Put down that calendar! Before you plan your next party, how about spending some time going over the one that just finished to see what worked, what didn’t and what could have been better.
Look back over your guest list, this time concentrating on the ones who came. Did anyone make a fool of them-self, cause a problem or generally show themselves as an ungrateful boor? This is especially helpful when evaluating new members of your guest book so you know who not to invite in the future. More than the obvious offenders, were there more subtle clues that the guest was not right for your party such as not mingling, finding there own space amidst the party or even, say, spending more time inside when the party was out. They may not be bad guests, it just might not be the best party scenario for them. Also keep in mind who really enjoyed themselves, who got best into the spirit of the party and joined in the fun to the fullest. These are the people you definitely want to have back!
While you munch on a few leftovers, consider what dishes were popular and which, if any, got a lukewarm reception. I’ll use my recent party as an example:
Appetizers & Nibbles
Crudites platter (pea pods, broccoli, carrots, celery, radishes) with dip
Spicy Black Bean Dip* with chips
Bacon-wrapped Artichoke Hearts*
Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Barbecue Chicken Breasts
Shredded Beef, with Rolls and choice of sauces (including au jus and horseradish sauces)
Farfalle with Peas, Ham and a Tarragon Cream Sauce**
Cold Cucumber Soup**
Salad of Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Jicama & Radish with a Creamy Citrus dressing**
Blueberry-Lemon cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese frosting
Mexican Chocolate Fondue w/a variety of dippers & fresh fruit
(cookie bars, brownies, marshmallows, graham crackers, cake cubes, strawberries, pineapple, red & green grapes, blueberries and apple slices)
Sparkling Citrus Punch (non-alcoholic)
Melon Balls (alcoholic)
Beer, Wine, Water and Sodas plus a full bar
*=old favorites, the dishes everyone expects at one of my parties
**=brand new recipes, never before tried
The old favorites continue to be popular and the main dish spread was balanced and mostly popular. The pasta dish was very tasty and a good gamble, as was the salad and dressing, even though I could have made a lot less but that goes for the entire party as there were a lot of no-shows from the maybe and non-responder segments. The only no-go was the cucumber soup: the taste was okay but most people found it very unfamiliar. Also, I’d served it in shot glasses (which is an idea I picked up a while back from magazines and television) to avoid the need for spoons and so forth but some people thought it was an adult beverage and not a soup. I opted not to do signage for this buffet, maybe I should have.
Of course the desserts were popular, even though the blueberry-filled cupcakes ended up as blueberry-bottomed ones (the filling sunk, unexpectedly, sank–should have stuck to fresh or frozen berries instead of prepared filling!). A few people found the fondue a bit odd as the mexican chocolate included bits of cocoa nibs so it wasn’t 100% smooth. It was still really tasty, though, and more of a one-time thing since we’d brought the chocolate home from our cruise in January and won’t be repeating the trip any time soon (more’s the pity).
Even though some of the best parties I’ve been to just offered a platform for people to mix and mingle, I like my parties to have something for the guests to DO (like carve pumpkins, watch–and critique–movies or play yard games). This depends as much on what you provide as well as the people you invite as to who enjoys what. Did one game receive a better reception than others? Bring it back! Others not go over so well? Try it on a new group or retire that idea and look for something better. Never be afraid to try something new but don’t be so married to one idea that you stick with it even when it doesn’t work.
Now, pick up that calendar and address book and plan the next shin-dig with another fabulous success under your belt and the knowledge of what worked and what to change.