Before you get started
Write a time plan
A time plan is a really useful tool to stay on top of your plans. Write a list of everything that needs to be ordered or arranged - flowers, helping hands, food, drinks, equipment, decorations. Assign days and check them off when they're completed. The food, drink and home preparation will need a more detailed plan and it's worth assigning times as well as days to these.
Be realistic, it's better to give yourself too much time. If reading through your time plan makes you feel unduly stressed, you may have taken on too much so look at ways you can simplify your choices. Providing a relaxed and fun event with a small selection of different but well cooked dishes is better than an overambitious spread which turns out to be hit and miss.
Work out quantities
Having sufficient or way too much food is always a concern. Here are the guidelines Anna uses, per person, in her business:
- 225g meat
- 200g fish
- 60g vegetables
- 85 - 115g potatoes
- 60g rice
- 30g cheese
Bear in mind that for large numbers, you can cater for a few less. Lin says, "When working out quantities you do not need to multiply everything by 40 - the more people there are the less they eat! To avoid waste and expense work to feeding about 34 people if 40 attending."
Remember if you're doing a number of dishes, you don't need to provide enough for people to have a full portion of each.
If you're worried about running out, bulk up on cheaper items like potatoes, bread and salad.
The ideal situation is to have everything prepared in advance. Take a look at our selection of recipes you can prepare or freeze ahead.
Lin suggests: "Cook, chop and prepare all the different components of your dishes that can't be made fully in advance, then seal and store. On the day of your party you'll only need to combine the components and add dressings. Dressings for leaf salads are best left to the very last minute to avoid wilting."
- Take food out of the fridge just before serving. If people are grazing over a long period, it's best to put out smaller quantities and replenish them once they've run out.
If you're serving hot food, ensure it stays hot while you're serving it.
When the party is over, if food has been out for 1 1/2 hours, it will have to go in the bin. Read more about leftovers.
Before you cater for large numbers, it's worth brushing up on your food safety knowledge, find out about storing food safely and 10 ways to prevent food poisoning. You'll find more information on the NHS Live Well website.