Before I began event planning, I was working in the restaurant business and had lots of jobs as I was part owner. People hosting parties generally had little or no idea of what they were doing, and they relied on me and my staff for things that were really beyond our scope—seating plans or floral designs, for example. Gee, I thought, someone should really have a business where they specialize in creating these events properly. Of course there were people already doing that, but I didn’t really know that—or I just chose to ignore it.

* Do something unusual for a small party. Hire a tarot reader, a magician (who pretends to be another guest) or a mixologist. It’s a small investment that’s worth it!
* In the winter, have someone else (a spouse, a child, a friend) be in charge of taking coats—and make sure you have enough hangers.
* Lay out and label your serving pieces so you know what you’re planning to use for each dish.
* Buy what you think is way too much ice—you can almost never have enough (and it’s pretty cheap).

What people want from a party is to be taken care of and made to feel welcome, but at the same time not be overwhelmed with pretentiously stuffy service or forced to be more social than they want to be. It’s a tricky sort of alchemy that makes a party—whether it’s a wedding or a book launch or a birthday celebration—really, really special and memorable. It takes a lot of forethought and a lot of experience to nail it.

Truthfully, the most memorable event is usually the last one that we worked on—at this point in my career, we get to work on some pretty amazing parties. We recently created a wedding for Samantha Bryant and Colin Hanks in Los Angeles, which (if I modestly say so myself) was really fabulous. Every member of the team we put together, from the hotel staff to our furniture rental company, was at the top of their game. And the bride was a friend, so I had a sense of what sort of wedding she had in mind from the get-go. It was magical. Two weeks before that was a baby shower with a pea pod theme. It was absurdly cute (and believe me, I’m not usually one for “cute”). The client was one of our previous brides, so I got a huge kick out of it.

The best thing a host can do to ensure the success of a party is to walk it through from the guests’ point of view. Where is the parking? Where do I get my first drink? The troubleshooting can pay off.

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