Party Planning: Part 2…or, Beware Your Inner Do-It-Yourselfer!

Do you ever hear yourself saying, “I can make that!”  I do.  All the time! It’s my inner do-it-yourself voice that may, or may not be, evil…jury’s still out on that.  If I’m being positive, I tell myself that I’m just trying to save money, or that I’m being industrious or creative.  But more often than not, I have to check myself and make sure that I’m not being cheap, or puffing myself up just a little bit.  And is copying someone else’s work really being “creative”?

I think we all want to enjoy a sense of accomplishment, but I’ve witnessed too many well-intended hosts and hostesses who take on too much trying to do it all and stress themselves right out of having any fun, not to mention the toll they place on their loved ones who are just trying to help them!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling stressed.  So when I started planning my party, I knew that there were some things I could definitely do myself and some things that would require help.  I made sure that I had a few clear, guiding goals to help keep me on track:

  1. Make sure that my guests were well-cared for so that my gratitude for all of their wonderful support would be made clear
  2. To have fun and not stress out.  I think it’s like bees and dogs smelling fear…guests can smell stress.

The Five Stages of Grief, er…I Mean Party Planning

I think that there are stages to the party-planning process, which come awfully close to the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial:   “I’m having a party!  Woohoo!  It’s going to be the best party ever! I’m going to hire a band and jugglers and serve really cute cocktails with killer appetizers and a three-course sit-down dinner for 100 people on my $300 budget. “
  2. Anger:  “It costs what!?!
  3. Bargaining:  “Okay, that’s fine.  I can cook all the food myself.  My kids can serve the food.  I’ll grow my own flowers.  Make my own party decorations and favors, too.  All for next to nothing.”
  4. Depression:  “No, I can’ t (do all of the above), and no one is going to come to my party.
  5. Acceptance:  “Well, the invitations already went out.  I put a deposit down on the hall.  I have to have a party now.”

Be Honest, Now..

In approaching my own party, I was brutally honest with myself and what I could actually do.  I know that I like to make things.  It does not stress me out.  So I knew that I would enjoy making garlands of little cloth flowers out of my old sheets, and that it would be pretty simple to make my own cakestands using the remaining pieces of my mom’s old wedding china that she was going to give to Goodwill.  I found joy in these activities, not stress.  I know, I’m one of those people.

But on the other hand, while I like to cook and bake a little, I knew that I could not make enough food and desserts for the whole she-bang. I knew I could make some things, but I also knew that I would need to call in some professionals and mom (same thing).  Sure, I would have enjoyed decorating one of the super cute and delicious flower cookies that Angela made for me.  And I would have felt really accomplished!  But icing all 100 of them?  I would’ve freaked out!  Not to mention having to bake and ice all of the cupcakes she made!  Same thing goes with Colleen who did the other desserts.  When Colleen offered to provide the baked items, she was super clear about what things she could make really well and really easily.  She knew what she wanted to do.  It gave me much joy to showcase their talents and share them with my friends.

Angela's too-cute cookies

Looking back, the day was not entirely stress-free.  I did stress out for about 45 minutes right before the party started.  The morning of the party did not go as expected and there were a few things that I had planned that didn’t happen.  No one knows about them except me.  Was I disappointed?  Sure, but just a little.  I had my priorities clear in my mind and if I had to let something go, I was braced for it.  It didn’t hit me on the day like a crisis.  I knew ahead of time that not everything would go as planned.

It’s Not a Contest

I think it’s a shame that “stress” is even a part of the party experience.  I often wonder if don’t use the feeling of stress to makes ourselves feel more important or that if our lives are so busy that we must be doing something terribly exciting!  And sometimes, I think we use it to excuse poor behavior.  I think we lose sight of the goal of our gatherings:  to exercise hospitality to our friends, family and neighbors.

From little kids’ birthday parties to big extravagant weddings, we get caught up in the stuff — the goody bags, the presents, the decorations, the food and entertainment.  I believe that all of those elements can be wonderful tokens of our love and can be used to great effect to express joy, gratitude, and even to mark the specialness of an occasion.  But I also think it’s too easy for us to enter into a contest of big, bigger, biggest.  I don’t know, maybe that’s why we all like those contest-style shows on Food Network.

Anyway, I wrote this series of posts to encourage my friends who like to entertain, but often feel drained from the experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed my party experience and think that I achieved my goals.  You’ll need to ask my guests, but based on the feedback I’ve received, a good time was had by all.  We’ll see if anyone comes to my next party!  Ha!

Happy Easter, everybody!

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