By Debbie L. Sklar



Suggestions from the experts to help you get started and on the right track.

SURPRISE! YOUR HUSBAND CALLS and says he’s invited the boss over for a “small, caus- al dinner party… tonight,” just as the holiday season is kicking in. You only have a few hours to plan, but before you panic and head for the hills, the experts have some advice.

But wait, while planning the perfect party may seem rather daunting at first—whether it’s a small get-together for hubby’s inner office circle or a blow-out party for Thanksgiving, christmas, Kwanzaa, chanukah or whatever you celebrate—it could actually be a fun experience.

You first need to decide what kind of gathering you want: cocktails after 6 o’clock or a five- course dinner party for christmas eve? perhaps a big bash with all of the elaborate trimmings or maybe it’s better to stick with a simple theme like small appetizer plates and drinks before you carve the bird?

And do you go it alone and hope for the best and call in an expert to make sure it all comes off without a hitch?

Those in the know say either way works.


Experts Speak
Doris Dunkel, owner/event coordinator of San Diego Events Co., based in the Crown Point/Pacific Beach area, said hiring someone is always benefi- cial if you have the time and the money.
The most crucial element in selecting the right event planner, “is finding someone who you mesh with,” said Dunkel who has been in the business since 2009.
“Since you will be spending a lot of time communicating with him or her, you should feel comfortable that they are onboard with your vision, budget and overall outcome of the event. Someone who is organized, well connected and open-minded is key,” she said.
However, if your budget does not allow for an event planner, here are a few important elements she offers for you to keep in mind: focus on tantalizing the senses; sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.

  • Make sure your event is visual appealing, it is all about presentation.
  • Have a variety of beverages available; can you say “build your own
    mimosa bar?”
  • Create an environment with the right music that will keep your guests engaged throughout the festivities.

“In regards to touch, it is always a good idea to incorporate a variety of textures into the event space. This could be accomplished through linens, decor, or even the food,” she said. “Most importantly, remember that events are meant to facilitate connections with friends and family, so grab a cocktail and enjoy.”

What’s Hot Now
Now that we have you in the party mood, what’s hot now?
Of course, cocktail parties are still very much on people’s radar, as well. What better time than the holiday season to get people together and enjoy
some festive libations? Spiked eggnog, people?
Theme parties are also popular and by no means have they lost their ap-
peal. And what better theme than the holidays which starts with Halloween and then is quickly followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Any or all of these holidays are perfect for hosting a theme party for you and your guests. Think autumn colors, apple dunking, costume parties, hot toddy, potato pancakes, and gift-giving to whet your party-making appetite.
Cori Garcia of Classic Weddings & Events, based in Point Loma, said she likes to plan a party around a theme, too, but not in the traditional sense.
“A theme could simply mean incorporating a color or a centerpiece or even some colored linens,” she said. “Most people think a theme is some- thing like a ‘70s party’ but it can be much more simple.”
She tends to ask her clients for an item that means a lot to them and then uses it to design an entire party around their choice.
“It could be a particular roll of ribbon that a client likes that I will use to add in a wreath and hang on the front door or as napkin holders, maybe around the centerpiece vases on a table…” she said.

Garcia added that she often follows the goddess of all things home related, Martha Stewart, for ideas.“She has great party ideas so I check her out and ask, ‘What would Martha do?’ When I am looking for help,” she said.
Garcia, who has been in the business for 8 years, suggests having signature drinks, food items, and an activity planned for any kind of party you decide to host in an effort to make it your own.
“Just have fun, be creative and all will fall into place,” she said.
“Also a good hostess should always account for parting gifts for her guests; you can’t go wrong with something edible or sip-able,” she said. Another party planner, Amanda McPhail, owner of Creative Affairs Inc., based in Coronado, having been in the industry for 23 years, has her own ideas about what is trending now. For example, she said the club plates, also called micro plates are all the rage. Instead of large dinners, multiple courses of appetizers and petite desserts are in. Action stations are coming back, creating the meal in front of the guests. Pairing food with beverages (beer and wine pairing per course), a mixologist who works with the chef to create specialties cocktails that complement the design of the event and the
menu, too.

Cost Factor
If you’re wondering how much you will have to spend to make your party a success, there is no easy answer. Depending on the complex- ity of the dinner party, or whatever kind of event, you are looking to spend anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars per person when accounting for food, beverage, decor, entertainment and gift- ing, Dunkel said.
Whatever way you decide to go—be it on your own, planning a get-together at the last minute or hiring someone months in advance, just remember it’s your party, so have fun!