Tips for hosting a fun and successful Inaugural party

By Kristene Smith

Guest contributor

The upcoming Presidential Inauguration represents change and hope in our country for many people.

Getting a group together to celebrate is fun and, for this historic occasion, a few special points to remember will pave the way for a creative celebration not soon to be forgotten. With that, here are my top 10 tips for hosting your own Inauguration Day party:

  1. Choose the location:
Because the televised Inauguration festivities begin in the morning on Jan. 20, this means that a morning event at the office may work for you. Or, an after hours Inaugural re-cap celebration with family, friends and colleagues may better suit your schedules, so choose accordingly. Homes, offices or local community gathering spots are all good choices for the event. Be sure there’s enough parking for everyone and that bathrooms are conveniently located.

  1. Design the invitation:
Once you have the location and other event details (time, RSVP info, etc.), you’re ready to begin planning a stylish yet relaxed Inaugural party for family and friends. Don’t overdo it! A simple approach to entertaining is all you need. My invitations were handwritten on hand-painted cardstock, hole punched at the top center and tied with red, white and blue ribbons to match the party’s color theme. Don’t forget to include details about suggested attire. Also, you can always use a service like if time starts slipping away from you without any warning.

  1. Develop the program:
For the very low-key event program, I suggest the following: mingling/refreshments as guests arrive; formal welcome to guests by the host; presentation of special wine or other drink for the occasion; ask guests what the occasion mean to them; watch the actual Inaugural on TV; and then close with a celebratory dance. Nothing too stuffy, nothing too formal. Now, are you ready to choose your party colors?

  1. Pick the colors:
In this case, we’re using our nation’s colors. Therefore, the wine should also be red, white or both.

  1. The menu:
Your dishes should be simple, savory and take very little time to prepare. Party foods like chicken wings, cut vegetables and meatballs will work just fine. Buy coordinating napkins and small plates in the party colors to promote the theme.

  1. Where’s the dessert?
I am always delighted to see guests really loving the desserts. I love baking and making treats, and my cherry cheesecake actually has cake on the bottom and cheesecake on the top. Add cherry pie filling and you’re in business (plus it matches the color scheme)! Cookies, brownies and lemon bars will be nice additions. Consult your local bakery if there’s no time to bake yourself.

  1. Make the phone calls:
Have a friend help you make follow-up phone calls. This will help take the load off and will ensure that everyone received his or her invitation. Final RSVP’s can be collected this way as well.

  1. Assemble the gifts:
It’s always nice to personally assemble a small party gift for each person. For this occasion, a 2009 pocket calendar or candle gift would be appropriate. Guests feel special when they receive something nice and it’s a way for you to show appreciation for their time spent at your party.

  1. Prepare the space:
Now that you have the invitation, program, colors and menu, it’s time to think about the final planning and logistics. Prep cook as much as possible to eliminate the kitchen rush, clean and prepare your space the day ahead, hire help if necessary, set up tables and chairs, fluff pillows, light candles 10 minutes before guests arrive and, finally, sit down and relax at your own party.

  1. Say “thank you”:
For a final touch, prepare thank you notes to guest several days in advance. Once the party is over, just drop them in the mail and you’re all done! These special touches help make you and your event memorable, especially on such a historic day in our great nation.

Kristene Smith is the author of four books on style and business image. Her “Style Tips of the Week” collection of books, e-books and products educate professionals on branding, fashion, entertaining and interiors. She has been featured on the ABC and UPN networks and in numerous magazines and newspapers. Visit her online at