Write down whom you want to invite
and take a count. This determines everything from cost to venue to
Where will you have it?
Your home? A romantic outdoor
patio restaurant? A restaurant with a fireplace and strolling violinist?
The rec room at your apartment complex? If you're going to rent, call
ahead and find out how many people they can accommodate, if the place is
available that day, how much it will cost, what's included in the rental fee,
and what other services are available. If you're renting a place, go there
and talk to the catering decorator, walk around and take a tour. Questions
will occur to you that might not otherwise:
Can you bring your own food and
What about decorating?
Are there separate fees for room
rental, security, maintenance, waiters, insurance, etc.?
How's the parking and public
transportation. This can make a big difference in your guests desire
to come, for instance on a rainy night.
What's the theme?
Well, Valentine's, but romantic?
Light-hearted? Formal? Casual? Choose your theme and then plan your
tableware, decorations, invitations, party favors, music.
Schedule of Party
Plan a time for mingling, with
drinks and hors d'oeuvres before a dinner - that's how people "warm
If you're having honorary
speeches or some such (20 minutes is plenty of time to allot for this),
allow time afterwards, because the conversation will be primed
Provide background music
according to the tone of your event - rock band, romantic piano, harp, etc.
Now coordinate what you've decided
on so far: time, place, theme and cost. Here are some adjustments you can
· Hard liquor, mixed drinks are expensive. If you're having lots of
people, switch to beer and wine, or make an alcoholic punch.
· To cut costs, try something
thematic like a bottle of Valentine wine, that is, from the Valentine
Vineyards, in Southern Mendocino County - The labels on the bottle are
cool for a Valentine's Party!
You can buy party trays at Sam's or
at Local Fancy Catering Boutique or you make them. Making them is probably
going to cost more than Sam's, but it has it's virtues,
Caterers can be very pricey, but then there's no work for you to do.
Ordering a decorated cake is a good
way to handle dessert for a crowd. It brings everyone around, is festive,
and easy to manage.
Music can be live (more expensive)
or your radio or CDs (no cost).
Will you want a maid? The day
before to clean? The day of the party to serve and clean up? Both?
(Be sure and check out her uniform. You could provide a cute Valentine's
apron for her.)
Need a bartender? Also check
on his uniform. You don't want any surprises.
Arrange for photography - stills,
candids, videos, a professional photographer?
Decorations - floral arrangements
are the most expensive, but they can sure dress up a table.
You can go to a party store and look
around according to your theme, if you're going with paper goods.
If you have your own china, crystal,
etc. start polishing them up.
If you want to purchase permanent
tableware, visit a store like Tuesday Morning and see what they have.
(Tip: Shop right after holidays, buy things on sale, and be ready for the
Elegant Doesn't Have to be More
People instinctively cut back when
the goods are pricey, i.e., f you serve Beluga Prime from Caviarteria in New
York (price $750/lb.), your guests won't be expecting to make a meal of it, and
who can eat more than a dab of caviar anyway? If you're providing Krug
Clos du Menil from Sherry-Lehmann in New York ($1,400 a case), no one's going to
be chugalugging it. Tell them it's Kobe beef (up to $500/lb.) and they'll
be too horrified to ask for seconds. Make Julia's Child classic chocolate cake,
all of 1" high, and one small sliver suffices even the piggiest eater.
It's richer even than a Starbuck's brownie. These things titillate your senses
other than raw hunger and so are very satisfying in another sort of way.
Have a classic piano in the background, and people naturally move into refined
However, if you've got bins of queso
dip and tortilla chips, everyone will have that no-holds-barred approach to the
buffet table. If JC and the Sunshine Bang are cranking it out, well all
impulses are on "go"!
Brunches are Quite Economical!
Call those pancakes crepes - no,
really, it's a separate recipe and divine, serve a light fruit punch or Bloody
Mary's, some bacon and sausage, a light salad . won't cost much at all. I
recommend Julia Child's crepe recipe, and definitely the flaming orange crepes.
They nearly put your tongue to sleep, and again, these things are so
"rich," no one wants more than a taste. A little trick thrifty
Live entertainment adds a really
special note to a home party. Local talent is probably available that
isn't expensive. Check with universities, colleges, high schools, and
churches - the choral directors, the music or dance department. Check the
yellow pages. There may be several children's dance groups, and they are
always charming, because children can do no wrong, entertainment wise.
Check the ballet and tap schools and see if you have a boys' choir.
Make decisions and book it.
Also get a babysitter for the kids - or send them all over to your sister's with
a sitter over there. Book your hair and nails. Send out the
invitations. (Want to do something cute online? Try here: www.evite.com
. Put all your "details" in a notebook. Start cleaning, cooking
ahead, getting glasses out, freezing, and cleaning the farther corners of the
The Little Touches
Now have some fun. Look on the
Internet for things like Valentine's candles and Valentine's soap for your guest
room, and a Valentine's wreath for your door, and maybe a heart-shaped doormat.
These are little touches you CAN add, not things you MUST have.
If it's in your home, always have
something hot to serve that's in the oven as the guests arrive and smells
Tip: Always use candlelight if
you can. It hides a multitude of "sins," i.e., dust bunnies and carpet
stains, and sets a gentle ambience.
If you want a good turnout, do your
PR work. Talk up the party with friends as you see them, or give them a
call to see if they got their invitation. Drop a hint about the Clos du
Menil, or the Big Band.
That should get you started.