The season for parties is here, it’s time to put the extra leaf in the kitchen table and warm up your entertaining skills. As the holidays approach you’ll be hosting dinner parties and open houses, brunches and cocktail soirees. Don’t distress over the thought of planning a party from A to Z, there are plenty of great apps to help you along the way. I’ve selected my favorite, most inspiring and most useful iPad apps for party planning, decor and menus.
From practical utilities for managing guests lists and scheduling kitchen tasks to fanciful apps for coming up with party themes and decor, you’ll find everything you need to make your next bash memorable. As they say, the devil is in the details: fun party invitations build anticipation, thoughtful place settings make guests feel welcome, even your hostess outfit is an opportunity to make a statement.
To learn more about how your iPad can help you be the hostess with the mostess, keeping reading.
The early stages of party planning are the most fun—your creative juices are flowing and anything is possible! The best app for gathering inspiration is—you guessed it — Pinterest! It’s easy to get lost in a sea of images and maybe even distracted from your purpose by cute puppy pics, but the best way to stay focused on the task at hand is by seeking out pinboards from the experts.
The most effective way to gather party planning inspiration on Pinterest is to check out the experts, like event planner Jordan Ferney, who’s got plenty of boards dedicated to party ideas.
Jordan Fearney (Oh Happy Day! blog) pins tons of creative party ideas and DIY projects for decorations, party favors, food, etc. Brittany Watson Jepson (The House that Lars Built blog) has a fantastic collection of costume party themes and projects. Don’t forget your outfit — check out the fabulous fashion, hair and makeup ideas pinned by Bri Emery (of Designlovefest).
Saveur does a great job on Pinterest sharing menus and recipes designed for entertaining guests.
I searched far and wide for my favorite party food pinner, and Saveur takes the prize for a plethora of boards featuring party food, appetizers and cuisines (the Essential Middle East is perfect for a themed dinner party). A lot of websites pin recipes for entertaining, but I like how Saveur pins menus and recipes that are actually meant to serve a crowd. This way, you can take a recipe from Pinterest to the kitchen without having to worry about doubling it to feed your guests.
Phase 2: The Menu
Once you’ve picked a theme you can begin to focus on the food (my favorite part!). A good party needs fun drinks, delicious savory food and decadent desserts. I’ve found a handful of recipe apps specifically suited to entertaining. Martha Stewart Makes Cocktails is a must-have party app. You’ll find seven collections of cocktail recipes, with everything from festive Holiday Cocktails to boozy Classics to alcohol-free Mocktails. Each cocktail collection is paired with a handful of bar snack recipes.
Martha Stewart Makes Cocktails features seven drink collections, including the fantastic and fun Girls’ Night Cocktails.
Speaking of drinks, Cheese & Wine is a good app for creating pairings, whether it is a cheese and wine tasting or the final course of a site down dinner party. Use the interactive cheese wheel to explore the pairing possibilities.
Cheese & Wine is a fun, interactive app for finding complimentary pairings, helpful if you’re hosting a cheese tasting or deciding on the final course of an intimate dinner party.
If you’re looking for recipes for an intimate dinner party, Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry is a collection of rustic yet elegant, family-style meals. Hearty meat, poultry and fish dishes roast slowly in the oven, freeing you to enjoy the party. Soups and pastas are economical dishes to feed a crowd. Appetizers like Bagna Cauda with Market Vegetables look beautiful on the table.
The Home-Style Porchetta from Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry is perfect for a small dinner party.
The Photo Cookbook – Tapas is a collection of finger foods and small plates that’s perfect for a large cocktail party or an intimate dinner for six. Recipes like Pork Belly Bites, Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms and Dates with Cheese & Ham were made for cocktail parties.
The Photo Cookbook-Tapas contains many great recipes for entertaining, whether it’s finger foods or colorful family-style dishes for the table.
Food may be the most important element of a party, and it’s the thing your guests will remember, so take care choosing your menu and make sure to practice the recipes before the event.
Phase 3: Planning and Executing
If you plan more than one party a year, Pro Party Planner is worth checking out. This app is a central hub for managing your guest list, invitations, budget, to-do list, seating charts, everything! It offers functionality to make your life easier, like importing your contacts for the guest list and integrating with Facebook.
Manage your guest list and invitations all in one place with Pro Party Planner.
The app is especially useful for planning parties that require communication with a team, like potlucks. Add your menu to the Planning section and assign a dish to one of the party attendees. Keep track of expenses in the Budget section and assign tasks to yourself or attendees in Timeline, complete with reminders to stay on track. Sure, Pro Party Planner is designed to manage every detail of large events, but don’t be intimidated by its capabilities — the app is easy to use and will keep you organized for smaller parties.
Holiday Recipes & Party Planning Guide, by Food52, is an essential for party planning.
Finally, Holiday Recipes & Party Planning Guide, by Food52, is an essential for entertaining. The app includes 127 recipes from Food52.com for entertaining during the holiday season, including drinks, starts, soups and salads, main courses, desserts and more. You’ll also find recipes for special diets, like vegetarian and gluten-free.
The app includes recipes plus extensive tips on every aspect of entertaining, from menu planning to salvaging cooking disasters.
The creators of this app, Amanda and Merrill, have included over 100 minutes of video tutorials and tons of step-by-step photos to help you with everything from carving a roast to making pie dough. They have even included 17 themed menu suggestions to help you choose recipes that pair perfectly, from a kosher dinner feast to a “crowd pleasing” open house. The app devotes a whole section to party planning tips, like time management, event checklists and how to save kitchen disasters.
These apps will guarantee your next party is fun, creative and well organized. You won’t be rushing around at the last minute because of poor planning. You will, however, have a great time preparing for the big day: choosing a theme, calmly organizing your tasks and planning a menu. It’s not about everything being perfect; it’s about being well prepared and having the resources to manage any bumps with a smile on your face. Go forth and party, you’ve got everything you need for a fantastic event!