A Minimalist's Guide to Party Planning

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I put together a scavenger hunt activation and dinner for the Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson Airport a few weeks ago. One of the guests who has been to other events that I’ve done remarked that it seems like I do this in my sleep and that the event felt so good and effortless. (Please keep in mind that this took place in an airport conference room.) Until that moment I didn’t realize that yes, I have a clear system that I use for putting together an event. I’m a minimalist by nature, so my mission is always to keep things as simple as possible and make sure people have a good time. While running an event space and watching other people do events, I saw that a lot of times people focus on the wrong things—Too much time on decor and not enough time on food. If you give good people, good food and drinks, in an inviting environment, then good things will happen.

Here are my five guiding principles for putting together a good event/party:

  1. Guests - I always say that the people make the party and it’s true. As best as to my ability (this sounds weird, but I think it’s right), I try and choose guests that will naturally flow well together and then I create the environment for them to do so. However, one of the things that I learned early on is that people will not show up and that’s ok. I don’t let that stress me. I live by the motto that “The right people will show up. The right things will happen.” There have been so many times when people ask to bring someone and someone doesn’t show up and yet everything turns out the exact way that it should have. Leave some things to the universe. It knows what it’s doing.

  2. Food - I’m fortunate to have a great chef partner for when I do public events. However, when I’m handling the food myself, there are a few things I stick to. I always do a charcuterie board with meats, cheeses, spreads, fruit, breads and whatever else I can think of. It’s an easy way to add variety and can be quite filling. My go to place for meats and cheeses is…Aldi. Total shocker right? However, they have great choices at a great price.

    In addition to charcuterie, I’ll add three tofour more items. I use the time of day to determine the other items. If it’s around lunch or dinner time, I’ll make sure some heavier and more filling items are served. If it’s an off time, then I’ll keep it at snacks. I prefer quantity to more options. I think too many choices overwhelm people (or it could just be me).

  3. Beverage - Quite obviously, I always have alcoholic beverages at my party and yes, I think it’s a requirement. (And I’m Jamaican, so yes I think it should also be available at a kid’s birthday party.) When I’m throwing a party, if it’s not a seated dinner where I’m pairing cocktails or wine with courses, then I keep things pretty minimal. I’ll make one or two punches, have a beer option and a red and white wine. For one of my favorite parties, I did a champagne bar. I really did it so that I could use the same coupe glasses for everything. The glasses worked well for champagne and punch. This also allowed people options on how to customize things.

 
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4. Ambiance/Space - I like spaces that have character and that don’t need a lot of decorating. If it has exposed brick or some other industrial elements, even better. No matter what though, lighting is key. Candles go a long way to make a room feel soft and warm. Uplighting is another good option. When using uplighting, I prefer a warm white instead of colored uplighting.

i’ll also add flowers to the space. I prefer white flowers like hydrangeas and tulips and lots of whimsical greenery like eucalyptus. It makes the room feel calm and ties everything together simply.

Lastly, I add music that fits the room and is also slightly geared to the audience. I know that most people would think that music would be a separate item, but to me it’s not. Unless music is the focus of the event or the one wow element (see below) I believe that the purpose is to help provide ambiance and flow seamlessly with the other pieces.

5. One More Element - Normally, the things I’ve listed are enough. The guests are great, the space is inviting, the food is delicious and there is enough to drink. Sometimes though you need to add something else to make things feel a little different. For that, I’ll stick to one more thing. In some cases it’s just heightening one of the previous things I’ve listed, like having an amazing space or an elaborate food spread or a champagne bar. Other times it’s adding an experiential element like a rum tasting or an organic ombre balloon wall. My rule though is one. I don’t want people distracted from the core elements of the event.

And that’s it. That’s all that’s needed for an event that looks good and feels good. If you need any more tips, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.