8 tips for party planning + prep

My mom is an entertainer to the core. Her love language is gift giving and I’m pretty sure her favorite gifts to give are good food and a good time…maybe a good cocktail too. She has turned her party throwing into an art, optimizing every part of our house to best serve the crowd and prepping for days in advance to make sure she’s not too overwhelmed the day of. So I’ve been learning from the best for years and I thought I’d share what I’ve seen + learned.

tips for party planning + prep

PlaN food that can be prepped ahead

This is crucial. Make sure that 90% of your menu can be prepped in advance. Cut cheese, lemons + limes, veggies. Slice bread. Make dips and sauces.



This way, there’s no mad dash to find something and if someone is helping, they know exactly where to look. Plus it keeps party stuff out of your pantry where it might get eaten.



Set your table in advance so you know exactly which pieces you’re using for each dish. Label each so that helpers can easily identify what goes where. Don’t forget forks, spoons, or tongs!


Consider guests when choosing Drinks + Food

Is the crowd mostly beer drinker? Wine? Cocktail? If the party is thrown for someone in particular, make sure you have their favorites. Do you have food for vegetarians? Bonus points for gluten free crackers.


Be mindful of traffic flow

Remove chairs from around serving tables + put them where people can sit out of the way. Make sure the bar is somewhere that people can find, but far enough away that it doesn’t stop traffic.


Set tables in advance

Do as much as you can the day before or the morning of the party. Set up seating areas, tables, bar, coolers, etc. Put yourself in a position where the only thing left to do the afternoon of the party is put food on the tables + light candles.



No one is ever upset with a charcuterie board. The important part is adding extras for a full + balanced board. Try pickles, grapes, nuts, + olives.


GIVE Hosts/Helpers specific jobs

Before everyone shows up to the party, think about tasks you need done prior to + throughout. It’s nice to have bartenders so set shifts for people to tend the bar. Food will likely need to be restocked, dishes cleared, bar replenished. Give each person a task.

Menu for this party:

  • Chicken salad in phyllo cups - big hit because it’s easy to grab + eat

  • Charcuterie board, duh

  • Potstickers - cook in advance and reheat just before serving

  • Pork sliders - cut bread in advance + cook meat an hour or so before party

  • Veggie tray - everything can be prepped in advance

  • Pimento cheese + spinach dip - can be prepped a day or two in advance

  • Shrimp - another big hit

  • Orange blossoms + chocolate peppermint cookies

For this particular party, my mom had a few of us come the day before to get prepped because she wouldn’t have as much help the day of. Cheese was cut, beer was loaded into coolers, the porch + carport were swept, all the tables were placed - it was the most prepared she’s ever been. The morning of, the table cloths + candles were placed, flowers and other decor was added, and the bar was fully set except for ice + glasses. We started about 5pm (for a 6:30 party) with the food prep including cooking + slicing the pork, building the cheese board, scooping chicken salad into cups, etc. Potstickers were put into casserole dishes with plastic wrap so they could be warmed in the microwave and served throughout the party. During this time, it’s nice to have someone washing dishes so that they can be put away before guests arrive. Mom has an extra sink + refrigerator in her laundry room which makes it perfect to be a staging section, but a pantry or anywhere out of sight works for food refills + extras too. The last step is always picking up around the kitchen + lighting all the candles….and making yourself a cocktail. That’s when you really know you’re done!