9 Tips From Top Party Pros

Whether your soiree is once in a lifetime or an annual neighborhood bash, top party pros have insider ideas and tips just for you.

1. Unsure of an event’s dress code? Consider the person or organization throwing the party. Cocktail attire for a corporate party should be conservative, whereas the same dress code for your niece’s 21st birthday bash is the time for youthful silhouettes and bold colors. No matter what the dress code, always choose a garment that makes you feel confident, and that you won’t mind being photographed in.
Julie Blake, Women's Division Manager and Store Co-Manager, Mark Shale at Northbrook Court http

2. Every summer in June or July, Vintage Pine has a huge tag sale, and that's when Heffernan Morgan Designs cleans out their warehouse. It's a great source for props for an event—everything from superhero cutouts to holiday garlands. (Check vintagepine.com for the exact date.

Bill Heffernan, Founder, Heffernan Morgan Designs, Chicago

3. When you get engaged, don't panic and immediately start booking venues. Take a deep breath and start with your budget, and what you really want guests to take away from your event. The priority should be getting down the aisle and saying "I do." Everything after that is frosting!
Mindy Weiss, Author of "The Wedding Planner & Organizer," and event planner for celebrities including Heidi Klum and Katy Perry

4. Planning a surprise party? When considering music, pick a playlist from when the honoree was between the ages of 13 and 22. Upbeat music from the formative years creates a mood of fun and familiarity that will coax even the most surprised guest of honor out of their shell.
Jeff Bizar, CEO, Bizar Entertainment, Deerfield

5. Confidence is the key to looking great in candid photos. Relax, be in the moment and avoid over-posing (that means ditching the hand-on-the-hip stance). Keep your arms natural, stand with one foot slightly ahead of the other, and shift your weight backwards. Now think happy thoughts, and smile!
Chuan Vo, Owner and Photographer, Vofotos, Chicago

6. If your celebration is a multicultural one, share the “best of” from each culture with passed hors d’oeuvres. They can be sampled or turned away, so there’s no pressure! Try to incorporate as many elements from each tradition as possible. Do research into each culture's food and symbolism to avoid offensive foods or colors.
Wendy Pashman, Owner, Entertaining Company, Chicago

7. What to give the hostess with the mostest? Unless you know her tastes very well, wine, chocolates and scented candles can be risky. The best gift is something small and useful, yet a piece she’d never buy for herself. Opt for a beautifully wrapped serving item for her next soiree, or a leather-bound notepad.
Gayle Cohen, Manager, Material Possessions, Winnetka

8. Before that emotional big day, ask your makeup artist to use silicone-based waterproof airbrush makeup. It will stay put through sweat and tears, until you take it off. This type of makeup also has the added benefit of creating a smooth surface over pesky fine lines. Also, avoid using moisturizers or foundations containing titanium dioxide, a common SPF ingredient. It reflects light and will give you a ghostly appearance in photos.
Holly Kasprisin, Owner and Lead Artist, Chicago Bridal Hair and Makeup

9. Decorate on a dime with this party stylist secret: Group candles in different heights and sizes on coffee tables, mantles, bars and buffets. The tiered, colorful collections of pillar and votive candles will make your party shine with hardly any effort.—Debi Lilly, Chief Eventeur, A Perfect Event, Chicago

Make It Better Foundation

Advertise with MIB