Secrets of a Hostess

From invitations to budgeting, a lot goes into planning a party. Three experts explain how to be in charge and part of the fun at your shindig.

Secrets of a Party Hostess
Throwing a party can be stressful, especially if it’s at your own home. I chatted with Mpls.St.Paul Home Editor Jennifer Blaise Kramer, Paperista owner Antoinette Ramos, and White Peacock Styled Events co-owner Nicole Liwienski to see what decisions matter and how to have a good time with your guests. Parties are supposed to be fun, remember?

Know your space and its potential.
“Some people try to over-pack people, and it’s not comfortable for their guests or the party they’re trying to do isn’t appropriate for their home." Antoinette Ramos says. "If you’re going to have an ‘80s dance party but you have an apartment and one couch that’s in the way, that’s making it difficult for them to have fun. Take inventory of your home and what goes with your environment.”

Make a statement with your invitation.
“It’s your first “wow” factor that your guests will see. I enjoy making them different, an element of surprise or just making them unique or non-traditional,” Nicole Liwienski says.

Just not an e-vite.
“When you send out an electronic invitation (and I know I’m the owner of a paper store), it’s like, “Hey, it is OK if you don’t come.” That’s the feeling I get when I get an e-vite. It doesn’t have to be something printed, but it should be personalized,” Ramos says.

Don’t do it all yourself.
“My biggest rule of thumb is I want to be at my own party." Jennifer Blaise Kramer says. "Even if it’s just having another couple over, I don’t want to be cooking the whole time because the point is to see people and catch up with them. When you over-plan, you can end up missing the whole thing."

And don’t make it about yourself, either.
“It sounds cliché and it should be a no-brainer, but I don’t think enough people talk about what’s more convenient for your guests." Ramos says. "It might mean spending a little more money and moving furniture around or bringing rentals. If that means older people have the chance to sit down but still be part of your event.”

Got a budget? Pick one aspect and make it memorable.
“Focus on one specific piece of the party, whether it’s floral, your signature cocktail, or invitations." Liwienski says. "In terms of throwing a party, it’s about hospitality, authenticity, and solid execution. Those things don’t cost much.”

frilloonthumb.gifNow trending: “Frilloons.” 
“I just did an invitation for a friend’s 40th birthday party. Basically, we do these big balloons, big paddle balloons with fringes and tassels on them, called “frilloons.” Liwienski says. "They’re 36-inch balloons, they’re huge! I had scroll made and the invitation piece was written on the scroll; I tied them to these gigantic balloons. We hand delivered them to their front porches, so when the guests received them, it was a big surprise.”

Don’t forget your hashtag!
“Another trend is personalizing and branding your party, like hashtagging your party in social media. You need to have a hashtag for your party!” Liwienski says.

The cardinal rule: Be prepared for anything.
“At my oldest daughter’s first birthday party, the woman who was making the cake went off the sample invitation for the design, instead of reading the details on the real invitation." Blaise Kramer says. "She planned to have the cake ready at 8 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., so we were ready to sing and had no cake. She showed up very tearful with a half-done green frog face. I just ran the cake into the kitchen, grabbed a tube of frosting and drew some eyes and a circle—and nobody knows. That’s the other thing about parties: no one else knows your expectation for the party."