenger hunt for fairy houses that had treasures in them).

(Favors from the Fairy and Pirate Party)
(What did I tell you?  Amazing, right?  I love it all, but I really love number 5.  I mean, duh, right?  How often do I stress over making all my food and then trying to get it all done and set up and looking perfect?  I probably spend as much money on all the ingredients to do everything myself as I would just buying a tray of sandwiches and then inserting my own cute sandwich picks and setting them out on an adorable tray. This is why I need Jessica - so she can open my eyes to the easy, cute and DOABLE.  She JUST posted ideas from a baby shower too!)

Next up, Ashley Sisk.  Ashley has one of the prettiest and most fun photography blog around, Ramblings and Photos.  I've been following her for almost as long as I've been blogging, and I love to join in her Scavenger Hunt Sundays.  She also keeps a running list with many other photo challenges you can join in on.  It was definitely her blog that made my own photography better, so you should probably thank her since you are no longer subjected to the horrid photos you see in my earliest posts.

(There's a lot of eye candy on Ramblings and Photos.  I just picked a few of my recent favorites!)
The only experience I have is planning my wedding a few years ago. At the time, I found that building a spreadsheet to keep up with all the details was really useful. I could track guests, addresses and gifts received in a neat and organized fashion. The other advice I can offer is to recognize your own limitations and outsource the rest. I've watched other people try their best to do it all and they get extremely overwhelmed. If you have the resources, hire someone to prepare food or ask a friend/family member to help. Very few people will offer help unless they've asked, so just ask. 

(Another vote for keeping a spreadsheet!  I'm definitely doing that next time.  Also, what a good reminder to just ask when we need something... no one can do it all!)

And finally, Athena.  Athena blogs at The Stuff of Success and has great posts about everything from cute everyday life moments, to craft with kids, to clever solutions and ideas.  You'll see what I mean below.

I would by no means consider myself a party planner.  But here are some things that I have done:

I've done party favors with toilet paper tubes.
I make paper flower centerpieces or paper hats with the paper flowers attached to them.
When I would have parties for little girls I would make a bunch of tulle tutus - nice and easy and relatively quick.  Use them as a theme for a princess party!
I often make these for spill proof drinking and allow the children to each bring their own home.
Pipe Cleaner Lollipops - used as centerpieces or just to entertain the kids. 

(I can't believe those are TP tubes!  They'd be cute party favors for ANY party - not just for kids. Or even just gift wrap!  The flowers don't require any glue or anything!  That's super exciting, what could be easier?  I've seen a lot of "Sweet Shop" themed kids' parties lately and wouldn't this make a cute decoration or even craft for the kids to do and then take home?)

Hope you've picked up some inspiration and ideas for your next soiree! 

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!


Two Shades of Pink said...

Kimberly...I am so excited to contribute to your fun series and all of these tips today are great ones. I love easy DIY's and thoughtful organization. Can't wait to see more!

Creative Raisins said...

All such great tips and very creative ideas and parties

Athena said...

Kimberly - thank you for the Feature - and I can't wait to see the rest of the series. Athena

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