The Ultimate Party Planning Checklist
Do you want to host a party, gather up all your family and friends and have a great time together?
Regardless of what you want to celebrate and whoever you want to invite, you want everything to run smoothly and the party to be a success.
At the same time, you don’t want to be trapped in the kitchen for ages, stressing over the tons of plates of food that you want to make.
I want to share with you now the secret for easy entertaining. It’s quite simple: plan everything ahead and cook meals you’re familiar with and that you’ve tested before.
Now is not the time to go experimenting with new dishes or complex recipes – this can lead to a lot of problems and unnecessary stress. Moreover, a simple and delicious menu will take some of the pressure out of your role as a host.
After all, you know the saying: happy host, happy guests.
Organisation is your best friend
Food has an essential role at any party so it’s only normal to have a clear plan of everything you want to prepare for your event.
From planning the menu to purchasing the ingredients and prepping them, to cooking the meals, to choosing the serving platters and setting up the table, I’ve got you covered.
We’ll go through the party checklist step by step:
❑ Plan the menu
I can’t stress this enough: if you’re going to throw a party, first and foremost plan your menu. And well in advance, don’t leave this as a last-minute task.
Stick to easy recipes that are quick to make and don’t require loads of ingredients or complicated preparation methods. Having a simple menu with only a few key dishes to serve is much better than struggling to prepare a dozen different dishes (which will later result in a ton of leftovers crowding your fridge).
Write down every part of your party menu: main dishes, side dishes, appetizers and desserts. Read the recipe for each of these dishes and get yourself familiarised with all the steps you’ll need to follow and how much time it will take. This way it’s easier for you to create a timeline for all the food you have to prepare.
Always think of it as a balance of what food can be done in the oven, what goes on the stove, what can be prepared the day before, and what things can be prepared and frozen ahead of time.
❑ It’s time to go shopping
Make sure that your shopping trips are done several days ahead of the party. And don’t leave home without your shopping list where you should have written down every ingredient you need to prepare the recipes from your menu.
Also, check that the staples you have in your pantry/ fridge are not running out. You’ll save yourself a rushed visit to the store on party day.
Key tip: when arriving home from the store, take the time to organise all the ingredients to save time when you start cooking. You can either group the ingredients together for each recipe or based on when you’ll use them.
❑ Create a To-Do list
Write down a list with all the tasks you have to complete for each recipe and exactly when you plan to do them. That list will serve as the timeline for your party and will help you keep all your food preparations on track.
Don’t forget to include also other elements like platters, table decorations, drinks and any other tasks you’ll have to take care of before the guests arrive at your house.
❑ Save time with the make & freeze method
There’s no better way to cross some tasks off from your to-do list than making some dishes in advance and freezing them. Freezing really helps preserve the food, so it tastes great on the day of the party.
You can prepare desserts, sauces, pie crusts and other items that freeze well a few days before the party. Store them in the freezer until the night or the day of your event. Then you can move them in the refrigerator to defrost or bake them on the day.
The Spicy Lamb Pastries below are a perfect party food. Freeze on a tray. Once frozen, transfer to a bag and bake on the day of your event.
❑ Prep all the ingredients in advance
I recommend prepping all the ingredients for the food you’re going to cook on the day of the party way ahead of time.
- Always wash veggies one day or two days before; you have to allow them to dry properly.
- Chop vegetables you need for your recipes and store them in the fridge.
- Mix the dry ingredients for recipes – this allows you to pour them directly into the bowl when you’re cooking.
❑ Choose the serving platters
Take out the serving platters and bowls you plan to use for your event. You should look for serving utensils for each item as well. Doing this before the day of the party will put your mind at ease – you’ll know for sure that you have all the necessary serving items.
Some meals can be put into the serving dishes ahead of time – such as dips, sauces or salads. You can cover the bowls with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator until you want to serve them.
❑ Put some time aside for reheating meals
You may need to reheat some of the food you prepared ahead of time for your party. Make sure to keep in mind the time you need and the methods you’ll use – stovetop, microwave or oven – so that you don’t leave your guests waiting.
Remember: the temperature of the food influences its flavour and safety. No one likes cold food (only if it’s meant to be served that way), especially at a party.
❑ Choose the best way to serve the food
I recommend you choose a serve-yourself setup – this allows you to take care of most of the tasks before the guests arrive and you’ll have to only replenish plates if needed.
Moreover, most guests love the freedom to choose what they want to eat from the table. You can choose this buffet type of serving when serving drinks and desserts as well. It makes it easier for you and, at the same time, more engaging for your guests.
❑ Keep everything as clean as you can
We all know that cooking involves making your kitchen messy – there is no other way to do it.
You’ll most likely use several different mixing bowls, measuring cups, spoons, and other utensils as you’re preparing the food. My tip for you is to wash them as you go and not let them pile up into some frightening tower of dishes that barely stands upright.
This way you keep your cooking battlefield clean and it’s easier to move around and organise all the ingredients you need for your recipes.
❑ You can also cheat a little
Who says that it’s not allowed to purchase some pre-made items as well for your party?
Moreover, if you have a favourite local grocer or bakery, you can go ahead and purchase one of their special pies or delicious Middle Eastern spreads to add to your party table.
The clock is ticking – it’s almost party time!
In my experience, it helps enormously if every detail for the event is calculated the day before. That saves you from those mini heart attacks that you might experience when you realise you forgot something. (We all had one at some point.)
What helps me when planning a party is this:
- I keep a list of platters I need for each dish.
- I buy the non-perishable ingredients a week ahead of the event.
- I buy the perishables two days ahead of the event.
- I always make sure to slowly fill my pantry and fridge with all the ingredients I will need in the days leading up to the event.
The day before should be exclusively spent prepping all those little things that will make the day of the dinner run smoothly. Even down to de-seeding a pomegranate, ready to use as a garnish.
On the day of your event, you won’t want to leave the house, trust me. It’ll all be about putting the final touches on all the dishes, arranging the table and, most importantly, enjoying the day.
Also, you have to keep in mind what you’re capable of doing on the day of the event – especially in the last hours leading up to your guests arriving – so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
May you have a beautiful and delicious party!
Don’t hesitate to let me know of any party tricks that you tried and that ended up saving your life when the party efforts were ongoing. ?