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Author: Company and Cheer
Company and Cheer provides planning services for any variety of event, priding ourselves on attention to detail. Together, we have many years of experience executing occasions of all sizes and the passion to make your special day truly unique and memorable. We always go for the “wow” factor!
The celebration packages designed by Company & Cheer have everything you need to get the party started right at-home. Forget about planning or shopping for supplies — just open the box [cue the big sigh of relief]!
Not your average setup. Every aspect of the curated celebration experience is chosen with the purpose of bringing joy to your day and a smile to your face. These festive packages are sure to add a little more magic to your at-home party, create lasting memories, and look great in photos!
Shopped small. It’s super important to us that we spread cheer by shopping small. Each “party in a box” is packed with pieces from little shops and/or local businesses. Steering clear of the big box stores ensures your setup is unique and gives you all the “shop small” feels.
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Unfortunately, this blog post will not answer all of seating chart questions. I could spend an absurd amount of time talking about this task, walk you through a bunch of specific scenarios, and still most likely not hit on every aspect involved. Plain and simple, every event is not plain and simple — the event type, venue, styling, vendors, group dynamic, size of the guest list, etc., can completely change the setup. If you are thoughtful and organized in the planning process, it will all be work out just fine. Your guests aren’t spending a ton of time at their table, and are not strapped to their seats. Don’t overthink it.
Sometimes talking through a seating situation (family stressors, merging multiple “types” of guests, etc.) can be helpful. A coordinator’s experience can become pretty handy, we most likely have encountered similar situations and can share our experience. Below, I’ll run through a few helpful pointers to get you started, make the planning process feel a bit more manageable, and hopefully spark a few creative ideas to make an impression on your guests.
I’m in the seating chart fan club. Musical chairs was fun as a kid, but doing it in heels after throwing a few back at cocktail hour— “it’s a ‘no’ from me Dog” (do people still use this early 2000’s Randy Jackson quote or is that just me?!). There are certain times open seating is appropriate and functional. For instance, if you are hosting an intimate affair (under 50-ish people) or one with grazing food service and no official start/end time. Most other times, I would suggest taking the guesswork away from the guests. Having an organized layout avoids any confusion or uneasiness.
Before you jump into it and start grouping people together, have a chat with your venue coordinator. Ask if there are any limitations concerning the floor layout, setup, or table sizes. I also suggest asking them to share their personal favorite arrangement for a similar guest count. They know the ins and workings of the space when it’s full of people and can suggest successful options that will offer the best flow for your event.
If at all possible, choose a setup that is free of table teardown between dinner and dancing. It keeps the timeline running seamlessly and keeps guests seated for photos during speeches, special dances, etc.
—Jacob Hicks (J Hicks Photography)
If you are planning a wedding or event where you will have a table of interest (wedding party, sweetheart table, or a panel of speakers) consider the sightlines of the remaining tables. We all know that “table in the back feeling” where you have to goose-neck the whole time to see what’s going on up front. Placing the VIP table in the center of the floor chart, rather than against a far wall might be a better option so that they are visible to all.
It hangs on the fridge, they see it every day, they are super pumped for the date, but they STILL don’t RSVP to your invitation on time. It happens. I suggest waiting until you have (as close as you can get to) your final guest list to start creating your seating chart. It can be a headache spending the time picking placements and thinking you have it perfect, just to have a few late comers throw the whole thing off. Help yourself out by setting the RSVP date for 4-6 weeks prior, so that you have plenty of time to organize.
You (as the host) are the most qualified person to group your guests and assign seating. You know their personalities and interests, so you can probably imagine who would engage and have a good time at a table together. Try to avoid grouping all of the same “category” of people together— encourage mixing and mingling between your work friends, extended family, college buddies, single people, couples etc., while still including a few familiar faces at their table.
Tip: mix up the chattier guests with the wallflower types to keep conversations flowing.
In addition to the social aspect, keep in mind the physical space and layout while you are assigning tables. Think about each individual and how you can make them comfortable. Place elderly guests further away from loud DJ speakers or busy walkways, families with babies closer to exits in case they get fussy, and young children with a clear path to the restrooms. The tables along the dance floor might be best saved for the party animals in the group (they won’t mind being closer to the action)!
