Posted on Apr 04, 2019
By Danah Shuli
Party planning has become one of my all-time favorite pastimes over the past few years. I’ve helped plan a number of my friends’ baby showers, my husband’s graduation, my own baby shower and now my daughter’s birthdays. Come Ramadan, many of us may host iftaar parties or events. Although it is a lot of work, the feeling of satisfaction I get when I see everyone enjoying themselves makes the hard work all worthwhile!
Sometimes we want to entertain, but what stops us is all the details that go into planning a good party, no matter how big or small. But, it doesn’t have to be daunting! I’m here to share some of my tips on how to help make it a smooth and seamless process. There are so many details to consider that we could really get into the weeds when it comes to party planning. But I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’m sharing general tips here to get you started, no matter what kind of function you have in mind. So, grab your pen and paper (or computer or phone!), and let’s start planning your next party!
Figuring Out Your Budget
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. Everything you do from here on out will revolve around the budget you set for your party. It’s important to always set a budget and try your best to stick to it! Granted, sometimes you may go a little above or even below, so it’s also a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room.
A good way to decide how much money you’d like to spend on an event is by categorizing things like number of guests you want – or “have” ;) – to invite, food, decor, venue and must-haves (whatever the party planner feels is important to them, like favors or special desserts, music or maybe a photography backdrop) and then setting a monetary amount for how much you feel comfortable spending on each category. This will help you come up with an estimated budget.
Organize Your Plans in a Google Doc
I love google docs because they allow me to share my ideas with others and have them add their input in real time. This is really helpful when you’re trying to plan a party, not only because it keeps your organized but also because you may be co-hosting with others at times. Sharing your google doc will make everyone feel involved in the party planning and allows you to delegate and/or share responsibilities and tasks effectively. Here are some things you’ll want to have in your planning doc:
- Title of the party: birthday/baby shower/bridal shower, etc.
- Theme (if it is to be a themed event)
- Party details like date, time and location
- Guest list
- Dessert (this includes everything that will be displayed on the dessert table)
- Special outfit, for example first birthday outfit, maternity dress or bridal shower dress
Take Yourself to Pinterest!
Pinterest is a party planners’ best friend! It is loaded with ideas on every possible item you listed in your google doc. Not sure what theme to go for? Pinterest. Want some new ideas on what to serve for food and dessert? Pinterest. Stuck on decor or favor ideas? Pinterest!
Similar to a google doc, I always start by creating a board. (You can make it a “secret board” if you’re planning a surprise or don’t want others to see what you’re up to.) Boards allow you to save all of your favorite “pins” and ideas. You can also invite others to pin on your board, which is perfect when planning a party with a group of people.
Don't Forget the Decor
This is my absolute favourite part of planning a party. Whether it’s home or party decor, I find joy in using my imagination to dress up any given space. One popular trend right now is to have a main dessert/cake table that features a backdrop and most of your decor and dessert items along with party favors (if you plan to have them). Get creative and think outside the box with how you want your back drop to look. It will be the focal point of the room and where most of the pictures will be taken, unless you plan to have a photo booth or other backdrop for photos. So, you want to make sure it is up to par.
When I think about what I want to do for decor, I try to come up with things that can be reused in the future for other parties or in my home. For example, for my daughter’s first birthday, I made a backdrop that featured a faux boxwood greenery wall. I later used the greenery in her room behind her teepee to create an “outdoorsy” feel to her reading corner. Some party items you can store to reuse and repurpose for future events.
Even if you're planning a simple dinner family, an iftaar or potluck with friends, adding some vases of fresh flowers or coordinating your table linens and dishes can help bring a simple yet elegant touch to your home's decor. It's all about elevating the space - making it feel special then regular, everyday use!
Don't forget to think about flow when planning out your decor - where will you be placing food and dessert tables, chairs, decor and such to help your guests flow from one area to another? Will there be separate eating areas for adults and children? For example, if it's an iftaar event - how can you maximize flow and accompanying decor to help facilitate a quick turnaround between iftaar, prayers, dinner and tarawih time?
Creating the Perfect Menu
Food is an integral part of any get together. If your guests take away one thing from your party, it’s going to be how amazing the food was. So, it’s important to spend a little extra time and thought into what you plan to serve. Some parties begin by a host’s desire to serve a certain cuisine! It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to leave your guests impressed. I do recommend checking with your guests first to ask about any potential food allergies they may have. It’s also a good rule of thumb to offer at least one vegetarian option in your menu.
I usually start by looking over the guest list to determine the types of foods I’d like to serve. For a kid-focused party, I’ve found that ordering pizzas along with serving salad, a vegetable tray or vegetable cups and fruit work very well. Clean, easy and delicious! For a healthier option, you can swap the pizza for a “make your own” cold cut sandwich bar. Assemble the cold cut meats, vegetables (like sliced tomatoes and lettuce), cheeses and condiments all on separate trays and have your guests build their own sandwich.
For a more sophisticated party with adult guests, the type of food you serve will depend on the setting and atmosphere of the party. Is it an intimate get together or a big function? Is it an event earlier in the day, where brunch foods might be appropriate, or an evening party where you’d like to have main courses? For example, if you’re planning a surprise bridal shower for one of your close friends and only have a handful of guests attending, consider hosting the party at a cute brunch spot in town. Most places will allow you to bring decor items and a cake or other small desserts you may want to include. Some may even have a special room or back seating area for you to host your party.
For a bigger type of event, you may want to look into catering food or having other guests help you with making homemade dishes depending on your budget and how many people are helping you plan the party. When I’m feeling stuck on what to prepare for the menu, I always go to Pinterest. It’s a great resource for menu inspiration and food presentation. The decision on whether to cook or cater is a personal dependent upon what you want, your budget and the time you have to prepare. Both are viable options, and you can choose to part-cook and part-cater as well.
Finally, have fun with it! Remember that your guests are there to celebrate with you, and no one will pay attention to the small details that didn’t go as planned. No one knows what the party was supposed to look like except for you, so whatever the end product, it will be beautiful! Your guests will love your party no matter what, and it’s important for you to take a step back and enjoy all the hard work you put into planning your big day!
Danah is wife to Kareem and mama to their daughter Kinzah (aka Kiki). She was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and loves all things food, fashion, photography and home decor. After having Kinzah, she created her blog, Mother of Pearl, where she shares a glimpse into her life as she navigates motherhood and hopes to build a safe space for other mamas to connect. You can follow her on Instagram.