BY NICOLE HVIDSTEN, originally published in Star Tribune Magazine Winter 2019 edition, “Afraid to Ask”

Party-planning experts weigh in on throwing a soiree that
won’t make you want to deck your guests with boughs of holly.

Star Tribune Magazine

I’m running out of time. Are e-vites tacky?
E-vites are not tacky. Folks want/need the information; e-vite platforms are user-friendly with well-designed templates.

I’m close to a few colleagues, do I have to invite the whole office?
Office politics are sensitive. Limiting to a few at the risk of offending others can be a sticky situation. We always say that it’s truly case-by-case because there are so many variables — depending on your role, who you are limiting to/leaving out and what type of event it is. You’ll have to use your best judgment.

You can’t force guests to RSVP. What’s the rule of thumb for estimating a head count?
Let’s start by saying everyone should RSVP, but not everyone does. Take the number of guests who have not responded, divide by two, and add that to the overall total. Basically saying that half of the guests who do not RSVP will come. This is on the heavier estimation side, but better to have too much food than too little. If this is a formal event where a meal count is needed, pick up the phone and call.

Inside Article Star Tribune MAgazine

What can I serve to get the most bang for my buck without looking cheap?
Hors d’oeuvres and snack-type foods can go a long way if done nicely, depending on the format of the event. Presentation is key for simple items, like dips. For example: have a trio of dips and display them in matching bowls, garnish, and add cute signage for each bowl. If making the food yourself, think of items that are not only easy to make, but can be easily made in bulk. A stuffed-baked chicken breast is cost effective, but can be made fancy depending on what it is stuffed with. And, of course, its presentation.

When is it time to outsource to a vendor?
Even if you prefer to DIY, feel free to consult a professional on best practices and ideas first. They may provide insights you wouldn’t have thought about. If you do go with DIY, ask yourself: how good are you at working ahead? What can be done in advance? Hosting a party is all about time management. Something to note: The more outside vendors you hire, the more time you’ll save. This is especially helpful when you want to savor the time with your guests.

What if I run out of food?
If you’re working with a caterer, it’s their problem to solve if you gave an accurate guest count. It’s not bad to have a backup plan in mind, or ask what they have done when/if this happens. For meals, a plated dinner option is portion controlled, so you’re less likely to run out of food as opposed to a buffet-style meal, where people may take more than you allotted for.

My guests are an eclectic bunch. What’s a fail-safe playlist?
A high-energy mix of classics mixed with some recent hits are the best. Include a small number of slower songs, but keep in mind that they need to be nostalgic. Music is always fun when themed to the occasion you are hosting, too.

Is music and conversation enough entertainment? Do I have to decorate, too?
Make your guests feel special. Entertainment and mood with decor is an easy way to do it. Lighting is an important piece to decor. From candles to simple can lights, it can really impact your space. People often don’t know that you can rent lighting and have a party that looks like you spent thousands on it. Also, embrace a theme when appropriate and get creative with the decor. Great decor is an amazing conversation starter, too. Hiring entertainment is a fun idea when applicable. But if it’s not, lean on the talents of family or friends. Yes, there is such a thing as too much entertainment.

What are your best tips for party throwers?
Hire professionals when you are able so you don’t have to do it alone. Delegate and share responsibility with friends, family or vendors when needed. It relieves stress and also pulls in others to participate. And have the event off-site so cleaning the house is not added on top of your to-do list.

How do I delicately cut off guests who have had too much to drink?
Being honest is the best approach as it is a safety issue. Hopefully this person came with a friend or family member. You should not have to focus on one person and worry about them all night. There also are safe-ride companies that can take your guests — and their car — home.

Answers provided by members of the Twin Cities Wedding & Event Professionals ( and were edited for length.

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