1. A well-stocked bar. Whether your bar is an all out bar cart or a lucite tray on your countertop, there is no better way you can prep than having a stocked and ready-to-use bar.
2. Paper napkins for cocktails, linens for dinner. Paper napkins: the "unsung heros" of the cocktail party. Nobody likes walking around with a drippy drink. If your event is more of a sit-down dinner or tea, consider purchasing some linen dinner napkins (monogramming a bonus).
3. A large serving dish or cheese tray. There is one thing I've learned from hostessing ... people love cheese. I've thrown parties where cheese is the main course, and have never had a single person complain. Stash some sort of serving tray away in your closet - you won't regret it. They can serve everything from tea sandwiches to burgers to dainty hors d'oeuvres.
4. Candles for ambiance. Unscented pillar and tea light candles create the perfect lighting for any event, whether a casual dinner party or formal cocktail hour. I also always keep a scented candle handy. My scented choices vary from season to season, but for summer I'm loving Illume's 'mediterranean' & diptyque's 'jasmin' scented candles. (side note: don't put these too close to the food!)
5. A conversation piece (that can double as a centerpiece) or fresh flowers ... or both. Personality is the key in any event decor. You probably already have something you can use as a centerpiece hanging around your place ... a vintage vase, a unique candelabra, bookends, or anything from Anthropologie. And you can never go wrong with a fresh bouquet, even if it's from the grocery store.
6. Don't forget about the music. Pop on a playlist from your iPod or create a special mix for the occasion. Music makes guests happy and sets the tone for the event. In a pinch I've used a cell phone & my computer ... they got the job done, but let's just say I wouldn't recommend it.
7. Personalized stationery. Whether you pen informal invitations or use it for thank you notes for your hostess gifts, this is an essential. When I can, I like to send actual printed invitations. Nothing beats snail mail!
+ Kate Spade Old Fashioned Glasses
+ Izola 'Toasts' Cocktail Shaker
+ TillyMaison Customizable Tray / CB2 Format Lucite Tray
+ Two's Company Numerology Napkins
+ Revol Slate Serving Tray (you can write on it with chalk like this)
+ Illume Mediterranean Candle (it seriously burns forever!) / Diptyque Jasmine Candle
+ Ikea Unscented Pillar Candles
+ Ikea Unscented Tea Light Candles
+ Design Darling Topiary
+ iHome Speakers
+ Sugar Paper Stationery
There you have it – the basics to throwing a fab, fool proof party (although I can't promise you won't invite any fools ;). Cheers to good food, good drinks & good friends!