I chose this heading not only to get a little chuckle out of ya, but also to encourage you to consider the seating process as a production. This is a great opportunity to create a unique, personal experience for your guests. There are two main methods for “directing” people to their tables. Escort cards are the most common— guests enter, find their name on the card, and make their way to their assigned table, and choose their seat. A seating chart allows you to assign individual spots for each guest— they enter, find their name on the display, head to their table, and find their escort card already in place at their seat. I find this option to be the more seamless of the two. Having one (or two) large scale chart(s) visible avoids crowding around an escort card table. You can also ask your ushers to read guests their table numbers from a clipboard chart.
Dare to do double duty. I love the idea of combining the place card with a special guest takeaway. It is an easy way to cut costs and get creative. Woot woot! Customize this concept to tie-in with your personal story or event theme. If the wedding hosts’ first date was at a Mexican restaurant, perhaps the escort cards are attached to mini bottles of hot sauce favors. Want to show a little love for your city? Write each guest’s name on the backside of frame-able postcards created by a local artist. When my husband Seth and I got married, we placed custom seed packets at each seat to connect with the underlying wildflower motif. Brainstorm some of your own ideas or use Pinterest as inspiration!
Whichever way you slice it, planning an event is an enormous task. There will always be a ton of variables and moving parts, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a scary or even stressful experience! When I chat with new clients, especially couples about to embark on the crazy journey called wedding planning, something I’m asked often is, “Where do we even start?!” My answer? Venue and vendors. An event planner can be a very useful resource during the research and booking stages. Having worked and built relationships with a variety of event professionals, they can help you refine your search to best fit your personal needs.
Once you have a location set and have booked your core (dream) team of people, everything else will start to fall in place in a more natural way. Having this group of event experts orbiting around you during the planning process will keep you from flying off in too many directions right away.
BEFORE YOU BOOK!
Although booking your vendors in a timely manner is important, (especially if you find yourself on a fast-track timeline) it should also be done with careful consideration. Skillset and experience are important factors you may use to lead the initial stages of your vendor research, but finding talented people that you are also able to connect and gel with — now that’s the sweet spot.
It may be tempting to sign on the dotted line with the first DJ you sit down with. I get it…this week you still have to meet with the caterer, the photographer, the florist, the lady playing the cello as you walk down the aisle. You have to go taste cakes, pick out your chairs, write addresses on 300 save the dates, and finally pull the trigger on the perfect shade of chocolate brown for your bridesmaids to wear, and so on… BUT not to sound dramatic choosing the right DJ has the potential to be a make or break moment.
Your reaction to the last sentence might have been somewhere along the lines of “Yeah right, anyone can play good music!” or “My friends will dance to anything after a few White Claws.” You might be right. You probably have a killer Jock Jams playlist on your iphone that really gets the people going at your summer BBQ, but creating the soundtrack for a large scale event is a whole different beast. The music at a big event will need to span across a vast range of ages and music preferences. Hiring a DJ schooled in the science of reading a room will keep things rolling and make the dance floor accessible to everyone!
Your event could potentially survive without the perfect playlist, but your DJ is providing much more than that on the big day. They are on the microphone guiding your guests through the entire experience. They are setting the energy level, the flow, and the mood with their voice. They have the power to bring everyone together, and not just on the dance floor. Be sure to book with someone that understands how you want your guests to feel during the event and when they reminisce about it later on. In my candid chat with the Sound by Design guys, they dive into what you should look for and the questions you should ask to be sure your DJ can deliver.
MEET THE GUYS
I headed over to their office mancave to chat with two heavy hitters of Sound by Design, my preferred DJ group. I’ve teamed up with them many times and know they will deliver exceptional service to my clients. They are skilled at their craft and whip up that secret sauce at every event to make it memorable. Over a game of pool and a few drinks, I got their inside scoop about the do’s and dont’s of planning an event and the nitty-gritty parts of the DJ biz!
Jenna: You both have been part of the Sound by Design team for years now. What originally reeled you into the DJ business and what keeps you hooked?
