Planning a venue, food and drink for the correct number of guests is one of the big hurdles facing a party planner – especially if not all guests have RSVPed. Figuring out the numbers can be stressful, however you can take steps to reduce the chance that you’ll end up with too many people to cram into a venue, or the wrong amount of food and drink on the day.
The planning process will depend on the type of party you’re throwing, and how long you expect the party to last. Guests attending a cocktail party will expect different amounts of food and drink than guests attending a dinner party will. With informal events, you can also ask guests to bring a drink and a food item, such as a dessert. If you’re feeling confused about planning for the right number of people, you can use the tips below to help solve your dilemmas.
If you decide not to hold your party at home, planning a suitable venue can be tricky. You need to book a venue in advance to make sure the location you want is available, however when you book you might not know the final guest numbers. As an estimate, assume that 75% of your invited guests will come to your party, however when you invite people you can ask them to RSVP by a certain date so you have a better idea of who’s coming and who’s not.
When planning food, it’s important to think about the type of party you’re having. You don’t need a full food menu for a cocktail party, but at the same time you need to decide whether you’re going to offer guests meal choices if you’re planning a sit-down dinner party.
If you decide to provide food at your party, you might want to check whether your guests have any dietary requirements. It’s a good idea to provide a mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, but you will need to think about what kind of food you’re providing if some of your guests have other dietary requirements (or ask them to bring their own food).
As a general rule, plan for each guest to eat five small snacks during the first hour of the party, then three snacks per hour for each hour afterwards. Remember to make room in your fridge beforehand for any leftovers!
You should consider several factors when planning the type and volume of drinks to purchase for your party. Questions to think about include whether the guests are heavy drinkers, or whether they drink less than most people. As a general rule, plan for each guest to consume one drink per hour, then purchase 25-50% more drinks than that to account for people who might drink more. If you’re serving food at your party, the type of food you offer will affect the amount of drinks guests might consume: spicy or salty food could cause people to drink more.
When hosting a drinks party, you could create a drinks menu. This limits guests’ choices and helps you predict how much of each item you need to purchase. Providing a drinks menu can be easier to plan than offering a full bar, as in this case, guests will have more choice, but you will need to stock up well. Alternatively, if you want to limit the amount of drinks you buy, you could reduce the options to beer and wine.
At any event, you need to have a choice of non-alcoholic drinks, in addition to cocktails and other beverages, especially if children are coming. Canned soft drinks are easier to budget and serve than bottled drinks; however they can also cost more. You can usually get around 12 regular-sized servings from a 2 liter bottle of soft drink, although it’s wise to purchase slightly more than you think you’ll need to avoid running out.