Checklist for a stress-free themed party

I love to plan, but I’m often paralyzed by my perfectionist (please-like-me) nature and just the endless options to choose from. Over the last few years though, I have thrown and seen too many Pinterest-perfect parties to count, and I’ve found that it really sucks the life out of a party. You stay up all night decorating mason jars and gluing googly eyes to sea creatures, then you have to clean up the glitter bomb that is your house and before you know it, you’re running down the stairs to greet guests with wet hair (maybe no one will notice if it’s in a messy bun) and little, if any makeup because you just spent every. waking. moment. for the last 72 hours, re-creating the deep blue sea in your living room. It’s all too much. The party becomes not about the people or the person being celebrated, but about you and what you did and how creative you are. Meanwhile, your three year old is like, “That looks pretty mommy! Can we go play outside?” Party favors, food labels and 3-tiered cakes dominate the photos instead of the smiling faces of kiddos and guests enjoying conversation. Your friends and family are so enamored by all of these amazing creations that they’re feeling inadequate and already stressing about how they could even come close to doing this for their next event…four months from now.

So, I’m not here to say that theme parties are a no-no, but let’s talk about how you can throw a party that people will remember for how much fun it was and how great it made them feel to be in your home.

1. Allow Pinterest to inspire you, not rule you.

I start there nearly every time. There are a lot of creative people out there and those over-the-top parties do get your creative juices flowing, but you can follow a theme without having it reflected in catchy names for goldfish crackers and custom-labeled water bottles.

2. Simple food.

For example:

  • Beach theme- incorporate tropical fruit in some of your menu items
  • Cowboy theme- BBQ and the usual accompaniments will be fantastic
  • Movie night- popcorn, candy, maybe soft pretzels
Case & point...I forgot to take pictures of the food! I served Peachy BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches with Jicama Mango Slaw and Hummus with Veggies for our Beach Blanket Bunco themed event. Also served but not pictured: Strawberry, Watermelon & Basil water, Coconut Frozen Mojitos and Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn.

Case & point...I forgot to take pictures of the food! I served Peachy BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches with Jicama Mango Slaw and Hummus with Veggies for our Beach Blanket Bunco themed event. Also served but not pictured: Strawberry, Watermelon & Basil water, Coconut Frozen Mojitos and Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn.

And don’t kill yourself having a ton of options. Chances are you know if you have someone coming who’s vegan or diabetic, and by all means, accommodate that. But really, two appetizers, an entrée with one or two sides and one dessert is plenty. The only dessert one can expect at a birthday party is cake and ice cream. Offering cookies & candy too is a waste of money and a disservice to your guest’s waistline. Check out this infographic for guidelines on how much food to make:

How Much Food Do You Need? Get Your Catering Order Right

From Visually.

3. Limited beverages.

We used to offer every major soft drink, tea, water, lemonade, juice boxes for the kids, etc and we were left with a counter-full of half-empty 2-liters. I was making more tea halfway through the party and rushing to get more water on ice. Now we offer tea, water and juice pouches for the kids. If one is that particular about what they want to drink, they will bring it themselves. Bring on the Tervis & the Yetis!

Offering cocktails? I usually make a themed cocktail and the rest is BYOB. Of course, if it’s in my bar and you want it, it’s yours! But you will most likely never succeed in accommodating everyone, so let everyone know what you’ll be serving and they can take it from there.

4. Offer hospitality over perfection.

These are (some) of the women I play bunco with each month. We all take turns hosting, cooking, loving & praying for each other!

These are (some) of the women I play bunco with each month. We all take turns hosting, cooking, loving & praying for each other!

THIS. More than anything, people will remember how you made them feel. Relax. Feed them. Love them. My best friend does this better than anyone I know. People want to feel genuinely welcomed into your home, your real home, by the real you. 

Also, rest assured, if you really lack the time or the food part of entertaining isn't your thing, you can always hire a personal chef (like me) to do it for you!