Tyler: I’ve always been a GIANT music fan. From heavy metal to country, and electronic to oldies, I love it all — so it was kind of a dream job that just found me. Being able to share my love for music and get paid for it is a pretty cool deal. A friend of mine asked me to be his DJ assistant for a wedding many years ago and without knowing what that entailed, I went along for the ride and loved it. After that first wedding with Sound by Design, I had a few years of DJing bars/clubs on my own before getting a more permanent job DJing for Sound by Design. I not only love the music portion of DJing, I also love being a critical part of making someone’s biggest day as perfect and special as it should be!
Zach: Funny enough, Tyler is the one that got me into Sound By Design after I quit my bar managing job at the time. We had mutual friends that convinced him a year or two before me but no way was I ever going to be a “wedding dj!” I was hooked after the first gig (with Tyler)! Music is my jam…see what I did there! But more importantly the interacting with people during a day where there is so much love and joy in the room is a great feeling!
Jenna: It is always exciting to see the energy you inject into events. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the two of you up close and personal. BOY OH BOY, y’all know how to multi-task! You keep the jams rolling and the dance floor packed — all while carrying out other important duties. Early morning until late night, what does a typical event day-of look like for you?
Tyler: Aside from being a Lead DJ, my main job is the Production Manager for Sound by Design so every weekend I have a lot to prepare for. We do up to 15 events on a given day so you can imagine the amount of equipment it takes to prepare all the sound, lighting, and custom decor for all of these events. On a typical Saturday, I’ll get to our warehouse around 9am to prep all our team for their events. From there, I’ll head out to venues throughout the city to set lighting and/or audio for larger scale events. After that, I’ll head to my event for the evening where I’ll set all my gear and then do a run-through of the night with the venue coordinator before any guests arrive. Then it’s on with the show!
Zach: I do so much more than just DJ now that I’m not sure how I get through the events myself (insert nervous smiley face lol). If it’s a wedding at Birch I’m typically on site from 10am – 1am. An average timeline for me on wedding day: 10 a.m. arrival, 10:30/11 a.m. I welcome wedding party to wedding suites, 11 a.m. I set the space for the ceremony & any additional tables I can, 2/3 p.m. vendors get access to the space, 3 p.m. my staff arrives and I give them direction as needed, 4 p.m. guest arrival, 4:30 p.m. ceremony, 5 p.m. cocktails start / staff and myself flip the room for the reception. 6:30/7 p.m. dinner until 8 p.m., dancing 8:15 p.m. to midnight. I handle the music and mcing during the event as well. Long days for sure, but wearing multiple hats makes the day fly by!
Jenna: As we know, the DJ wears many hats. So much planning and effort go into the lead-up, day-of, and follow-up of an event. Is there something a client can do to relieve some of your stress or make the big day go more smoothly?
Tyler: Hiring a wedding coordinator can certainly take a lot of the burden off of the couple. As far as what a client can do to relieve some of MY stress, I would just say TRUST US. You chose Sound by Design for a reason. We’ve been doing this for a long time and I have personally done hundreds of weddings so I’m able to handle anything that comes my way, making sure the couple’s wedding is perfect. My job is to make sure the wedding runs smoothly and people have an amazing time. All I ask of my couples, is to try and be very PRESENT at their wedding. Take it all in, enjoy it. It’s a fleeting evening so you really have to try and slow it all down to truly enjoy it.
Zach: Enjoy the day! It’s mine and the other vendor’s job to make sure things are happening as planned. I get most stressed when I can’t find the Bride or Groom. I love seeing them out on the dance floor or mingling with the guests. It’s a long day but goes quickly. Remember to soak it in and enjoy yourselves! How do you make sure you enjoy the day? Hiring a wedding coordinator can go a long way! Your DJ isn’t your full on coordinator, nor is the caterer, or venue contact (usually). If you want a truly stress free day, hire a wonderful company such as Company & Cheer to handle the big and little details for the day!!
Jenna: Let’s talk tuneage…what is your off-duty go-to? Is there a song that gets you pumped up, or relaxes you after a full day?
