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, May 31, 2011

Games for going away parties

Now that graduation season is upon us, it may be time to host a going away party or two.  Recent grads may be heading off to new locations to begin jobs, continue their schooling, or go exploring.  Read on for some games that will fit in with a Bon Voyage theme.

Packing game
Arrange a pile of clothes, toiletries and other traveling items (camera, small umbrella, etc.) on the ground. Make sure you have a few of everything available. Then, set up two suitcases and have people race to put together the best suitcase in a short amount of time. You can even put out a bunch of seasonal or regional items (bathing suit, mittens, French language dictionary, guidebooks, etc.) and have different “destinations” each time. For instance, the first pair might pack for a trip to the Bahamas, the second pair might pack for a week of backpacking through Europe, the third pair could pack for a ski vacation in the mountains, etc.

Pin the flag on your destination
Who needs a donkey when you have a map?  Hang a map on the wall that depicts your guest of honor's destination.  Then, print out small versions of the state or country's flag.  Affix a circle of tape to the back of each flag, and have blindfolded participants try to stick the flag on the right spot on the map.  To make it harder, spin participants around once or twice before they try to place their flags. 

Alternatively, you can print out something thematic – mini Big Ben cutouts for a trip to London, a college logo or mascot for a trip to a new university – and pin that on the map instead. 

Guest-of-honor Trivia
Create a page of questions about the guest of honor and have people answer the questions. Questions can be about the person's likes and dislikes, memorable moments with party guests, or anything else you can think of.  Consider throwing in a few questions about the honored guest's destination or trying Newlywed Game-style questions about the guest's travel, packing, or tourist preferences.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple momentos you can create at a going away party

When you're throwing a party for a friend who is leaving town, it's nice to give your friend something to remember you by. These momentos allow your party guests to participate in the gift giving and require little prep work. The end result, however, is a trio of gifts your friend will treasure.

Scrapbook of memories

Scrapbooks are a wonderful way to preserve memories.  To create a going away scrapbook, first, purchase a decorative binder that will hold 8.5 x 11 paper.  (Choosing a traditional paper size, rather than a scrapbook paper size will make it easier for guests to contribute to the scrapbook.)  Then, ask guests to prepare their scrapbook pages before the party.  Encourage the craft-impaired to write letters if they don't feel comfortable decorating a page.

In addition, you may want to provide paper, stickers, photos, etc. at the party so that people can continue to add to the scrapbook throughout the evening.  Once people finish their pages, slip them into plastic sleeve protectors and clip the whole lot in the binder.  Instant scrapbook!

Ideas for pocket photo albums

If you want to make it easy for your soon-to-be-leaving friend to keep in touch, create a practical keepsake.  Ask each guest to bring a 4x6 photograph of himself or a picture that shows both the guest and the guest of honor.  On the back of the photo, each person should print his or her contact information.  Include everything from snail mail addresses to Skype user names.  Then, stick the photos in a pocket-sized photo album.  The album will serve as both souvenir and address book. 

Need another photo album idea?  To remind your guest of honor that she is well-loved, collect cards that let her know why she'll be missed.  Give each party guest an index card, and instruct her to write "[Name], I’ll miss you because…" on them, followed by the reasons the guest of honor will be missed.  Once completed, put the cards in a small photo album.

Collecting messages and signatures
Once a favorite of elementary school children with tee shirts and sharpies, the idea of personalized gear has crossed over into the realm of weddings and other celebrations.  Instead of a tee shirt, consider having guests sign a photo mat (then frame the mat with a photograph from the party), write their contact information in an address book, or compose messages inside a gift book or greeting card.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baby shower entertainment: the Famous Name Game

If you're getting ready to host a baby shower, try playing the Famous Name Game. It's a great game to play if the mother-to-be has already picked out a name for the baby.

How do you play? As the party's host, create a list of famous people with the same first name as the baby. Then, describe those people and let people guess who you're describing.  If you'd like, you can give a prize to the person who gets the most right, or give prizes to the first person to answer each question.
Since the Social Security Administration recently released its list of the most popular baby names of 2010, we'll use some popular names for our examples.

Sample Famous Name Game clues:

  1. Business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge.  (Jacob Marley)
  2. Popular werewolf of the Twilight series.  (Jacob Black)
  3. Actor of October Sky and Brokeback Mountain fame.  (Jacob "Jake" Gyllenhaal)
  1. Woman who established a Boston art museum from which 13 works were infamously stolen in the 1990s (Isabella Stewart Gardener)
  2. Protagonist of the Twilight series (Isabella "Bella" Swan)
  3. Third wife of Juan Perón, whose second wife was immortalized in the musical Evita (Isabella Perón)
  1. Title of a famous Edith Wharton novel (Ethan Frome)
  2. American actor of Dead Poet's Society and Training Day fame (Ethan Hawke)
  3. North American furniture chain (Ethan Allen)
  1. American actress staring in pop television drama One Tree Hill (Sophia Bush)
  2. Prolific Italian actress with more than 50 years worth of films (Sophia Loren)
  3. Police officer character on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Sofia Curtis)
If the mom-to-be hasn't chosen a baby name yet, consider playing the Famous Name Game using the baby's last name instead.

For more unique baby shower games, read 3 easy baby shower games that require little or no prep work.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There's still time to host a Cinco de Mayo fiesta!

Today is Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “Fifth of May”), and across America, there will be parties.

Though Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely win against the French at the Battle of Puebla, Americans have adopted the holiday as a good excuse to indulge in Mexican food and margaritas. If you’re hoping to host your own last-minute Cinco de Mayo fiesta, here’s how to do it the 15-Minute Party Planner way.

When time is of the essence, send a quick invitation via e-mail. There are a handful of great electronic invitation sites with Cinco de Mayo designs. Even quicker than an e-invitation?  Sending a quick text or making a phone call.  While not the traditional way to invite folks to a party, no one will mind a last-minute invite to a Cinco de Mayo party!

For quick and easy atmosphere, turn up the speakers on your computer and listen to the timely “Cinco de Mayo Party” station on Pandora, a free online radio service. As for decorations, raid your home for tablecloths, napkins, and dishes that mimic the Mexican flag, which is primarily green, white, and red.

When it comes to food and drink try easy appetizers like chips and salsa or guacamole. Serve margaritas, Coronas, or Dos Equis and indulge in Mexican food for dinner. If you don’t have time to cook it yourself, consider calling a Mexican restaurant to preorder take-out for tonight’s festivities.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Take it easy: Rent glassware for your next cocktail party

Preparing for a wine tasting or cocktail party? You might consider renting glassware. Prices are reasonable and prevent you from having to keep large quantities of glassware on hand. You can also save time on cleanup, as some rental places will wash the glasses for you.

Wine glasses, champagne flutes, martini glasses, and beer mugs can be rented for about 50 cents a piece. You may also consider renting a bar ($25-$50) or even a bartender (rates vary). Rental companies also provide other items that may make your cocktail party planning easier; try renting serving trays (typically $2 to $12), punch bowls ($10), glass pitchers ($2), or plates (25 to 50 cents each).

Helpful hints:
  • Make sure you’re getting what you expect by asking questions. If you’re requesting a punch bowl, for instance, ask if a serving ladle is included or whether you’ll have to add one to your order.
  • Be clear about company policy up front. Get the terms of your rental in writing and include things like whether or not you will save money by picking up and returning the items yourself, (rather than having them delivered) and whether or not dishes and glassware need to be washed before returning them.
  • Get creative!   Party rental stores offer more than just glassware.  Rent a popcorn machine, chocolate fountain, or cotton candy maker for more fun!