Step 1: The Occasion and Type of Event
Are you planning an event for a specific occasion, such as a birthday or house-warming? Perhaps you are hosting a small wedding luncheon or a business dinner or simply having some close friends over for a dinner party. Once the purpose of the gathering has been determined, the type of event is easily decided upon: a birthday party, an afternoon tea, a dinner or cocktail party, etc. With the determination of these two factors, the remaining areas of concern follow effortlessly.
Step 2: The Venue
What type of venue does the occasion warrant? Is it a formal affair that requires a ballroom or special location? Is it an event you would prefer to host in your home? Do you require a dance floor or an outdoor tent? If you decide to have the event in your home, consider whether or not you have enough space and a sufficient number of chairs and place settings.
Step 3: The Guests
Now that the purpose for the gathering and the venue have been determined, the guest list is the next step. For most occasions, the guests are logically those individuals whom you would like to have present or whose presence is requisite. Your guests could consist of friends, family, business associates, new acquaintances, etc., in any combination. Take into account the number of guests that your venue can accommodate and limit the guest list as necessary. Once the guest list has been decided upon and written down, it is time send out invitations.
Invitations should always contain the following information:
- Who: The name of the host and/or hostess
- What: The type of event, i.e. wedding luncheon, in honor of _____ (guest(s) of honor)
- When: The time that guests are expected to arrive, and possibly the full duration of the event, particularly if it occurs mid-day or involves children.
- Where: The name and location of the venue (“Our Home: 123 Main Street”).
- Details: Additional notes such as “formal attire” or “Your presence is the best gift, and the only one we desire”.
- RSVP: Contact information and the date by which the guests should respond.
Invitations can be issued via email, phone call, or in the form of an actual paper invitation, as is appropriate to the event; it is a good idea to follow any verbal invitation with one that is written. Issue the invitations early enough to allow your guests sufficient time to include your event in their schedules and to RSVP. In the invitation be sure to communicate the occasion for the gathering and any other pertinent information such as the level of formality.
Step 4: The Menu
Planning a menu may seem the most daunting step in the process, however, the occasion and the type of event being planned are a natural guide. A formal occasion is best served with a formal menu consisting of numerous courses, possibly beginning with a cocktail hour. A small casual gathering requires no more than simple fare. When planning the menu take several things into consideration:
- The level of formality and the number of courses
- The number of guests
- Your budget
- Any special dietary needs.
Once these issues have been addressed, plan your menu with an eye toward balance. You should include both hot and cold foods, if possible. Hors d’œuvres may be savory, sweet, or both. Courses should follow a natural progression, such as:
Appetizer Appetizer Soup Soup Fish Fish Meat Meat Meat Salad Salad Salad Dessert Dessert Dessert
~ Commonsense Etiquette by Marjabelle Young Stewart with Elizabeth Lawrence
Another important consideration in menu planning is the amount of kitchen and appliance space available to you. If you have only one oven, serving multiple items at the same time that need to be baked at different temperatures may not be feasible. If you have an extensive cold menu planned, be sure to clean out your refrigerator to create the necessary space. If you are going to prepare all the food yourself, you will need to plan carefully in order to have sufficient time to prepare the food, the venue, and yourself for the event; I would advise preparing as many items as possible early so you are not scrambling at the last moment and can relax and enjoying your role as host or hostess.