Throwing great parties is an event planner's job. And when planning hundreds of soirées a year, there is no doubt that an event planner has experienced both great successes and significant stumbles.Last year, we rounded up a group of 50 talented event planners and caterers around the country — some of the best in the business — who inspire us with their smart ideas and beautiful events. They've shared their worst party fouls with us, and now they're sharing their cardinal rules for planning an event to remember.
To begin, Juliet Douglas of Little Posh Parties and Tara Wilson of Tara Wilson Events urge hosts to keep things simple. You're more apt to get into trouble when you take on more than you can chew, perhaps serving up too many finicky dishes, or inviting more people than you can comfortably fit in your home. And remember to embrace foods that you can make in advance, leaving you more time to check, and re-check, the bar and table come party day. Whether it's cheese, fruit, vegetables, and hummus, says Megan Morrison of Berghoff Catering, or beef tenderloin, there are a number of dishes that are suited for serving at room temperature, or taste better a day or two after they're prepared.
So what inspires these experts when planning a party? Using a theme that weaves through the menu, cocktails, décor, attire, and music, paired with something completely unexpected. Perhaps it's a fortune teller who arrives during cocktails to give guests a glimpse of the future, or vases filled with limes and vegetables, rather than flowers, adding color to the tables and bar. And though these event planners are the best in the industry, they'd agree that no party is ever completely perfect — but, guests would never know because the men and women running the show are always prepared for emergencies. That's their little secret — now, shh. Don't tell.
This story was originally published January 1, 2012.