Tyler: My favorite thing! My off-duty music all depends on what I’m doing and mainly depends on my mood. I’m sure most of our DJ’s would say they pretty much like it all, but I honestly do love almost everything. I grew up with my parents and two older siblings. My dad listened to classic rock (i.e. Boston, Journey, Cheap Trick), my mom LOVES Elvis, while my brother got me into Rap (i.e. NWA, Tupac, Notorious BIG, Nas), and my sister liked Pop (i.e. Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys) as well as alternative/punk (i.e. Blink 182, New Found Glory, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday). This helped open my ears to just about everything. In the morning, I usually start with mellow alternative or mellow jam stuff (i.e. Angels and Airwaves, Brand New, Jimmy Eat World or Chris Stapleton, Lumineers, Zac Brown Band, Dave Matthews). If I want some energy, I’ll listen to any kind of rap, electronic (trap or house), or upbeat alternative (i.e. Four Year Strong, Fall Out Boy, Blink 182). If i need to get something done it’s either heavy metal (i.e. After the Burial, Slipknot, Veil of Maya) or house (i.e. Claude VonStroke, Chris Lake, MK, Shiba San). A song that really relaxes me and is an ALL TIME FAVE is Talking Heads “This Must Be the Place” (also my First Dance song at our wedding).
Zach: Music is an experience and I love it all. I grew up in the middle of nowhere so I know far more Country than I care to admit. Some of my go-to artists: Grateful Dead, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Khruangbin, Kanye West & J Cole. I’m all over the place and mood is a major factor when deciding what to listen to. I tend to lean towards Jam Bands, Bluegrass or Electronic side of things for live shows but if I’m going out with friends I’m almost always bumping some hip-hop!
Jenna: Sound by Design allows clients to create an online music portal before their event by placing cataloged songs into lists of “must play”, “play if time allows”, and “do not play”. I loved utilizing this as a bride because it allowed me to share my music preferences with my day-of DJ and made the soundtrack to my wedding feel more personal. What is one song that makes you cringe when it appears on a client’s “must play” list?
Tyler: Surprisingly enough there aren’t too many songs that actually do that to me. I can find some form of enjoyment in almost any song, but if I had to name one it might have to be “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I have no idea why but I REALLY dislike this song. It certainly doesn’t make me happy….
Zach: Chicken Dance. “That’s all I have to say about that!” – Forrest Gump
Jenna: Working in the event industry there is rarely a dull moment. You have to be able to roll with the punches and be open to the straight-up, out-there ideas — anything from fire-swallowing cocktail hour entertainment to remote control ringbearers. What is one of the most unique events you’ve been a part of?
Tyler: I wouldn’t say that it’s “unique” per say, but one of my favorite experiences since working with Sound by Design was when we teamed up with 97.3 Radio NOW for their annual Summerfest Summer Bash. I got to DJ on the U.S. Cellular Stage between acts like Callum Scott, Rachel Platten, and Bebe Rexha. That was pretty neat. A more unique event that I loved was the event I did with you (Company & Cheer)! It was a Havana-themed 70th birthday party filled with empanadas, dance lessons, and gorgeous Havana style decor. The energy from the birthday girl was amazing and something I aspire to have at that age!
Zach: I’m not as smooth on the table decks as Tyler so I don’t get to do fun things like DJ Summerfest! We hosted a celebration of life at our Birch venue this past summer and I had no idea what to expect heading into things. It ended up being an extremely memorable event for all the right reasons! A tragic situation brought hundreds of people together to mourn, but more importantly, be there for one another. It ended up being a full on party! Crying, drinking, dancing, more crying and tons of laughter made the night extremely fun. Very happy I could be a part of things for that group of people and I’ll remember that event forever.
Jenna: More and more, couples are choosing to break from the traditional norms to create a more personalized wedding experience. Is there a wedding custom or tradition that you would hate to see let go completely?
Tyler: I guess for me, it would probably be the Mother/Son and Father/Daughter dance. I think that’s such a special moment for both the parent and the Bride/Groom and it would be a shame if that grew out of style! There’s lots of time to dance with your friends and create memories later in the evening, but these individual dances are a portion you won’t forget.
Zach: I agree with Tyler. Being able to dance with your Mother/Father is super important. You can tell watching them dance how special the moment is for them and it’s a nice way to ease on into the dance floor.
Jenna: Let’s be real, the DJ can really make or break an event. It is so important to be able to read the crowd and play the right music…at the right time. In addition, the voice on the mic has the ability to set the overall mood and keep the event flowing. What is the most important question to ask a potential DJ before booking, to be sure they have what it takes to make the event a success?
