Party professionals like to plan events for those with big budgets, but they have some budget-wise advice for the rest of us as well:
"Making your own music is as simple as putting together a great playlist on an iPod, and getting the right genre to play," said Yifat Oren of Yifat Oren & Associates. What's the age group? Is it mixed? If so, be sure to have something for all ages. People like to hear things they know."
With an iPod, plus a DJ software program, Mark Yumkas of Angel City Designs said anyone can have a dance party. "You just need a defined space. The music station can be the kitchen island or a picnic table." At his own shindig, Yumkas appointed his 13-year-old son the DJ. "He put on sunglasses, and we had a blast."
John Fatooh of Event Finesse encourages a sense of adventure in a design scheme. "I always advise my clients to have fun with the colors of glasses and linens, by pairing things that wouldn't normally go together. You want arriving guests to know instantly that something special is happening," he said.
Gary Levitt of Sequoia Productions recommends that people take advantage of the city's resources, such as the fabric district, to buy fabric for making tablecloths. "Where a specialty company might charge you $80 to $90 a tablecloth, you might find something you love at 99 cents a yard."
And don't forget the lighting. Tony Schubert of Event Eleven suggests people light their party with amber bulbs from the hardware store. "If you don't have great lighting, it doesn't matter who's there. People won't look good," he said. "Amber light bulbs on a dimmer make everyone look beautiful."
Kathleen Sacchi of Kathleen Sacchi the Fine Art of Events proposes having pot luck dinners, but with assigned dishes, for "taking the fuss out of people worrying and wondering what to do," and then starting with cocktails in the kitchen, so the hostess isn't "a slave to the party."
It's best not to "over-think the food," said Mindy Weiss of Mindy Weiss Party Consultants, who believes guests most enjoy hors d'oeuvres and desserts, so a main course may be unnecessary. "I like hors d'oeuvres that are substantial -- three to four bites-size. You can really fill up on them and then eat dessert as well."
"Just keep people coming over," said Iconic Event Studios' Michael Gapinski, who advocates taking a theme from TV or a movie, finding a recipe at www.epicurious.com, then enlisting friends to help. "Don't be stuck on thinking you have to be extravagant or perfect. If you mess things up, put a sauce on it and have a glass of wine," he said. "Open up your cupboards. Use your china. The most important thing is getting friends together."