To celebrate summer and my company's recent expansion into Washington, DC, I wanted to do something extra special. As a former entertainment journalist, I've been to many high-end events: award shows, glamorous red carpets, crazy after parties, fashion shows—you name it. But when I brainstormed ideas for this particular celebration, I realized I wanted to do something different, something I never experienced before. I wanted an event that was intimate yet professional, beautiful, represented my brand, and set the right tone for my arrival in the nation's capital. So I planned an ultra chic, ultra glamorous sit down dinner party.
Dinner parties are a very underrated event concept. There are happy hours, galas and conferences, but the 15-30 person sit-down affair? Not so much. Sure, there are casual potlucks, barbecues, or even the rare restaurant party, but something magical happens when you open up for your home for an evening of food, drink, great conversation and networking.
My party took place on June 14. We had 20 guests at my apartment. We had to rent tables and chairs and move all my furniture into my bedroom! The theme was "Southern charm" (I'm weirdly obsessed with the South!) so everyone showed up in pearls, bow-ties, and colorful attire. I went all out and hired a caterer who planned the decadent menu of asparagus soup, black cod on coconut risotto, and lavender cupcakes for dessert. We even had a mixologist come teach us how to make a few signature drinks.
I know I'm biased, but it was a spectacular evening. At one point, I just sat back and stared up and down the long table and listened to the vibrant conversation. I thought to myself, "Wow, this is great."
Here are a few tips so you can host a similar summer dinner soiree! It's so much fun as well as a great way to mix business and pleasure:
Invite people who don't know each other
As the host, it can feel scary inviting people who don’t know each other, but the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Invite people from all different circles: media contacts, bloggers, vendors, sales reps, friends, family. Just make sure everyone is around the same age. I also strongly recommend having place cards. This helps to ease the awkwardness of guests figuring out where to sit. Think about which people would hit it off and put them next to each other.
Create a theme (and a dress code)
A theme helps guide each of your decisions, from food choices to decorations and music. When I told guests it was "Southern themed" they were not exactly sure what that meant. People kept asking me what to wear so I sent out an email the week of the event giving suggestions. Not in a crazy, "hostess-zilla" kind of way, but in a fun, helpful way. Ultimately, it's about the company, not their clothes. That being said, I like when the company dresses in theme. It also makes for great photos.
Get someone else to do the cooking
I am not a cook. For my soiree, I hired a caterer (props to RSVP Catering in DC!) but if you want to save money, then go for a personal chef instead. Check out reviews on Yelp and get references. Personal chefs are amazing and can work well within a tight budget. You want to focus on your duties as the perfect host, not running back and forth to the kitchen to check on the sauce!
Throwing a fabulous party is a work of art. You see the concept in your head and then spend months on all the little details—the florist, photographer, venue, guest list. When the day finally arrives, hopefully, everything is exactly how you dreamed it would be. Consider an intimate dinner party as a smart, fun way to bring people together while promoting your agency.
About Sarah Rose
Sarah Rose Attman is the president of Sarah Rose Public Relations, a national agency that works with a range of clients including lifestyle, fashion, healthcare, finance, and technology. Prior to starting her company, Sarah worked as a freelance writer and staff reporter for Us Weekly and has contributed to Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, PR Daily, and PR Newser. She is a women’s health and wellness advocate and co-founded The Red Tent Foundation. Connect with Sarah on Twitter @SarahRosePR
Photo Credit: Sarah Rose PR