Tyler: I’m not sure there is ONE specific question you should ask your DJ, but it’s very important to get to know them prior to your wedding to see if you mesh well. Most DJ’s can play music for you, but if your personalities clash and you don’t get along as people, it’s going to make the night more difficult. It’s good to know that your DJ has a lot of experience and will be able to handle anything that comes his or her way throughout the evening. I would say, ask as many questions as you can, both personal and professional, to get a good gauge of your DJ before hiring them for your big day. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, it’s probably not going to be a good fit.
Zach: Hard to narrow down to one specific question. I love when I’m asked “What are you going to play?” My answer is very long winded but the gist of it is, I’ll play what the crowd reacts to. Walking the client through the process of the highs and lows of the dancing portion, and giving them examples of “I’ll pivot here if this happens, or pivot there if that happens.” Emphasizing that you are flexible, well rounded with music tastes, and have that experience to read the crowd goes a long way. Also, ask what equipment they’ll be supplying. I’ve heard horror stories where DJ’s have shown up with just their laptop or no microphone.
Best Wishes…I’ll see ya on the dance floor ; )
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Simple Ways to Practice Self-Love as a Busy Bee (or bride!)
Weeks go quick, and weekends — even quicker. Schedules packed to the brim with work, family time, to-do’s and plans you wish you never made. It is easy to think of those things first, and ourselves as an afterthought. This blog is written to help pull you from that cycle and encourage you to love up on yourself! I would love to hear the ways you choose to practice this in the comments below!
TRY SOMETHING NEW
One of my favorite ways to practice self-love is to try something new. I feel like I grow out of my box but within myself at the same time. I also find the little doses of the unknown connect me back to my childhood. One of my personal goals this new year is to do this at least once a week. For me, that is a pretty mild goal to set since I find newness exciting, but I want to practice it in a more intentional manner. Meaning, I’m not just agreeing to try a new restaurant or take a new class because I was invited along. I want to actually take a moment to ask myself, “Jenna, how are you going to broaden your horizons this week?”
While occasionally, this may lead to exhilarating or once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I suspect most of these acts will be modest, but rewarding in their own way. Just as easy as it can be to get into a routine with the way we eat or dress, it can similarly happen with our activities and mindset. By switching things up, I’ve found some of my favorite things!
Kimchi…BOMB! And super healthy.
Never listened to a podcast a day in my life until friends at work were raving about them. Now I’m obsessed. “Heck yes, Joe Rogan. I DO believe whales are smarter than people!”
I always read kind-of grungy autobiography type books. Tried a mystery novel. BAM! Loved it.
Ate a worm out of a tequila bottle. Probably won’t do that again, but HEY! I tried it.
I was terrified to get on a Pilates reformer. Now, try to keep me off.
Got bangs. You be the judge of that one…
You get the idea. I know for some, trying new things out or switching things up can cause anxiety or even be quite scary. If that’s the case, start small. I also get a little awkward walking into a new yoga studio or class I’ve never been to before. But if you can push through those feelings of doubt, it can be so exciting to do something for the first time! Try Quinoa. Listen to the entire Post Malone Album. Wear the red lipstick. Watch a foreign film. Try a pottery class. Drink three IPAs in a row. Put those weird little colorful jelly balls on your fro-yo. Whatever will give you that little spark under your butt, do it! New year, new stuff!
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MORNING
I’m the person that asks for the lunch menu at 9 am, breakfast food is not my jam (no pun intended). What I dislike even more than eggs and bacon, is spending my precious morning moments preparing food. For much of my life, this meant my first meal of the day was either an apple as I ran out the door, or lunch. Only once I learned more about healthy eating and noted what my body (and mind) needed to get through the busy day energized, I realized that my grandma and all posters in my middle school cafeteria were right. Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.
I’m all about make-ahead options for breakfast. If you’re anything like me, you can rattle of 50 things you would love to have time for in the mornings. Get in a morning stretch sesh. Curl your hair. Take the dog for a walk. Actually brush all of the snow off of your car. Hit snooze. Those extra 15 minutes are your oyster, self-love yourself!
