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Small Gatherings and Intimate Affairs

Smal_gtheringsintimateafrsOne of the best aspects of hosting small gatherings and intimate affairs is that you can really focus on details and make your party just what you want it to be. If you are planning for a very large group often this attention to detail gets pushed to the side, as you have to worry about getting everyone served and entertained. In small gatherings and intimate affairs the options to personalize every part of the evening for each guest is possible and this truly makes the event special.

Planning small gatherings and intimate affairs is just as specific as all other types of party planning. The same basic components of budget, menu planning, decor and atmosphere as well as entertainment all factor in. With smaller groups you may find that some issues are even a bit more challenging, especially if you are not as familiar with the people in the small group as you perhaps wished that you were.

To understand the basics of planning for small gatherings and intimate affairs each component will be discussed along with some suggestions and strategies that apply to that component of planning for the event.


Sticking to a budget for a small party or an intimate dinner can be just as challenging as remaining on budget for a larger event. Try to plan well in advance to determine what the categories of your budget will be. For most small gatherings and intimate affairs the basic budget sections will be:

Food : appetizers, meal, desserts, catered or cooked at home
- Beverages : wine, non-alcoholic beverages, alcohol, coffee, tea
- Decorations : floral arrangements, table settings, candles, lighting
Entertainment : music or other

It is important to prioritize the budget items as well. For instance, if you are planning a formal dinner then the food and beverages are most likely to be the highest priority when deciding on the budget amounts. The use of a caterer or preparing the food yourself at home may also change the amount of money that you can budget on the actual food item itself.

Remember that some guests may have restrictions on their food due to diets, allergies and personal or cultural preferences. If you are hosting a small event be sure to be aware of any food issues that may be present. If you are not sure it is always best to ask guests in advance if they have any special dietary restrictions.


For an intimate evening or a small gathering of friends or coworkers it is customary to serve special beverages, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic prior to the meal, often wine with the meal, as well as after meal liqueurs, drinks, teas and coffees. Many people now rent, borrow or own espresso machines and make wonderful cappuccinos and lattes for their guests. Punches and specialty drinks such as martinis, margaritas or non-alcoholic versions of the drinks can be used to add a special touch to the party.


At small gatherings or intimate affairs it is possible to really make your decorating memorable. The special details that can be added to the table and the room are almost endless. To create a warm, comfortable and relaxing mood at a small gathering consider the following:

- Hand written place cards held with a single rose, lily or chrysanthemums on each plate
- Each guest having a different color or theme place setting
- Elegant white on white tablecloths, linen napkins, and white table settings
- For spring time use pastel colors with bunches of spring flower including tulips, hyacinths and daisies
- Use bright colors to liven up fall and winter gatherings
- Instead of serving the food already plated consider serving family style to create a warmth between guests
- For fall events and gatherings use the fall them colors, burn oranges, Burgundies, forest greens and golds. Miniature pumpkins, gourds and nuts can be used as a centerpiece or to decorate tables.

For romantic or intimate affairs consider using soft lighting and coloring to create the perfect atmosphere. Try some of the following:

- A variety of white or cream-colored pillar candles surrounded by a scattering of rose petals for the center of the table. 
- Floating candles in a variety of glass bowls around the room for a soft and gentle light
- If you have a fireplace consider having a small, intimate fire lit
- Red and white roses, varieties of lilies, freesia and gardenia all make for romantic floral arrangements with a wonderful scent
- Use white and burgundy or deep red table linens and white place settings
- Change any harsh overhead lighting to more romantic table lamps strategically placed in the room.

Remember that a romantic evening should have soft and gentle lighting and should be simple yet elegant in decor. Avoid over-decorating or making the table look too cluttered or busy for a romantic atmosphere.


For both small gatherings and intimate affairs and dinners consider having some variety of soft music in the background. If you are not fond of classical music consider some instrumental versions of soft rock, pop music, or even folk songs. Ethnic music can add to the atmosphere if the party is for a special cultural event or holiday, or is a favorite music of the guest of honor. A popular music for background sounds for small events is jazz music. If you don't have a collection of background music available consider asking guests to bring a CD or downloading a variety of songs and making your own music track for the evening.

Planning well in advance of small gatherings and intimate affairs will allow you to consider different options when organizing your event. Try experimenting with different table settings, colors and lighting until you get just the result you are looking for.

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