Small Talk: Beware of ‘easy’ party planning ideas

I tried to keep it simple. I hosted a wedding shower last week. I wanted it to be extra-special, but I’ve thrown parties before. How hard could it be?

“I know,” I thought, as I began to plan. “I will just fill the house with fresh flowers rather than hanging banners and bunting. That should be easy.”

“Oh, and instead of trying to bake cupcakes or a cake, I will pull out my old chocolate mousse recipe. I remember it being quick, easy and yummy.”

“Hey, how about some interesting salads. They should be easy to toss together.”

My hindsight advice? Never, ever use the word “easy” when you are planning a party. It will bite you in the backside.

A week before the event, the head count seemed set at 16 and I figured in some guests who are gluten-intolerant. I painstakingly picked out plates, napkins and utensils. Of course, I changed my mind, and had to return and replace them. The gift I ordered hadn’t arrived yet, but I went ahead and bought a cute box and ribbons for wrapping. The box turned out to be far too large, so I had to return and replace it. I borrowed serving bowls and chairs. I gathered ingredients for a signature cocktail of blackberry-lemon gin and tonic, a favorite of the bride. I believe I thought it would be easy to make.

I scheduled cleaning help for the morning of the party. What could I possibly do in a few hours that would make a mess? Oh, the gods were laughing and rubbing their hands together in glee as that thought drifted through my mind.

Three days before the event, the head count shot from 16 to 21. That doesn’t sound like much until you translate it into finding matching dessert bowls, the size of the salads and how many chairs you own and/or can squeeze into your living room.

And you have to factor in that it’s me doing the prep work.

As the days ticked off, I realized nothing could be made more than 24 hours ahead. I also discovered that 21 bowls of mousse take up the entire refrigerator.

Even with a second fridge in the garage, I couldn’t accommodate all three salad bowls.

The 10 vases worth of flowers had to be bought last minute. By the grace of a dear friend, they got arranged, but it took hours. The green salad had to be last minute. The mousse had to stay chilled. And I badly bungled a salad using gluten-free pasta. I chose one that went from underdone to mush in 60 seconds.

During the last hours before the guests arrived, I was wildly slicing and chopping mounds of lemons, tomatoes and salad stuff, tri-tip, chicken and, of course, my finger, which bled for hours.

I sprayed whipping cream across the room and a guest, as well.

I got dressed so fast, 10 minutes before zero hour, I forgot half my make-up and my earrings. By the time I served the mousse, I forgot about the box of gluten-free cookies I bought to serve with it. I was certain the Good Hostess Committee would be dropping by soon to strip me of my spoons and apron.

The end result? You are all sworn to silence. Everyone had a wonderful time. They loved the drinks, loved the food, loved the flowers, loved the mousse, didn’t miss the cookies. Funny how that goes.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer gathering contact info for nearby caterers, while avoiding sharp knives. Contact her at jgillette@coastnewsgroup.com

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