Even when you are someone who likes to entertain, and are actually pretty good at it, it still takes some doing. Planning ahead—and having a plan—is key! Below are some tips and a suggested timeline to help things go as smoothly as possible.
And, just a note about amounts. For the food recipes, as-is they should make enough for 8 to 10 guests. Any more, and I’d double up on the savory stuff. (You should be okay on sweets.)
Good luck, and have fun!
Party Planning Timeline
A week or so prior:
- Consider a few things and do a little inventory:
- Are you going to use real plates and napkins or paper?
- Do you have the glassware and serving plates you need? (I had to dig out and dust off my wine glasses. Luckily, I’m stocked up on serving plates.)
- Where is that one runner you want to use? Placemats??
- Are you going to want to do any shifting around of furniture to make room for guests?
- Do you want to have any food options that don’t require cooking? Cheese plate, nuts, etc. (These come in handy for guests to snack on with the first round of drinks before hot appetizers are served.)
Three days prior: Clean! You can do spot cleaning the morning of, but get the bulk of it out of the way sooner than later.
Two days prior:
- Do as much of your grocery shopping as possible.
- Make marshmallow treats in the morning, so you can get them sliced and dusted with powdered sugar once they set, about six hours later. (They hold up great if you just store them in a Ziplock.)
The day before:
- String up any decorations you plan to use.
- Make Mini Apple Crumble Pies. Wrap them up tightly with plastic.
- Make plum syrup for Plum-Ginger Sparklers.
- Slice up toppings, make garbanzo bean sauce, and prepare dough for Squash-Rosemary Flatbread (don’t cook it yet).
- Prep Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Mini Kabobs by getting everything threaded onto toothpicks. Refrigerate uncooked kabobs, covered.
The morning of:
- Prep the Chive Cocktail Potato Crisps—refrigerate uncooked potato slices on toothpicks, covered.
- Arrange serving plates, napkins, etc. on your table.
One to 2 hours prior:
- Put out marshmallows and mini apple pies.
- Set out bottles of wine if serving, with a corkscrew nearby. (Or just have a corkscrew handy for those who bring wine.)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Roll out flatbread dough.
- Prep a handful of glasses with the plum syrup so guests can add ice, ginger beer, and/or alcohol if you’re not available to serve each guest yourself. (If you’re really ambitious, you can create little recipe cards with amounts and set them by your drink station so guests who aren’t especially cocktail savvy know how to mix everything up.)
Fifteen to 30 minutes prior:
- Put in one batch each of the potato crisps and Brussels sprouts. Cook the flatbread toppings on the stove top at the same time—once they are done, reduce heat to low to keep them warm.
At the arrival time:
- Put the flatbread dough in the oven to cook. I always assume only a few people will show up right on time, and the rest will filter in within 30 to 60 minutes, so I don’t worry too much about having all the food ready right at the “start time.”
- When the dough is cooked, excuse yourself to assemble the toppings, then either put it in the oven to warm (170 to 200 degrees F) if many guests have yet to arrive, or slice it up and put it out.
Dare I say, you just might be ready to join the festivities! Enjoy yourself, and make good choices. (Like, seconds on dessert.) 😉