Tips for a Stress-Free Soirée

Secrets from a Party Planner

By Terry Kaye | Photos by Candice Adelle Photography and Kristen Gardner Photography 

Party planning and stress seem to go hand and hand these days. Blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest all add to the pressure to host over-the-top fetes that not only break the budget but can sadly also break your party-planning spirit. It shouldn’t be stressful or intimidating. I have put together some of my favorite  tips and tricks which, when put into action, can make it possible to create and host a memorable affair with ease.

Create a theme.
The theme or inspiration behind your event will impact every aspect of your party. It will determine the date, time, menu, décor – even your attire. This is the key to a cohesive event. For me, the theme is usually what drives my inspiration to host an event. Inspiration can come from anywhere: nature, food, people, patterns, colors, magazines, Pinterest and trends. Sometimes the person you are celebrating is inspiration enough, and the theme revolves around that person!
Pro-tip: Select your theme and stick with it to ensure everything ties together in a professional and unified way.

Create your checklist and stick to it.
A checklist is a critical tool for stress-free event planning. Not only does it keep you on task, it tends to keep you on budget (which certainly reduces my stress level). My checklist typically begins one month prior to the event date. This allows me plenty of time to plan, shop and prep; it also builds in a buffer for any unexpected hiccups along the way. I rely so much on my checklist that I created a template that I personalize for each event. In addition to keeping my timeline on track, I also find it very therapeutic to check things off of my list.
Pro tip: Make two copies of your checklist so you have one at home and one in your purse/on your phone. You never know when you’ll need to reference it.

Design your menu and prep, prep, prep.
Menu planning can be daunting and super stressful, especially if you don’t know your way around a kitchen. Clients often confess that they want to host a party but are afraid to cook for their guests. Don’t ever let the fear of cooking stop you from entertaining. There are so many convenient catering options available to us that you don’t have to shy away from being the host just because you don’t feel your strength is in the kitchen. In fact, if cooking is not your thing, you can easily cater your entire party through your local grocery store or by going the potluck route and asking guests to bring their favorite dish to share. I have also learned along the way that not everything has to be homemade. Focus on what you enjoy and collaborate with someone who loves to cook or cater.

If cooking is one of your strengths, then relish spoiling your guests with your home-cooked dishes and baked confections. Just remember to add meal prep to your checklist so nothing is overlooked or forgotten. I would also recommend that you select a menu that allows you to pre-bake, pre-chop, and prepare all ingredients prior to your party. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen while your guests are in another room enjoying your event.
Pro tip: When taking on the daunting task of cooking and baking, always have a few back-up items on hand in case something goes awry – better to be safe than sorry!

Dressing for dinner
If you’re anything like me, picking out the right outfit can take hours. I try on half my closest, think I’ve found the right combination, until a couple of  hours later when I go back and settle on my go-to black party dress. To avoid changing my mind or getting sucked back into my closet, I select what I’m wearing the night before and lay everything out. On the day of the event, I typically dress one hour prior to guests arriving to help mentally transition from “planner” to “hostess.”
Pro tip: Always wear an apron prior to your guests arriving. The last thing you need is a last minute wardrobe change.

Be present; you are the host
Transitioning from planner to party hostess can be a difficult task but it’s an important one. For the past month, you’ve planned and prepped; now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Shift your focus from your checklist to your guest list. Hospitality should give you as much joy as it gives your guests so take a deep breath, relax, connect and enjoy your party.
Pro tip: Turn on your favorite music, light a candle and enjoy a glass of wine or flavored seltzer prior to your guests arriving; it’s a great way to enjoy the calm before the storm and ease into the switch from “planner” to “hostess.”

Leave the mess
Dinner is over – now what? Most would assume that the planner in me would suggest that it’s time to clean up but that’s not the case anymore. I have learned that it’s important to be present as a host/hostess and not disappear into the abyss of dirty dishes. Your guests are there to see you, so be a gracious host and stay present. The clean-up can wait.
Pro tip: If the idea of leaving a dirty table drives you crazy, clear the table and stack the dishes in the sink filled with soapy water. They can soak overnight and will make for easy work in the morning.

About the Author: Terry Kaye is the owner of Terry Kaye Events, an established, full-service event design, styling and planning boutique specializing in weddings, social occasions, and corporate affairs. Terry resides in Warrenton with her husband and three sons. For more information, visit or contact Terry directly at

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