The scenario: 17 Party Guests – 2 Days Notice
My husband and I are kind of known for throwing parties on short notice. That’s not our norm, but I suspect those types of parties happen at our house a little more often than we realize. Truth be told, we might like the short notice party a smidge more than the ones planned well in advance, because – well – because we haven’t had to do all that advance planning.
Earlier this month we managed to pull off a birthday dinner party for 17 people in barely two days time – idea conceived on Wednesday, invites emailed on Thursday, guests rang the doorbell on Friday. The birthday boy was in town for a few days, so throwing a party in his honor was either that Friday or not until next year.
Since we believe in seizing the day, I got busy orchestrating one of my favorite party themes: a kinda-sorta-Mexican fiesta inspired get-together. We would dine al fresco with a backdrop of fairy lights and sip homemade margaritas and white wine sangria. We’d dine on soft tacos, grilled salmon and a couple of salads, including my signature spinach and arugula salad with feta, watermelon and habaneros that’s dressed with a scallion vinaigrette. We’d cap the feast with a towering, boozy crepe cake. And, of course, there would be party poms hung from the trees. Because poms and parties go together like freshly made salsa and chips – a happy pairing.
With my serape-striped tablecloths and some nicely matching Make It Mine Parties cutlery and napkins (pistachio, bright blue, hot pink and orange), coordinating candles, Patrón bottles emptied long ago and re-purposed into vases, and a menu I can nearly put together in my sleep, this birthday celebration was as close to being a cinch that an impromptu gathering of that sort could be.
Having thrown more than a few short notice parties in my time, they’ve taught me a few things:
- Keep the preparations simple.
- Keep my cupboards stocked with certain essentials.
- Keep the big picture in mind and don’t let annoying little snafus derail the fun of a having party.
This last one is perhaps my most important learn via the proverbial burn: what always matters most is not a perfectly dressed buffet table but being able to spend quality time with the quality people invited to the gathering.
I won’t fib and say that everything went perfectly – no hitches, glitches or a lightly “glistening” brow. I was, I admit, running late on the day and had to enlist help from early arrivers to shred the chicken for the tacos while I dashed into the shower. This was yet another reminder to a) don’t sweat the small stuff, and b) guests don’t mind a bit pitching in to help with the last minute prep.
In the end, though, the party was everything we wanted it to be: a casual, comfortable affair with close friends. After dinner one of our friends picked up his guitar and treated us to some acoustic music under the stars. Everyone loved that, including the guest of honor.
With that I’ll raise my glass of OJ (unadulterated, thank you, it’s a Tuesday AM) to that kind of magical icing on the party cake, the kind that happens all on its own when a party is allowed to travel off the map of a to-do list and the script of expectations.
Some tips for my fellow tip junkies:
- Have a couple of favorite party themes that are your standbys. Who cares if you trot them out every year at least once! Put your stamp on them, and they will never fail to be interesting.
- Stockpile some of the supplies you need to make the above happen – table linens, candles, cutlery, serving trays, glasses, a few decorative items like vases, water jugs etc. Example: my serape stripe tablecloths and Patrón bottles. Plus, I always keep party poms in my party supply stash.
- Keep a short list of recipes that you know how to do and have been successful for you in the past – appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and cocktails/mocktails. Short notice is not an ideal time for road-testing new recipes, at least for most of us. Stick with what you know, fits the theme, and doesn’t require exotic or hard-to-find ingredients.
- Make sure there are always some basics in the pantry that help you with the above. For example, I always keep tins of tomatoes and corn, and some good vinegars and oil on hand. Being able to snip fresh herbs from my garden helps, too.
Have a party tip of your own you’d like to add? Please do! Comments are open…
Hasta luego -