(Family Features) - Making the decision to host a party is simple. It's planning and executing the party that's another matter. Family gatherings, birthday parties, holiday festivities, intimate get-togethers of close friends numerous occasions both large and small inspire thousands of parties across the nation every year.
But, the task of preparing for and hosting a party can be daunting. Hosts often find themselves wondering where to start. Luckily, there's an easy answer. Themes. Themes can serve as inspirations in and of themselves to host a party, or they can help define already planned soirees.
Want to get together with friends, but not sure how to structure the gathering? What about hosting a garden party, complete with summery fare like spinach salad with lemon, bruschetta with fresh tomato, and refreshing drinks like a luscious mango margarita or a summertime concoction of slushy pina colada and daiquiri mixes swirled together?
Planning to throw a football fete? Loaded nachos, classic margaritas, beer and personalized pizzas will make your guests stand up and cheer. Hosting book group at your home? A menu made up of banana daiquiris, coconut brownies and a hot, creamy artichoke dip is sure to garner rave reviews.
Frozen drink mixes like Bacardi Mixers are available in your grocer's freezer and take the mystery out of party bartending; simply add alcohol and whirl in the blender; while convenient foods like brownie or cake mixes and bagged salads or spinach can be jazzed up with creative additions for a convincing "from-scratch" effect.
Need more specific advice to get your party started? Many online sources provide party tips, as well as recipe and décor ideas. A good place to start is www.instantparty.com. It's organized around an impressive list of 30 different party themes, ranging from "Backyard BBQ" to "Sunday at the Track Party" to "Disco Party." Each themed area provides free customized email invitations, planning tips, party advice and food and drink suggestions, complete with recipe links.
Party Postcard: Football Game
Want to cater to football fanatics, as well as those who show up more for the party than the big game? Plan to provide more than one TV viewing area, if possible. This way, the general party-goers can chat and watch without disturbing diehard fans, who can hole up with other like-minded viewers.
Betting on the game always makes it more interesting, so try it--with a twist. Create an official gambling table, but don't bet money. Wager car washes, home-baked goodies, babysitting services or whatever motivates your guests. Good bets: who wins the coin toss, quarterly scores, MVP, total points and so on.
Food and Drink:
Nachos, Build-Your-Own Pizzas, Gold Margaritas, Screwdrivers
Party Postcard: Halloween
For a refreshing change of pace from the usual haunted house decorations, try turning your house in "Heaven" and "Hades." Transform one room into Heaven with pillows, white sheets and gauzy décor, while another room can be Hades, with glowing red string lights and candles.
Encourage guests to dress up--you could even assign a party theme for added inspiration (movie stars, historical figures, cartoon characters). Try having guests trick or treat around the party as an icebreaker, or even consider holding a pumpkin-carving contest, for more Halloween fun.
Food and Drink:
Shrimp Purses, Pumpkin Cheesecake Slices, Chocolate Colada, Screwdriver