Have you ever planned a dinner event for 100+ people?
I haven’t. Or at least I hadn’t until this past week. My husband’s unit had their annual Christmas Party and as the Commander’s Wife and the FRG leader, it was left for me to plan.
It was a little daunting at first, especially knowing that the number of attendees could vary incredibly (94 Soldier’s in the unit, half are married, half have children) but if you know me, you know that I love this type of thing… even if it’s very time consuming for a homeschooling mother of three young children.
For the most part it went well, though I did have to buy a Venti Peppermint Mocha to get through the day. Oh well. It could have been worse (wink wink).
The biggest thing was that I had a strict budget to follow-- but the Lord provided again and again. We were able to line up a beautiful community center on base that allowed us to host our event for free. FREE. A perfect location, at the perfect price. Nice.
I had a number of gals (spouses to our dear Soldier’s) volunteer to help organize the games, food, and decorations. We met together, planned out the details, and delegated tasks. I was in charge of food/drinks (and of course responsible for all the detail work: logistics, advertising, coordinating, supplies, music, welcoming etc.). And the other two gals did games/entertainment and decorations.
I cooked up a storm and supplied the main course for the dinner—several delicious, crowd pleasing pasta dishes for the masses. The food was perfect for the occasion as it is the one thing that easily feeds large numbers and is appealing to most everyone.The Soldiers and their families brought appetizers and desserts so we had quite the spread.
I had carefully calculated the quantity of food penne, rigatoni and spaghetti, but in the end, we ran out of the main course. (Many single soldiers who hadn’t had a home cooked meal in years loaded their plates high before everyone had the chance to make it through the line—haha, can’t say I blame them). But truth be told, I was actually glad that all the pasta was consumed. We didn’t eat half the desserts and ended up having to take tons of sweets home. Another huge trial for me to bear (wink wink).
The night before the party, my decorator (who was also donating all the decorations) called and said she couldn’t make it. Groan. I wish people could be more reliable. But somehow the Lord gave me peace of mind and instead of panicking, I rummaged through my closets and found everything I had left that was even remotely Christmassy and loaded it into a bags. Strings of lights, pieces of tinsel, and rolls and rolls of wrapping paper.
Some unexpected volunteers (and some wonderful soldiers tasked by my husband) showed up early and helped me work some magic. Instead of table clothes, we covered the tables with wrapping paper. Instead of poinsettia’s as center pieces, we laid out pinecones, red cranberries, and gold ribbon. We strung lights across the buffet table and hung tinsel on the walls. It wasn’t ideal, but in the end it looked beautiful. I wish I’d had time to take pictures!
The games didn’t go as I’d hoped either, as the gal who was in charge of games fizzled out. I’m still not sure what happened. She was there early to help and did a great job setting out the food, she totally skipped bringing/preparing for any of the games, (which was to be the main entertainment for the adults and kids). Whew!! So again I went scrambling. I figured out some quick games for the kids (making snowflakes with construction paper and scissors, tossing discs into a bin etc.). A gal at the party jumped in and made up her own Christmas Pictionary game for the adults, and the Soldier’s brought down a white board and dry erase markers from the unit to use for the game. It was a big hit.
Even with the glitches, overall, the party really went well. It was neat to see the Lord smooth out the rough spots. The big coffee pots were delivered late, but still the coffee was hot and ready when the time came. People put trash in Santa’s gift bag thinking it was a trash bag, but none of the toys were ruined (it was actually really funny). It took us an 2 hours to clean up after the party (even with a bunch of Soldier’s there to help), but we got all of our deposit back in the end.
We had a huge crowd and there was lots of laughter, the kids enjoyed Santa, and many people were able to meet and connect for the first time.
I think I’d do it again. It’s really so much like planning a small party, just with twice as many people and details to line up. The biggest thing I learned was to have reliable help. Haha. The second most important thing? Having a back up plan.