Let's Have a Party!

July has been insane so far. Like tear my hair out, cry a few times, and stress eat marshmallows from a bag crazy. It’s been a non-stop kitchen extravaganza, but so far, I don’t have much to show for it. (Hopefully you’ll get to see a lot of that later!) I do have one thing to share with you though—my first real party dessert table!

My BFF Kelli’s little brother is getting married, and Kelli is the Maid of Honor. With the title comes some pretty big responsibilities, like throwing the wedding shower. Knowing that I’m all about the desserts, have crafting ADD, and am completely addicted to Pinterest, she requested my help with party ideas. Needless to say, we spent HOURS scouring far corners of the internet to come up with a plan. (Except some of those weird corners of the web. We stayed far, far away from those.) It was a DIY bonanza! Wish trees, banners, favors, invites, recipe cards, decorations—There was barely a store-bought thing in sight!

I took my dessert table responsibilities seriously, planning everything a month in advance, right down to the baking schedule. (Which didn't quite work out the way I planned, thanks to Mother Nature..) While it was slightly terrifying and stressful leading up to the party, once I got rolling, everything went smoothly. The party went off without a hitch, and everyone raved about the dessert table! Yay!

Here are a few pointers I learned from it, in case you find yourself in charge of the sweets.

1. Prep as much as you can ahead of time.

One of the party favors was a set of monogrammed cookies with the bride and groom's initials. Instead of waiting for 1 round of royal icing to dry before piping the detail and waiting for a 2nd round of drying, I piped the letters onto wax paper way ahead of time, let them dry completely for several days, then peeled them off and plopped them right onto the wet base of royal icing I’d piped on the cookie. When the base layer completely dried, they were already ready to bag up! Cut my work time down CONSIDERABLY. Plus, it made it a lot easier to pipe out perfect letters when I had something to trace. Just draw or print your design on a piece of paper, put a piece of wax paper on top of it, and pipe away! Make sure you pipe your detail kind of thick though. I broke quite a few of my letters since they were pretty thin. (Note- This picture was taken just hours before a huge storm rolled in and knocked my power out for 2 days. Glad I got that part done!)

2. Embrace the simple and easy.

I’m all about creative combinations, especially with cupcakes, but at a party, not everyone’s into bacon. Unless it’s a bacon themed party, in which case, send me an invite! It’s okay to stick with something simple like chocolate or vanilla, and dress it up accordingly with the color scheme or theme. They're classics for a reason--everyone loves them! My table was filled with classics—Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, as well as chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. (Also realize that you'll be driving for a half an hour in a car with no AC, so put your fondant toppers AFTER you arrive so they don't melt. Lesson learned.)

3. Really. Simple and easy. Embrace it! You’ll save yourself so much stress.

I thought about making so many things for this table. I thought about macarons. I thought about meringues. I wanted to fill my table with so many classy elegant desserts. Then I thought about how much time and effort those take, and how much I needed to get done in a short amount of time. So I went with Rice Krispie Treats and chocolate covered strawberries. Easy. Simple. And you know what? Those were devoured just as quickly as anything else. And, honestly, probably more quickly than macarons or meringues would have been.

4. Rock the store bought.

Especially if you’re trying to fill a big table. Don’t stress yourself out thinking you have to make EVERYTHING that goes on that table. Find candies or things that fit your theme to fill it out. Our color scheme was red, white, black, and gray, so I bought red candy—Twizzlers and Swedish Fish—that matched. And you know what? People kept picking those as they passed by the table throughout the night. Think rock candy, lollipops, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses—the candy possibilities are endless! And delicious.

5. Label everything.

That way people know exactly what they’re putting on their plate and in their mouth. And you don’t have to stand there all night and answer over and over what each thing on the table is.

6. Containers and decor – Use what you have. Or hit the thrift store.

Nearly every container or plate on that table was something I already had in my house. The tall flower centerpiece is the display that sits on the table in my living room. (And the "rocks" that fill the bottom are actually Christmas bead garland. Another fun tip for you!) The container with the chocolate chip cookies—that’s where my brown sugar lives in my kitchen. The plates, cake stands, and bowls are props for my blog. For things I didn’t have, I hit up thrift stores. They have TONS of glassware and plates, for really cheap. I purchased about 5 or 6 things, and spent maybe about $5 total. Look for clear glass or plain white plates—they’ll match everything, and you can use them over and over again for all your parties!
(Note the other camera in the picture. I wasn't the only one paparazzi-ing the table! The bride, Ashley, and I both stood around for about 10 minutes taking pictures!)

7. Set up early. And enlist help.

This is a rule I kind of broke. Mainly because I was completely off on knowing what time the party started. (Another tip. Look at the invitation at least once or twice.) I thought I had another hour before people arrived. And then the doorbell rang. It was a last minute scramble to get a couple things on the table, our first round of chocolate covered strawberries weren’t completely set, and we didn’t have enough time to dip the rest of the batch. But it worked out thanks to a few sets of extra hands from Kelli and our little helper Jeri who rinsed our strawberries, set out all the label cards and acted as our table bouncer while we finished setting up. She might only be 9 years old, but my money’s on her in a throwdown.

8. Always have a backup plan.
 Have a plan B in case something doesn't work out quite as planned. Or at least have a backup kitchen/refridgeration plan if your power goes out. And stays out. For days. (Luckily I didn't have to enact Plan B.)

9. Don't stress. Relax and just have fun. It's a party afterall!

What are your favorite party planning tips?

If you're interested in what I made, pretty much everything on the table you can find right here on the blog! 

Chocolate Cupcakes
Vanilla Cupcakes with Almond Frosting (which covered the chocolate cupcakes as well)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies - Made slightly larger and smashed down before baking
Peanut Butter Blondies (with mini M&Ms instead of peanut butter cups)

For the Rice Krispie Treats, I just used the tradtional recipe from Kellogg's - I made 1 1/2 of the recipe to make them thicker, and used a 7oz jar of marshmallow cream + half the marshmallow amount to bind, and threw in whole mini marshmallows as I mixed it together. Then I added colored sprinkles to match the theme before I pressed them down. It took all of maybe 10 minutes to put together!

Also on the table - a bag of Twizzlers and a bag of Swedish Fish.

The white and red rose balls are an idea from Pinterest with a tutorial from The House of Smiths. They're made from crepe paper party streamers! My roses looked different (smaller) than all the ones I've seen around the web and I don't know why, but the tutorial is really good. And really easy. A bit time consuming, but they turned out great and they'll last forever!
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Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Stunning, I want ALL of those treats!

Anonymous said...

I have been stalking your blog, waiting for this! Everything was beautifully done and deliciously yummy! I have had
multiple requests for the peanut butter blondies! Mostly from Stacey! Haha Thank you so much for all of your hard work, expertise, and dedication to making this a celebration we (as well as Jason & Ashley and all our guests) will never forget. =)


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! Love those tips!! I just set up a dessert table for a party, and made the mistake of leaving too much for last minute. Wish I had read this first!

Sarah Edmundson said...

Looks so great!! Great tips too :)

Jo and Sue said...

Your photos are so pretty! Love the table layout. If I had to give one tip for parties it would be to have everything ready, that can be ready, ahead of time. If it can be cooked and simply reheated - then make it early. If you can freeze it and simply thaw it - make it early. It removes so much of the "day of" stress. Sue and I just did a Sweet 16 party and the last minute frantic running around, as you know, is what kills you. (Here is a link to our latest party if you want a peek - http://joandsue.blogspot.ca/2012/06/kenzies-sweet-16.html )

Lisa said...

So, when's your book coming out?

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