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Planning Retirement Online

Food and Drink when Organising that Special Party


Doing it Yourself

When you are organising a party, food is arguably the most important element. If you ask people how they enjoyed a party the first response is nearly always, ‘Lovely, the food was excellent.’ (Or not, as the case may be!) But should it be hot, cold, sit down, stand around or any combination of those? The possibilities are endless and providing food can be a minefield.

Organising that Special Party Links

Guide to Organising that Special Party

Venue Guests and Invitations

Making it go with a Swing!

Something Completely Different


You need to think carefully about feeding people vis a vis the numbers (what will be relatively easy to provide for that number of people, if you are doing it yourself), the weather and the cost!

A barbeque almost always goes down well and there is never any shortage of (male) volunteers to cook it for you. There are a number of barbeque recipe books that you can use so that you can make your barbeque a bit different form the norm. 

How many courses are you going to have? If you want more courses, cheese and biscuits are a good option because they are easy to do and always popular. Some people prefer a starter and others are dessert people, so think carefully about first courses and sweets if you want a number of courses. And, whatever you do, don’t forget the vegetarian option!

If you are buying food for a lot of people, see if any of your friends has a card for a cash and carry, such as Macro or Costco. Buying party food from that sort of outlet can be cheaper and also easier in that they will do ready-made sweets and so on that you might find more than acceptable.

Talking of friends, it can be a good idea to get children or grandchildren of friends (or your own, come to that!) to act as waiters and waitresses. You will almost certainly get enthusiasm from your waiting staff and it’s a way of including them if it’s the type of party to which they are invited.

If you have trouble thinking of a menu, look on some websites of professional caterers and glean some ideas. A good one is Banquet In A Box

Having Caterers

The easier, but more expensive, way of providing food is to have someone do it for you. It takes a lot of the hassle out of organising a party. Professional caterers will discuss your menu with you, agree what to provide and give you a price. Have a look at our Things to do and Venues page to get the websites for some professionals.

As well as large professional organisations, there are also lots of people who provide catering services as a sideline, or hobby. So ask around, look in your local paper or local services booklet if you have one in your area and get a local, personal service from someone.


When you’re organising a party, drink is as important as food! Think about your guests (that same message again) and then decide on what drinks to provide. For example, you may have a friend who drinks nothing but ginger beer at a party, so try to think about people’s preferences. You don’t want anyone to feel forgotten because you haven’t catered for his or her requirements.

A cocktail theme is something a bit different. People rarely drink cocktails these days and so it can make a nice change to provide them for your guests. If you want some ideas for making different ones, have a look at Cocktail UK. Of course, most cocktails are quite expensive to produce, with their spirit base, so remember your budget. In the summer, Pimms always goes down well and is cheaper than most cocktails.

Remember that some of your guests will be driving, so make sure there are soft drinks and water (or provide water from the tap, of course!).

This Guide to Organising That Special Party is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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