By Chelsea Royer
The Christmas season has begun and perhaps you plan on hosting either Christmas dinner or a holiday party. My guess is you are either looking forward to hosting these events or dreading them. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, Heidi Loveall has some tips to make your party planning stress-free and enjoyable.
Heidi Loveall is known locally as one of the All Wrapped Up coffee shop owners in Montesano. Each Christmas, this cozy shop is decked out in holiday cheer – mostly thanks to Heidi and her magic touch. Though the parties and decorating Heidi does at home and at the shop are rather glamorous, her everyday job as an Event and Engagement Coordinator for Results Washington is what keeps her on her toes and paying attention to detail.
From themed birthday parties to planning conferences for upwards of 2,000 people, Heidi loves every moment of creating spreadsheets, planning out minute details, decorating, and helping her guests enjoy their visit. “I love detail and bringing order to detail,” she says. And while maybe you can’t relate to Heidi’s love of planning, we can all appreciate that she’s already worked out the science of parties to help the rest of us.
Heidi’s 5 Party Planning Words of Wisdom:
Ask yourself: what is the purpose? Is the purpose of your event to bring together an office team that’s spread in different directions? Celebrate a birthday? Eat dinner? Whatever your purpose, write it out and then direct your event accordingly. Heidi says to ask yourself, how you can infuse that purpose into every detail.
- There are four major categories of party planning: food, space, activities, and decorations. Heidi suggests figuring out which of those categories is the least desirable to you and then unloading it from your to-do list by delegating it to someone else. Do you hate cooking? Plan to host the party at your house and hire someone else to take care of the menu – or ask each guest to bring a dish potluck style. Do you love decorating and cooking but cringe at the thought of having a crowd of people in your home? Host the party at a venue. The stress you’ll save by unloading the task you dislike most is well worth the extra dollars.
- Think about the experience your guests will have from the moment they walk in until the moment they leave. Heidi recommends making a big first impression. This can be done by setting a festive table at a dinner party or handing out slippers and cocoa as guests walk through the door. However, decor is one of the easiest ways to make an impression and can be done inexpensively. “Garlands are magic!” says Heidi. “And whatever you do, never neglect the ceiling. It’s easy to line with a garland or hang snowflakes intermittently.” Decorating the ceiling completes the environment you are trying to create. “Go for the big, easy effect,” Heidi adds. This can be done using lots of lights or large ornaments – it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to grab your attention. Heidi’s favorite tip is, “Guests should never leave empty handed.” Be as focused on the last impression as you are about the first impression. This can be as simple as handing a guest a candy-cane tied with ribbon and jingle bells as they leave.
Keep your guests busy. Heidi’s goal is for her guests to never have that awkward moment of standing around not knowing what to do or where to go. She saves easily delegated tasks for last – that way if a guest asks what they can do to help, she has a list of things available. It can be something as easy as chopping vegetables that gives guests a purpose. Heidi also explains that, “Appetizers are awesome! They can often be set out in advance and gives people something to do.”
- Finally, Heidi says to remember that events are about people. “My favorite part of planning events is that whoever you’re planning it for…there’s almost always a moment where you get to see the look on their face. The feeling I get is the same as seeing over 2000 people laughing and talking as it is planning a party for my kids. I do my decorating the night before and the moment my kids wake up and walk out and see it, they have this delight and they know it’s for them. And I can tell that I did something honoring to them. With holiday parties when people walk in and have that smile, or during dinner and you look around and know everyone is enjoying what’s happening – it’s really rewarding.”
As you perhaps get stressed out over your to-do lists and holiday planning, let Heidi’s advice help you refocus. It isn’t just about party-planning – it’s about people and the people we love. When a task becomes an act of love, it swiftly becomes a matter of joy rather than an act of burden.