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As part of your preparation, sketch out your buffet table on a piece of paper. Design (if you will) where your serving pieces will go, as well as what will be served in them. Remember to designate an area for plates, flatware and napkins either on your table or adjacent to it. Decide what tablecloths you will use and what fabric pieces you can use to accessorize. Decide what table
decoration or centerpiece you will use and designate a place for it.
As we talked about in Barefoot Buffets (August, 1999 - Home Style), you should designate specific areas for food. For instance, your desserts should be grouped together and preferably be served on a separate table or
countertop (appropriately decorated of course). Your bar or drinks area should be conveniently located to your mixers, water, juices, etc. and your glasses should be displayed there as well. Part of the prep for a party is scrubbing those glasses and drying them well to make sure there are no spots! If wine is the only alcoholic beverage you are serving, then set glasses out for both red and white wine. If you are serving other alcoholic beverages, have the appropriate sized glasses on hand. And please, don’t forget that we
as host/ess are responsible for our guests’ comfort as well as their safety. Have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages out and readily available with their appropriate glasses! Serving hot cider or eggnog? Clear glass cups are perfect.
So that your party will be as much fun for you as your guests, prepare as much of your menu in advance as possible. Cookies, cakes, and many appetizers can be made ahead of time and frozen. If your party runs over the course of several hours, make 3-4 smaller dishes of the same food, and replenish the table with fresh dishes as necessary.
Prepare your home. Clean and neat are paramount. Make sure your home is putting its best foot forward. Clear entry ways of any unnecessary clutter, and give yourself room to greet your guests. Be sure that guest bathrooms are well stocked with all the necessary items, and place scented votive candles in them.
The presentation portion takes place the day before and the day of the party. After all, without realizing it, you’ve been working on the presentation all along. By now your food is in, cooked or ready to cook, your house clean and inviting and your home decorated. Now it’s time to dress the tables, position the napkins, and organize the glasses, plates, and serving pieces. It’s time to take those candles out of the freezer (yes, it preserves them and lengthens
their lives!) and put some glamour into all your hard work. Position your centerpiece first, then place and prop your serving pieces. Stand back, admire your creativity, and then relax for a while.
Just before your first guests arrive, light your candles, turn on outside lights and illuminate all the rooms you will be using with soft, subtle lighting. Start the music. Take one more walk through your home to make sure everything is just as you want it, and then answer the door with a warm and inviting hello. Mingle with your guests rather than "waiting on them". Urge everyone to make themselves comfortable, then relax, and enjoy the party!
Perfect parties require planning, prepping and presenting our food, our homes, our talents, and our creativity. Make it as elaborate or as simply elegant as you choose. It’s all up to you!