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jca's avatar

What are your best party tips?

Asked by jca (36054points) April 15th, 2012

We are having a 70th birthday surprise party for my mom in late June. There will be about 20 people invited, which means from 12 to 15 will probably show up. They are wine drinkers, not heavy beer drinkers, two do not drink at all.

What are some food tips or food suggestions?
What are some beverage suggestions for serving or type?
Any other advice? Setup, purchasing, food, beverage, utensils, etc?

Talk about successful parties you have had and what was successful and what did not work.

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19 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Make sure you mom will love a surprise party and not have apoplexy (as I would if my family pulled that on me.)

The best parties are easy ones; you pick the menu, the cooks, the budget and the beverages. You set them up as a buffet and then relax.

Your question is much too broad. Anything from filet and caviar to red beans and rice. Use your mother’s taste as your guide (as well as your pocket book).

My sister did a three-day Thanksgiving for 24 people. Everyone helped around the edges (and I had people sleep chez moi) but she and her husband did the heavy lifting. They made all meals vegan (with a little cheating – the turkey,gravy and gluten-free stuffing were catered) and assigned tasks to the responsible guests, including baby sitting the little guys when they went outside to explore the pond and the deer grazing.

Here is what we worked around; Thanksgiving for the Mob

jca's avatar

I think my mom will be so happy to have a bunch of her friends together. We gave her a surprise party when she turned 50 and she was thrilled. My aunt suggests lasagna, salad and bread, and of course desserts and cake, and that’s all a great idea, but with the nice (hopefully) June weather ,and eating out on the deck, we can also do some grilling and/or other salad ideas.

gailcalled's avatar

Grilled wild salmon and free-range chicken, huge salad, starch like potato, macaroni, rice or quinoa salad.

You are a loving daughter.

Coloma's avatar

If you don’t wish to set up a huge formal type dinner, go for buffet style and even better, easy to make/serve picnic type fare. I just had a friend over last night and set up a buffet picnic dinner for us, Potato salad, chicken drumsticks, dry salami, french bread, spinach dip, olives, baby carrots, pickled veggie mix, cheeses, and strawberry shortcake. :-)

Yes, grilling with salads, and other side dishes might be a good choice if you’re going for the outdoor scene. Chicken or burgers, baked beans, corn on the cob, watermelon etc.
Oh man, all this food talk at 9:30 am..I can’t wait to finish my leftovers this afternoon. haha

Have fun!

FluffyChicken's avatar

My most successful parties are always potlucks. If everyone brings a dish, everyone is fed, there is variety to choose from, you get a more meaningful meal, and it’s much gentler on the pocket book. Potlucks might be my favorite thing in the entire world.

JLeslie's avatar

What about Mimosas or Sangria with brunch? Make one of the baked french toast thingies with real maple syrup available. Lox, bagels, cream cheese, tomato, onion, and capers available. Or, if they are not lox people you could do a beef roast carved with a selection of rolls and coissants. Some yummy perserves as sides go with the various breads and bagels. Chicken salad is a good option with everything also. Have a large selection of fruit, I like strawberries, pineapple, cantelope, grapes, and oranges, or a fruit salad. Bahama Breeze restaurant served a fruit salad with a dollup of orange sherbert, it’s so yummy, but if you put the sherbert you have to worry about serving it right away, or keeping it chillded.

Do it as a buffet and let them take what they want.

gailcalled's avatar


I love the idea of a potluck, even if it is just the beverages, a few deserts and some side dishes. That does help with the work load.

JLeslie's avatar

I just saw you want to grill. You could grill veggies like asparagus, portabello mushrooms, zucchini and whatever meat you prefer. Sangria will still work to go along with it.

The thing about grilling is it has to be done at the time, what I suggested above you can prepare beforehand.

I don’t like the idea of a potluck personally, let he women just show up and be treated to a nice lunch, not have to work.

@gailcalled thanks, I fixed it.

JLeslie's avatar

Some tips if you like my suggestions.

You can buy the chicken salad at Cosco or some other store that is similar and add your own walnuts and celery to make it your own. Do taste and make sure you like it, some chicken salads have some weird flavors stuck in there, but some are delicious that are premade.

You can buy the fruit already cut up also.

You can buy a good brand of roast beef like boars head, and just buy it in a huge piece from the deli and carve it yourself the day of the party.

I have bought sangria in a box, and then added my own fruit, and it is always a hit.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If the guests don’t mind getting a little messy, BBQ some ribs and corn on the cob on the grill. Add some salads and desserts and you are good to go.

JLeslie's avatar

You might want to keep in mind in that age group they might watch the fat, salt, and cholesterol they eat. Have some healthy options available.

augustlan's avatar

Since it’s an outdoor summer party, I like the picnic idea. You could even do little sandwiches on a platter, fried chicken (I’d just buy Popeye’s, not make it), pasta salad, fruit salad, and if you want to grill you can always throw in burgers and dogs to the mix. Sangria is a good idea for the wine drinkers, and it looks so pretty in a nice glass pitcher. Lemonade in another would be nice, too.

bkcunningham's avatar

Be watchful of the weather if you plan on an outdoor event. Have a backup plan for moving everyone inside if you don’t have a covered outdoor area.

YARNLADY's avatar

Have a wide variety of foods, and serve them buffet style. Make sure there are plenty of chairs.

JLeslie's avatar

A tip for easy lemonade, you can use one of the powders and mix with club soda, it takes away the very sweet, put some ice cubes in the pitcher and slices of lime floating. Looks pretty and tastes good.

Fried chicken sounds yummy to me too, and it can be served cold.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The SO and I hosted a party for his parents earlier this year. There were 12 in all: his dad’s brothers and their partners. In an effort to make it as easy as possible on the night of the party, we decided to do an Indian takeaway buffet that was delivered to the house. We also converted the computer room into a self-serve bar. We moved a small refrigerator in there to accommodate juices, soda and beer. After everyone said that they were done nibbling on the buffet, it was replaced with fruit and cheese. We later added desserts and coffee. At one point, we held a champagne toast, as it was the SO’s mother’s birthday.

* Like @gailcalled, there were some dietary restrictions to work around. I called each party in advance to ask what they were, as well as what they liked to drink. All preferences were met.
* We labeled everything on the buffet so that guests would know whether it was vegetarian, a hot dish, etc.
* As much as I loathe contributing to landfills, I opted for plastic plates with dividers. They are great if people aren’t going to be sitting at a table. Not only did it make clean-up easier, but we just don’t have enough plates.
* There were no decorations involved, other than some fancy napkins. We just made sure that the house was neat and clean, as well as stocking extra toilet paper within visible sight in the bathroom.
* The highlight of the evening was arranging in advance to web-cam with the sixth brother who lives in a different country. Since it was conducted on an iPad, the ‘boys’ were able to sit around a table and chat with their other brother and his wife. It went on for hours and was priceless. If your mom has someone special in her life that cannot attend the party and that the guests know, I highly recommend this.
* Despite attempting to go the route of as low maintenance as possible, it took our full erffort to keep the food stocked and clean up. If I were to do it again, and we plan to, I’d recruit one of the parents’ grandchildren to help us out.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love, love, love the webcam idea, @Pied_Pfeffer. What wonderful memories.

Jeruba's avatar

Simplfy. Once you’ve decided on all the foods and beverages you want to serve, you can probably cut the list by at least half and nobody will miss what you omitted.

JLeslie's avatar

For something so special I say use regular plates, or splurge and buy some bright colored picnic plates (most of them are dishwasher safe now) or a Correlle type product that you can use for years (very durable and lightweight) if you can fit it in the budget.

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