Party Design Basics – Overall Design + Hosting Tips

I have another installment of my Party Design Basics and this time I want to talk about how to design pretty parties. I’ll share the basics of party set up including overall design, plus some of my best hosting tips. These are the rules I’ve followed for years!

How to Design Pretty Parties

Create an Overall Design Concept & Carry it Through

Whether you’re hosting a baby shower, kids birthday, or a fun theme party, design and decor plays a key factor in the overall experience. You want to dress your party space so it flows easily from one area to another, especially if you’ll be spread out into different rooms or areas of the back yard. My favorite way to do this is by using patterned fabric.

{click on photos to view original posts}

  • Use fabric right off the bolt and create a table topper or runner for seated tables or buffet tables. No need to sew either. You can use pinking shears to cut {prevents raveling} or use hem tape, or simply iron a hem in place.
  • To “cross pollinate” two areas, use the same fabric as a backdrop or other type of table covering. I like to use the fabric as a backdrop because it adds another dimension rather than being on another horizontal table. This will visually connect the 2 areas together even if they’re in different rooms.

  • Other ways to incorporate the same fabric are homemade napkins, fabric swags, inserted into a frame, place mats, or thin strips tied onto a Manzanita branch.

Paper Elements help “Brand” A Party

Other than fabric, paper elements are a very popular way to carry your design throughout, and very economical too. When you use printed signs, tags, activity cards, etc. that are all coordinated, it immediately pulls the entire look together. It can also set the tone of the event by being whimsical, sophisticated, rustic, etc.

  • Use printed Welcome signs that the guests see as soon as they arrive.

  • Get crafty with the items and add embellishments like adhesive rhinestones, or ribbon, etc.

  • Be creative with the printable items available. Just because it is listed as a “food tent” doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a favor tag.

Pick a Style

One of the first things I think about when designing a party is, what “feel” do I want it to have. When you decide on this it’s a lot easier to pull together the rest of the design elements. Some of the most popular choices are modern, rustic, vintage, shabby chic, whimsical, etc. Within these you can also combine styles such as rustic + modern, vintage + whimsical, or vintage + shabby chic. The idea is to pick a style{or combination} and stick with it throughout the decor.

  • A bridal shower above, combines rustic materials with modern design & styling.

  • Vintage + rustic elements are combined to create a warm and inviting Autumn celebration.

  • A Modern baby shower is set with sleek simple lines and a clean white base.

Setting Up & Thoughtful Touches

Aside from the design of the party, there are logistical things to consider also. Party layout, do-ahead tasks, thoughtful touches your guests will appreciate, etc. Here are some of my all time favorite tips to follow:

  • If you do nothing else, set up your tables days ahead if you can. You can’t imagine what a time saver this will be, as well as a useful tool to help you see if things will work out the way you plan them. I’ve been known to set up my buffet table a week ahead and place tiny paper labels on each dish so I know exactly what food item will go where.
  • If you can, set up a small table with drinks available as soon as guests arrive. This is a good way for guests to “warm up” and feel immediately a part of the party as they enter.
  • Speaking of drinks, serve a signature drink in coordinating color and give it a cute themed name for the day.
  • Set up specific activity stations according to where you want your guests to be. As the hostess you have the power to place your guests where you want them simply by setting up food, drink, or activities in a certain area. Make sure you have plenty of space for the designated task – you don’t want a bottle-neck affect.
  • We never talk about music but it’s one of the most important elements in creating ambiance. Create a playlist on your ipod and play it at a low volume. I prefer smooth jazz for ladies luncheons, and hip dance tunes for livelier events. Match the music to the theme such as country music for a Western party, Samba for a Fiesta, old “Rat Pack” tunes for a Casino party, etc.
  • Perform one house cleaning task each day for the week leading up to the party. Better yet, treat yourself to a house cleaning service to do the job for you. blog also has some helpful Quick Cleaning Tips to follow.
  • Don’t forget to pay special attention to the restroom that your guests will be using. Take a cue from those upscale bathrooms that have attendants, and provide some amenities your guests might need. I like to have available lotion, room spray, feminine products, mints, ibuprofen, and safety pins. I also like to have either a pretty night light turned on or a candle burning. No one likes to walk into the dark.

With these tips I think you should be well on your way to hosting a fabulous party. It’s a great way to celebrate friends and family, or a great way to meet your new neighbors.

