How to Plan For Party Flow

Outdoor grill with two people standing over it turning the hot dogs. In the background a group of friends watches on.

Planning a big party for a cozy space? Hoping to host a garden party, but not sure how to set up an outdoor event? Keep your party moving with our four key areas to tackle when staging and directing the flow of an event.

Arrival Setup

  • Take guests’ coats and purses when they arrive, and let them know where items can be retrieved.
  • Hang signs around the home to make guests aware of important locations such as parking, trash, recycling, smoking, bathrooms and gift tables.
  • Serve guests their first drinks to make them comfortable and aware of the process so they can serve themselves throughout the party.

Food & Drinks Setup

  • For large dinner parties, set the table before guests arrive to save time and stress.
  • Set out appetizers, drinks and desserts throughout the home to avoid clusters, since people tend to assemble near food tables. It’ll also keep people out of the kitchen, another popular place for guests to assemble.
  • Set up the drink area opposite of the room’s entrance to encourage guests to delve deeper into the party.
  • Provide coasters, napkins and plenty of spaces for guests to set down drinks.

Mingling Setup

  • Designate a contained spot that is just large enough to accommodate the number of invited guests. The closer everyone is, the more mingling will be encouraged.
  • Arrange furniture in the center of the contained spot to create a cozy, full atmosphere. If it gets too crowded, push items to outer edges or remove them to enlarge the space.
  • Close doors of adjoining rooms to encourage guests to stay in the contained spot, and don’t block doorways with tables and chairs.
  • Keep safety in mind when setting up—place items like cords, rugs and candles out of the way. Remove coffee tables and stools, too, to avoid tripping incidents.
  • Turn off televisions, computers and other electronics so guests aren’t tempted to gather around them, unless it’s a party that depends on it—the Super Bowl, for example.
  • For a cocktail party, avoid providing too many seating options to encourage guests to walk around and socialize.
  • Make the most of outdoor spaces, too. Set up mingling areas outside, and if you host gatherings often, consider purchasing patio heaters for use in colder weather and an awning or portable canopy.

Departure Setup

  • When guests begin departing, separate them from the group to bid adieu so other guests don’t feel like they have to leave too.
  • Ready for the party to end? Shifting goodbyes to a public area is a subtle way to signal to guests that party time is almost over.