From Invites to Lighting
How to Plan the Perfect Party

planning the perfect party

With the holiday season upon us, there's no shortage of reasons to throw a party, but you also don't need a large-scale holiday to put together a fun bash. If you've recently purchased some new luxury real estate, throw a house warming party, or even if you want to organize a fun celebration to commemorate your new puppy, do it. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate in your daily life so instead of waiting for someone else to find an excuse to party, why don't you beat them to it?
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One of the first steps to any good party is some creative planning. Figure out how many people you plan on inviting because the number definitely matters. If the group is under 25, maybe start setting things in motion four weeks early, but if it's going to be any bigger, make sure to give yourself much more time than a mere month. There's tons of little details most of us never even consider, but thankfully, New York party planner Linnea Johansson has us covered. She's helped tons of A-list celebrities (like Paris Hilton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Rachel Zoe, Justin Timberlake, and Julianne Moore) to make fantastic cooking and entertaining events, so we're excited to share some of her wisdom with you. Within her book "Perfect Parties", Johansson tells us everything we need to know about creating something fun and memorable for our friends and family. For example, did you know that specific foods should only be served at certain times? If you plan on throwing a breakfast bash, it should be between 9 and 11 a.m., brunch or lunch is from 11 to 1 p.m., a tea party falls in between 2 and 4 p.m., cocktail parties should be 5 to 9 p.m., and a dinner or buffet party should be fall somewhere between 6 and 9 p.m.


Johansson says that any unique party should have a fun and inventive theme. "Even with the same menu, guest list, and budget of another party, a theme will help you create a unique experience so memorable that your guests will talk about it for weeks." She suggests themes as simple as specific colors (maybe throw a metallic's party to celebrate you favorite fashion trend) or as advanced as transforming your entire abode into a "tropical oasis - cabanas, piña coladas, and all." She recommends that regardless of the theme you choose, you need to make sure that it reflects in every aspect of the party, from the food to the invitations.

Photo Courtesy of Linnea Johansson e-vite
The Invitation

Once you've finally figured out the theme and who you want to invite, you better get started on those invitations, especially considering they are the first impression your guests will get of the event. If the invitation looks cheap and gaudy, you may not be getting very many RSVPs. E-vites are a great option, as they allow immediacy and saves you money, enabling you to splurge more on the actual party. Just because they're online, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style either. The Marc Friedland Collection for Evite Postmark gives versatile designs that can fit all sorts of gatherings, from dinner to cocktail parties. "The invitation is your first moment of connection with your guests, and is a great way to make a meaningful first impression with clear and thoughtful wording that sets the tone for the party to come," says Friedland. He also suggests to use some humor in the wording, which will help build human interest, and to never use acronyms. If you're tempted to create two lists, one with first priority guests and another with second, don't! "Realizing you were part of a “second wave” of invites that went out after the host received too many declines feels like a slight. Make realistic plans in advance to adjust for a higher or lower than expected turnout," says Friedland.

Photo Courtesy of tea party
If you're more of a fan of the traditional paper invitation, you need to figure out which type suits your event: the classic invite or the creative invite. According to Johansson, the classic invitation should always be chosen for grander events, like weddings and Oscar parties, and should be printed on thick cardstock as it "will give a luxurious feel to your invite." There are some rules you should take into consideration, such as the color and size - classic invitations should be white or cream-colored, according to Johansson, and the card should be either 4x6 or 5x7 inches. If you want to make a lasting impression, try handwriting the guest's name with a calligraphy pen. This could be a good time to add a handwritten note for any guests you would especially like to see attend.

For creative invitations, you can do whatever you want…as long as it fits your theme. "A creative invitation is perfect for a birthday or cocktail party and nowadays it's also common to send out creative invitations to parties that traditionally used to have only classic invitations - wedding and baby showers, for example," says Johansson. "Let your creativity and style decide what your invitation should look like, and don't hesitate to experiment…" If you're throwing a spring party, maybe send some planting seeds with the invite, for example. Johansson also suggests live invitations, if money isn't a problem. "Have a flower messenger deliver invitations to the midsummer night's party in his bouquets…or hire a belly dancer to invite your friends to an exotic Turkish brunch while shaking her hips."

Photo Courtesy of Linnea Johansson planning for a party

Decorating for a party can be pretty tough but thanks to Johansson, it's about to get a lot easier with her five essentials.

Fabric: "An easy way to transform any room and create a new mood is to decorate it with fabrics." From tablecloths and napkins to drapes and chair covers, fabric plays a pretty important role. Make sure to choose colors and patterns that fit with the theme and Johansson suggests using bold patterns and stronger colors if the party will be in muted lighting. While you want the colors to be cohesive, don't be afraid to branch into different types of materials.

Photo Courtesy of Linnea Johansson party planning
Color: It's pretty widely known that colors can effect mood, so make sure that the ones you use for your party are setting the right tone. According to Johansson, white symbolizes purity and childhood, and is a great way to open a room up. Pink gives off an elegant and sentimental vibe, but be careful with how much pink and the hue because you may not want your party looking like one fit for a twelve-year-old. Red is definitely the color of love, which "brings a lot of energy to a space." Black may seem depressing, symbolizing such feelings as fear and loneliness, but "it's actually perfect when you're looking to bring out other strong colored objects in the design…"

Lighting: "You can decorate all day long but if you don't light the space properly, your design just won't work!" Overhead lights are forbidden; Johansson says that it will make any guest look unflattering! Spotlights are a good light source that you can direct towards specific design pieces, like flower arrangements and food. Candles create the best inviting atmosphere, so cluster them together to create a really neat look.

Photo Courtesy of Linnea Johansson planning a party
Flower Arrangements: You pretty much can't go wrong with flowers, as long as you think about the type and presentation. If the party is dark, make sure you illuminate the flowers so people can see them. Johansson also suggests to choose them based off of how they fit the theme and look together, not necessarily based on which you think is prettiest. "Always include one or two plump flowers that give a lot of color, one type that hangs down if you want to cover the vase, and twigs and grass to create volume and height."

Party Music: No matter the type of party you're planning, Johansson asserts that you should always play music. Try creating your own playlist, one which will be long enough where it will cover the entire party, and make sure you consider the musical tastes of the crowd. You can also utilize movie soundtracks, as they were created to reflect a specific theme and mood. "Playlists and soundtracks are great, but nothing beats a live band, if your budget allows."

One of the most important things about any good party is to have fun. Think of the planning as an extension of the party itself and have a good time with it! Don't be scared of shaking off conventions and trying something new. You can even print up a little themed cocktail recipe book and have your guests make their own drinks. As cliché as it may be, the sky's the limit on what you can do.

Photo Courtesy of Linnea Johansson

Mila Pantovich

Mila Pantovich lives in San Diego, CA with whatever animals she is fostering at the time. With a degree in Literature/Writing and a Minor in Film Studies, she holds a marketing position at a prestigious law firm and has written for several publications, including JustLuxe, Citizine and Huffington Post. In her spare time she writes film reviews for various online publications, works on a creative n...(Read More)

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