31 Days to an Awesome Party: Choosing a Menu (Day 6)

Now we’re getting to the meat of your party . . . literally.  What will you serve for your event?  By now, you know the theme, when the party is, what time of day, who you will invite, the location and you have set a budget.  (To catch up with us from the beginning, start here.)

Today, we’re looking at the menu and you’ll have some important things to consider.  The food of a party is integral to it’s success (that is unless we’re talking kids’ parties – they’re happy with anything!).  Have you ever heard someone say that what people remember most about a wedding is the food?  Now, I don’t know if I completely agree with that statement, but I know my husband can list the weddings we’ve been to in the last couple years that had outstanding food.  So yes, food can make an impact on a party.

But first, I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . this is my least favorite part of party planning . . . shhh.  I’m not some chef extraordinaire.  Sure, I can follow directions for a recipe and I love freezer cooking.  But unless we’re talking creativity or food presentation, I’d rather let someone else handle the cooking.

And while that sounds glamorous (and expensive), let’s get back to reality.  When you are planning your menu, take into consideration the audience, theme, cost and variety.  If you’ve been following along with us, you already know whether you want to serve a full meal, snacks and treats or appetizers and desserts.  Now, consider these things:

Audience:  Are you serving adults, children or both?
Theme:  Do you want to stay “in theme” for your food?  For example, Hawaiian food for a luau or foods that “pop” for a baby shower.  You don’t need to keep everything to your theme.  Offer just one table of desserts or treats that fit your theme.
Cost:  As we mentioned in budgeting, food may be one of your biggest expenses.  Choose foods that fit within your budget.
Variety:  To allow for certain dislikes, are you offering enough variety?  Do you need to consider vegetarian or vegan options?

Simple Tea Menu for Child’s Birthday Party

6 More Thoughts to Keep you Sane:

1. Are you good at what you’re attempting?  If you are an average baker/cook, don’t pick some crazy, impossible item for your menu.  You’ll only end up in tears.  Trust me, I know.

2. Is there anything you can make in advance and freeze?  For a family birthday party a couple years ago, I was serving fabulous Meatball Subs (fabulous because the recipe was from Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in Walt Disney World).  I made the 150 meatballs a week early and froze them.  All I had to do was warm them up before the party.  Easy peasy!

3. Try new recipes in advance.  I am easily allured by beautiful pictures and delicious sounding recipes only to find out they are average at best.  Better to know this in advance.

4. Make enough.  I would always rather have more then I need than run out of something before all my guests have eaten.  Leftovers can be reheated, frozen, given away, etc.

5. Ask if any of your guests have allergies.  At my daughter’s most recent birthday, we had a guest who was gluten-free.  I easily made her tea sandwiches with gluten-free bread and substituted her dessert with chocolate pudding and a raspberry.

Many children (not to mention adults) have food allergies today.  At my son’s circus-themed fourth birthday party, before the children left, I had some of the moms hide peanuts all over my first floor.  I told the kids that clowns had stopped by earlier in the day and taken all of the elephant’s peanuts and hidden them around the house.  We had to go on a peanut hunt to find them.  Cute, right?  Well, until I found out that one of the kids was allergic to peanuts.  He hung back in the basement for that part.  Moral of the story?  Ask ahead of time.

6. Plan ahead for items you need to keep warm or cold.  I love chafers and use my Round Chafer for most parties when I need to keep food warm.  If you need to keep food cold, be creative.  Can you use a container that suits your theme?  Table-top kiddie pool for summer fun party or a hollowed pumpkin filled with ice and the dish on top.

~ A well planned menu (and a delicious one) will make a big impact on your guests.  The time it takes is well worth the effort.  Whew, I’m getting hungry!

Bonus:  SnackPicks.com shares a great way to plan the number of appetizers for a party – simple math.

This post is a part of 31 Days to an Awesome Party.  Go here for the complete list of topics.

Linked up with:  The Better Mom, Cornerstone Confessions, Raising Homemakers, We are That Family, Somewhat Simple


  1. Kristen,
    Thanks for the wonderful ideas. The food part is always the hardest for me and making sure we have enough. We have a upcoming Christmas drop-in meaning I don’t know an exact head count. The moto I am running with – keep it simple and then make lots of that.

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