I am a huge, huge, huge fan of the Oats Over Night brand! I shake up a pack of their Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana oats (my personal fave, but they have a ton of flavors) with a bit of almond milk before I go to bed. I wake up to a heart-healthy-protein-packed morning meal that literally tastes like liquid brownies.
We have those trusty go-to pieces that we know will get us through the daily grind and don’t require a second thought. It is easy to get into a routine (or more of a rut) when it comes to outfit choices. Sometimes, I found myself in a closet full of clothes, choosing some of the same things more often because I was in a rush to hurry out the door. I started to (whenever I could) choose my next day’s ensemble the night before. That way, I feel like I have more time to peruse or even try on new combinations instead of grabbing something all groggy-eyed in the morning. Try it out! Pour yourself a glass of wine and go shopping in your own closet. I bet you will be more likely to rock that jumpsuit or trendy blazer from the back that thinks you forgot about her!
Feeling like you need a little help switching up your look? A stylist at Wantable can help you find pieces that match your style preferences and busy lifestyle! Use my link: https://www.wantable.com/?c_code=wqWkWYXGb7M for $25 off of anything you keep!
PRETTY UPYOUR PLACE
I know cleaning might sound more like something used to torture instead of love yourself, but decluttering the space around you could actually be quite rewarding! Doing a few things each day — going through the mail pile, organizing your desk or vanity area, or vacuuming the couch cushions, doesn’t leave you with a giant to-do list for those precious days off. Too bad I learned this lesson well after college, but I find I am my most focused, least stressed, best rested, and peppiest self when my environment is tidy. Keep this in mind, cleaning doesn’t have to feel like work. My pick-up sessions usually start with “Alexa, play Shania Twain radio” and next thing you know, I’m shaking my booty and putting plates away all, ♫ Oh, oh, oh, I want to be free yeah, to feel the way I feel. Man! I feel like a woman! ♫.
I want you to read the next sentence, burn it in your brain, and never forget it. YOU CAN BUY YOURSELF FLOWERS. You can make it part of your weekly or monthly routine to add a pop of color and freshness to your space. Flowers For Dreams is the perfect spot to pick up your stems because every bouquet purchase benefits a local charity! You can love yourself AND others with a one-stop-shop!
Best Wishes & Happy Self-Loving!
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There seems to be two major types of people this time of year. There’s the cookie baking, ugly sweater wearing, and gift wrapping type, yelling, “Alexa, play ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree'”! There is also the type that can’t wait for this expensive season of hustle and bustle to be over. Somehow, I feel it is also very possible to be both of these types of people at the same time. It’s possible to enjoy the festivities of the year, but also feel completely overwhelmed with the planning and cost of it all. Keep reading for time and money saving tips, that will make hosting or attending upcoming holiday parties a breeze! Whatever you do, and wherever you go, I hope you have many laughs and make lovely memories with your loved ones!
I know you want to. I know you feel the urge. I know it is easier than ever! BUT you do not need to blow your paycheck on holiday decor at Target. If you are hosting this season, there are many ways to make your place feel festive and warm with little personal touches. This year, I opted for greenery, handmade ornaments, and colorful fruits as my main sources of decor.
I paired simple white lights with my handmade clay stars, pom-pons, and dried orange slice ornaments to give my tree an eclectic feel. All you need is a cookie cutter and this easy salt dough recipe to make custom ornaments for your tree. I finished mine with a glittery glaze and string of glass beads, but feel free to get creative with yours!
If you take a quick look around my house or closet, it is no secret that I’m a sucker for pom pons —they make pillows, blankets, hats, pretty much anything, just a bit more fun and playful. I made some of my own to hang on the tree as well as jazz up my gift wrapping! I may have gotten a little out of hand, caution — these are kind of addicting.
The orange slices made the house smell amazing while they dried in the oven and give an old-fashioned holiday feel when added to greenery. I always buy a little extra fruit than my recipes call for. Stacked in decorative dishes, they add a fresh pop of color!
A tip for the partygoer: Consider bringing along a small token of gratitude for your host. I suggest something he or she can enjoy after the party, such as chocolates, a scented candle, or decorative notebook.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
Santa’s got a list and you should have one too. Actually, a few. As a natural planner, this is the only way I can feel organized and keep the all moving parts straight — especially in the kitchen!