In fact that’s exactly what got me hooked on entertaining 15 years ago. We moved to a new state into a neighborhood where we knew no one. I decided I’d host a Christmas Cocktail party to meet our new co-workers and neighbors and it ended up becoming a yearly event. has some other great tips for meeting the neighbors as well as more articles with tips and how-tos for entertaining at home, and sprucing up your summer parties.  When you’re ready for a new place to call home, has the information you’ll need to find the perfect property for your family – choose from rental houses, apartments, condos or townhouses.

For more inspiration, follow me on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. Cheers!

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About Chris

Chris Nease is a party stylist and home entertaining expert with over 15 years of experience. In addition to her work as founding editor of Celebrations At Home, Chris is an editorial stylist and has contributed to, SheKnows, and countless other websites. Most recently she was featured in Celebrate magazine, and her work has been published in Woman's World, Ocala Style, Yum Food & Fun for Kids, and Cottages & Bungalows.


  1. My favorite party to host is a happy hour with lots of finger foods!

  2. Kristin says:

    My favorite kind of party to host is a birthday or shower. I love designing all of my little details and watching it all come together.

  3. Mary Happymommy says:

    Birthday parties are my favorite.

  4. Serena Adkins says:

    Children birthday parties are my favorite to host

  5. Kids birthday parties are my favorite to host

  6. I love hosting casual BBQ for family and friends, it’s great to celebrate everyday moments with the ones you love!

  7. maureen says:

    Bridal shower.

  8. Jessica To says:

    Baby showers are my favorite.

  9. Kelly D says:

    I like to host my kids Birthday parties.

  10. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    I love birthday parties!

  11. Jennifer Marie says:

    birthday parties are my favorite to host.

  12. Thomas Murphy says:

    A superbowl party

  13. pool parties!!

  14. stephanie says:

    baby showers!!

  15. Jessie C. says:

    Birthday parties are my favorite.

  16. Michelle H. says:

    I like holiday parties, Halloween is my favorite.

  17. BarbaraC says:

    I like small parties of just a few people

  18. western themed parties are my favorite to throw

  19. Birthday parties!

  20. My favorite type of party to host are birthday parties! They can be so fun and creative.

  21. I love any party where we can gather family and friends together for any reason. I guess Christmas gatherings are my favorite if I had to choose.

  22. Great giveaway and great tips! Carrying the theme/design all the way through is so important.

  23. Maya J. says:

    Even though I don’t yet have children of my own, my favorite party to host is a children’s birthday party because with children, the possibilities are endless with their open imaginations!

  24. Sally P says:

    I love to host parties for any occasion… love to use a vintage/country theme and use all of my wonderful thrifting items that I’ve found over the years :)

  25. oh excellent tips and suggestions, the pictures are a great help as well!

  26. Solducky says:

    My husband built a smoker and makes great ribs and pulled pork, so I like hosting bbq parties since he does the bulk of the food and it leaves me free to concentrate on “extras”!

    soluckyducky at gmail dot com

  27. I love hosting birthday parties for my kids. So much fun making the day special just for them!

  28. courtney b says:

    i like to host baby showers!

  29. I love to host simple summer dinners with unexpected touches

  30. birthday parties are fun

  31. Birthday parties are my favorite.

  32. My favorite party to host is my daughters b-day parties. I love all the details!

  33. Baby showers

  34. LAMusing says:

    I like hosting small dinner parties

  35. I like hosting holiday parties!

  36. Melissa says:

    I love baby and bridal showers.

  37. I love planning and throwing kids birthday parties!

  38. Laura Jacobson says:

    I love doing birthday parties! So fun to decorate for the little kids!

  39. Birthday parties and girls nights out are my favorites!

  40. a christmas party! my fav time of the year!!!

  41. maria alvarado says:

    Love all kinds of parties. Love your blog.

  42. I love hosting wine pairing parties.

  43. Small dinner parties are my favorites.


    I like to host makeup parties

  45. Tracy Park says:

    I love to have any kinda party that is fun with details..

  46. I love to host birthday parties for kids.

  47. I like having BBQs

  48. Samantha Burns says:

    I don’t get to host a lot of get togethers, but I love to decorate and make craft decorations, so as long as there is food and wine involved, any decor will be perfect!

  49. Love!

  50. First of all, I like hosting PET parties the most, because everyone gets to have fun. Second, I like hosting appetizer/wine/cheese parties where guests can relax on my deck and enjoy the beautiful gardens and good music and just mingle with each other.

  51. Really great tips for hosting a party.

  52. Gina M (crave to save) says:

    I love hosting baby showers —

    Pinned —

    Entered the Rafflecopter form as “Crave to Save”

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    gina.m.maddox (AT) gmail (DOT) com


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