Party planning should be fun and easy, so get things done in 15 minutes or less.

The 15-Minute Party Planner's blog breaks down basic party-planning tasks into simple actions that take 15 minutes or less. We're not here to make you the next Martha, we're here to help you be crafty quickly!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to host the world's easiest wine tasting

Few among us are expert wine tasters, but plenty among us are expert wine drinkers. To host a wine tasting party that is fuss-free, simply tell each of your guests to bring his or her favorite wine. For small gatherings, consider asking each guest to bring both a favorite red and a favorite white. For larger gatherings, consider asking people to bring two bottles of a single wine so that there is enough to go around. Ultimately, the point of this party is to have a good time with friends and try new wines, not to become Sommeliers.

“What is the definition of a good wine?
It should start and end with a smile.”
~William Sokolin

As hostess, you simply provide the party's food and enough glasses for each guest. You'll also want to provide a "dump bucket" so that guests can pour out any wines they don't like. Purists will tell you not to rinse the glasses with water in between tastings, but you may want to provide a pitcher of water for your guests. (If not, be sure to start with light wines and work your way up to darker wines so that you don't overwhelm the palate or your glasses!)

If possible, ask your friends to e-mail you before your party with the names of the wines they'll bringing. Then, simply copy and paste the names into one central document. If you're feeling fancy, split the document into two columnsone for whites and one for reds. By providing your guests with a list of the wines they're sampling, your friends will have a chance to take notes about why they liked or disliked certain wines. (Bonus: Even if your friends get tipsy and forget what they're drinking, they'll have the notes to refer back to the next time they're out wine shopping.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Centerpieces in 60 seconds

Centerpieces are probably the easiest part of party planning, since you can make them as simple or as lavish as you'd like. We here at the 15-Minute Party Planner are, of course, fans of simplicity. Here are a dozen centerpieces you can create in just a minute.

Head to your local dollar store or simply root through your cupboards to find some candles. Then, try one of these simple centerpiece ideas.
  • Three is a magic number; anything in a set of three is easily arranged and easy to make look good. Set three identical pillar candles on a tray or piece of wood for a simple centerpiece. You can decorate the tray (if you wish) with items that coordinate with your theme, such as polished rocks, seashells, buttons... even walnuts (in their shells) or fresh cranberries.

  • Arrange a dozen or so candles of varying heights (in a single color scheme) on a round platter or tray for a cozy centerpiece.

  • Set tea lights afloat in a glass bowl for a shimmery centerpiece. (Be sure to use tea lights that are meant for water; regular tea lights won't work.)
Whether you're using fresh flowers or good-quality faux flowers, decorating with blooms brightens up any table.
  • One simple standby? A dozen or more flowers artfully arranged in a beautiful vase. (If you don't feel like you can arrange them yourself, simply order a bouquet from a local florist problem solved!)

  • Mimic the floating tea light centerpiece (above) with the heads of flowers floating in shallow bowls and vessels. Wide, sturdy flowers work best in this case.

  • Buy large-blossom, long-stem flowers (like gerbera daisies) and set a single stem in each of several long-necked vases; then, place the vases in a line down the center of your table.
Mother nature is a whiz in the color department; fruit and vegetables showcase vibrant colors to make a table pop.
  • Fill a large glass bowl with bright citrus fruits (lemons, limes, or oranges) or colorful peppers (the shinier the better).

  • Candy adds a beautiful pop of color to any table. Use jellybeans in place of pebbles on a tray of candles or fill glass containers with bright gumballs, candy sticks, or gumdrops for a sweet dash of color.

  • Make dessert do double-duty. Arrange cupcakes, pastries, or other treats on a multi-tiered dessert stand for a centerpiece good enough to eat.