10 No-Fail Party Tips

Party-planning expert Lara Shriftman shares her secrets to success


Here are 10 tried-and-tested party tips from Celebrations.com Expert Lara Shriftman’s Party Confidential. Lara knows party planning isn’t always the walk in the park it sets out to be. Predicting the unpredictable makes throwing a party difficult at times, but these simple and easy to remember tips ensure your party will run without a hitch. From a diverse guest list to a smart planning budget, Lara has you covered for your next big bash. Whether it’s your first crack throwing a party, or you’re known by friends as the hostess with the most-est, this guide has words of wisdom to offer planners of all experience levels.


1. Over Invite

Let’s face it, people — even your best friend in the whole world — can flake. Maybe they've had a terrible week at work, a family crisis, or an unexpected guest; whatever the reason, no shows and last minute cancellations are bound to happen. Plus, people will come late and others will leave early, so when putting together your guest list use this rule of thumb: Invite five extra people for every 20.

2. On The List

The key to a great party is having an interesting mix of people. Think about it: Everyone wants to see old friends and meet new people. Expand your social circle by browsing your e-mail list and phone book, and ask your best friends and coworkers to invite friends and acquaintances.

3. Money Matters

Once you've decided to have a party and selected a theme and the number of guests, it’s time to set a budget! Decide what is most important to you. Is it crystal serving glasses? Blossoms to die for? Or insane invites? Be prepared for overage by reserving 10-15 percent of your budget for anything you might forget and/or those last-minute ideas that drive up the cost.

4. Where It's At

Pick a fabulous location that people will love, such as an old classic, a hot new trendy bar, or an amazing home that has people itching for a peek. For example, we threw our Juicy Couture pool party on the grounds of the Burndorf Estate, where scenes from Mommie Dearest were filmed, while for our Indian-themed party, the chance to see Brian and Gigi Grazer's gorgeous estate was enough to guarantee RSVPs.

5. Timing is Everything

We always like to give both a start and an end time to our parties; if you keep the night open-ended, people will trickle in all night long, whereas if the invite specifies 7:00-9:00 p.m., guests are more likely to arrive earlier and stay longer because everyone will be there around the same time. Avoid having a long time frame or you will offset the flow of guests. For example, with a four-hour party, you will have a fantastically crowded three plus hours, but if the party stretches from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., people will come and go all night long, leaving you with loads of downtime. 

6. Thirst Quenchers

Be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages for the designated drivers, mamas-to-be, and others who aren’t in the imbibing frame of mind. At the end of the evening, we like to serve flavored coffees, cappuccino, and espresso as our guests head out the door or wait at the valet. And don't forget to have ample amounts of bottled water at hand.

7. Greet Guests With a Cocktail

At Harrison & Shriftman events, we always station a number of servers at the entrance with a tray of drinks both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. Better yet, create a signature cocktail for the evening like we did for our classic cocktail party.

8. Go Mini!

Forget the buffet tables. There is nothing worse than balancing a plate of food, silverware, and a drink. Maximize comfort by passing bite-sized hors d'oeuvres like mini-hamburgers, sushi, and tiny sandwiches.

9. Salty 'n Sweet

A party is not the place to be diet conscious, so give your guests the chance to splurge. Offer a decadent balance of savory treats like coconut shrimp and French fries and sugar delicacies like cupcakes and candy. Now that’s finger-lickin' good.

10. Dress Rehearsal

Okay, you don't have to actually put on your party dress, but a week before the party, do a run-through so you have plenty of time to sort out any unexpected problems. Do another run-through the day before and the day of the party to be absolutely certain you didn’t forget a single thing. Practice will make it perfect.