Your first list is going to essentially be your ‘menu’. Write down each dish (and speciality drinks) you plan to serve. Also consider having light snacks on hand for your guests to graze on. Cheese and cured meats, white popcorn, crackers and jam, and mixed nuts are my top choices since they keep well throughout the day. When it comes to your main meal, check that there is variety in the flavors, colors, textures, and temperatures. Also take into account how you plan to serve your meal. For instance, skillet fried potatoes are delicious, but dangerous to be passed around a crowded table. Buffet style serving may also be necessary if you have a larger group over for the holidays. This year, it happened to be a smaller group for Thanksgiving and I was able to set a place setting for each guest. I brought the salad and starters to the table and set up the main courses in the butler’s pantry for everyone to serve themselves.
Once you have your menu set, it is time to make your second list, one for groceries. Double check your cupboards to be sure you don’t end up double buying, or perhaps assume you have an ingredient that actually expired last November. I usually organize the ingredients I need to shop for in general categories, to save time at the store. Although, I usually get sucked in and end up roaming down every aisle anyways.
Lastly, make a list of to-do’s for the day of your gathering. Preparing a little timeline for the day offers helpful reminders about what time you should put dishes in/out of the oven, reduce the heat, cut the fruits for the salad, put out appetizers, etc.
Remember, even the most organized and well prepared for meals are rarely free of mishaps— it’s OK! My entire kitchen and dining room filled with smoke while I was making my skillet potatoes this year. I tried not to panic, opened a few windows, and prayed my guests didn’t freeze before lunch was served. It was a lesson learned, a memory made, and a couple crispy taters. If this is your first go-around at cooking for a crowd, you may choose to research beginner friendly recipes, do a trial-run, or call in experienced reinforcements.
Keep in mind, the people you are inviting to your home for the holidays are most likely your dearest friends and family. They are not going to think any less of you if there happens to be water spots on their wine glass or they have to wait a bit longer for dessert to come out of the oven. There is a desire to make everything perfect, but try your hardest to savor the moment in spite of the stress. There is no feeling greater as a host than to look around and see your guests enjoying themselves –– it makes all of the hard work totally worth it!
A tip for the partygoer: Determine what food and drink will be provided at the party. If it is a cocktail party, there may only be modest appetizers served so you may need a small meal before you arrive. On the other hand, you would hate to show up full and miss out on the lovely meal your host is serving!
As the host of the event, you set the dress code perimeters. Keep in mind your attire should match the overall vibe of your party. It may be tempting to go all out and wear your new sequin top, but if your hosting duties include standing over a hot stove or running coats up a flight of steps, it may not be your best choice. You want to want to be clinking cocktails with your guests, not dabbing sweat off your brow in the bathroom. If guests may be pulling up a floor seat or playing games at your relaxed dinner party, let them know they are free to dress comfortably! On the other hand, if you have a more sophisticated soirée in mind, be sure to add a dress code label to the invitation or relay the information to be sure everyone is on the same page!
A tip for the partygoer: The holiday season may be your busiest time of year. With events ranging from cozy casual gatherings to formal dinner parties, it may be tricky to gauge your attire each time you get an invite. My opinion is that it’s always better to be too dressy than too casual. It’s easy this time of year to dress-up a closet staple with a piece of statement jewelry, glitzy hair accessory, metallic heel, or a red lip!
Need a little inspiration? This season’s must-haves include cozy knits, sequins, pleated skirts, and playful blouses. Use the looks below as a jumping-off point to build your seasonal wardrobe!
WHERE TO WEAR IT: casual holiday gatherings, holiday shopping, coffee date
HOW TO PAIR IT: embellished denim, elevated sneakers, messy bun, everyday jewelry
WHERE TO WEAR IT: work party, cocktail hour, concert
HOW TO PAIR IT: dark denim, bangles, hair clips, classic heel, bright lip, loose hair waves
WHERE TO WEAR IT: family dinner, the office, out for lunch, the theatre
HOW TO PAIR IT: textured knit, chunky mule, drop earring, rosy cheek
WHERE TO WEAR IT: dinner date, girl’s night out, holiday party, gift opening
HOW TO PAIR IT: statement heel, fray hem denim, metallic jewelry
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