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12 Party Tips From Professionals

12 Party Tips From Professionals

The top rules experienced event planners always follow when hosting an event of their own

Spruce your holiday party up with these professional tips.

Throwing great parties is an event planner's job. And when planning hundreds of soirées a year, there is no doubt that an event planner has experienced both great successes and significant stumbles. Last year, we rounded up a group of 50 talented event planners and caterers around the country — some of the best in the business — who inspire us with their smart ideas and beautiful events. They've shared their worst party fouls with us, and now they're sharing their cardinal rules for planning an event to remember.

Click here to see the 12 Party Tips from Professionals Slideshow.

To begin, Juliet Douglas of Little Posh Parties and Tara Wilson of Tara Wilson Events urge hosts to keep things simple. You're more apt to get into trouble when you take on more than you can chew, perhaps serving up too many finicky dishes, or inviting more people than you can comfortably fit in your home. And remember to embrace foods that you can make in advance, leaving you more time to check, and re-check, the bar and table come party day. Whether it's cheese, fruit, vegetables, and hummus, says Megan Morrison of Berghoff Catering, or beef tenderloin, there are a number of dishes that are suited for serving at room temperature, or taste better a day or two after they're prepared.

So what inspires these experts when planning a party? Using a theme that weaves through the menu, cocktails, décor, attire, and music, paired with something completely unexpected. Perhaps it's a fortune teller who arrives during cocktails to give guests a glimpse of the future, or vases filled with limes and vegetables, rather than flowers, adding color to the tables and bar. And though these event planners are the best in the industry, they'd agree that no party is ever completely perfect — but, guests would never know because the men and women running the show are always prepared for emergencies. That's their little secret — now, shh. Don't tell.

This story was originally published January 1, 2012.


Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.

Birthdays are not just about cakes and gifts. They need to be lively with different themes, fun activities, and great decor.

Check out our cool birthday party ideas that your teen will fall in love with.

1. Bonfire birthday party

Few things can beat the pleasure of a night out with friends, music, and bonfire. It is also easy to set up outdoors rather than frantically cleaning every corner of the house. It’ll be a great idea during winters.

What you need:

Small chairs, sitting mats, Bluetooth speakers or a guitar (optional), fairy lights, small candles

What you can do:

  • Decorate the place with candles, fairy lights, small cushions, chairs, and sitting mats.
  • If your teen’s friends love playing musical instruments, ask them to get them.
  • Maybe, they can all tune in together for a warm party.
  • Keep the s’mores, roasted marshmallows, cake, pizza and refreshing drinks ready.

2. Carnival birthday party

A carnival party in the backyard is going to be a hit with the teens.

Home backyard or a local park

What you need:

Patio furniture, bright-colored linen, balloons, and strings of different colors

What you can do:

  • Convert your patio furniture into a carnival food tent.
  • Use a bright cloth to cover the table.
  • Fix a big umbrella over it, and hang small, colored balloons and strings from the top of the umbrella.
  • Use colorful fabrics and light blankets to make the booths. Hang them from cloth lines or ropes.
  • Arrange some fun DIY games at these playbooths.
  • Cotton candy, popcorn, cakes, edible flowers, chicken nuggets, nachos and mini hot dogs will set it all right.