Ask an expert: event planner edition

Hosting a party is stressful – Melissa Andre can help

Hosting a party is a delicate, often stressful experience no matter where you live, but it can seem downright impossible in a condo with limited square footage. How many people can you squeeze in? How do you decorate? Is it even possible to have a dinner party with a practically non-existent kitchen? 

We asked event planner extraordinaire Melissa Andre, creative director of Melissa Andre Events (, to share some expert advice on how to play host in a small space.

If you have a small condo, what’s the best way to approach the guest list? 

Try to give guests a few days to RSVP so you aren’t overcrowding the space. If you end up with some cancellations, you can always open the invitation up to plus-ones. 

Two weeks’ notice for an at-home fete is my suggestion. If you give people too much time, they tend to forget. However, if this party is for a special occasion (like a birthday), the more notice the better, so people can switch their plans to attend.

What are some of your top tricks and tips for maximizing a small space for a party?

Always focus on transitional pieces. I put coasters on my coffee table, platters on my dining table and free up space on my bar cart so people can serve themselves. I also pre-make some pitchers of cocktails to have on hand.

Empty glasses can become a big issue if surface space is limited, so I like to serve punch in inexpensive mason jars, so when guests are finished I can pop them right into the dishwasher, unlike delicate wine glasses that need to sit out and be hand-washed later. 

What’s the best way to serve food and drinks if your condo doesn’t have a large bar or kitchen area?

Use food that doesn’t require additional serving tools (mini-forks, serving bowls, etc). Anything that guests can pop into their mouths from a throwaway napkin is ideal. 

A small space can quickly get cluttered with too much party decor. Are there simple ways to express a theme or fancy up your place without going overboard?

Candles are always appropriate, and you can get them in any colour. I have striped candles, pillar candles, glass candles and gold mercury votives all over my home. 

I also always have fresh plants, so I just rearrange everything when I’m having guests over. A quick trip to the flower shops at Avenue and Davenport is a great idea before a party. 

Use coloured serving napkins, coloured straws and other details that aren’t going to take up much room. Beautiful platters can be refilled as your guests go through the canapés. Presenting everything attractively goes a long way.

Do you have any frugal or DIY decor tips for condo residents on a tight budget?

Add a bit of food colouring to water, then float candles and a few floral heads in a bowl. If you buy all of this at the dollar store, a centrepiece can cost less than $5.

Decorate store-bought cupcakes with fresh edible flowers. It’s so much less expensive than having a professional whip together sugar flowers, and your guests will appreciate the one-of-a-kind look.

Line serving platters with pieces of old wallpaper and wrapping paper. That way, even basic white plates instantly get a customized look to go with your theme.

Is it possible to host an elegant dinner party in a small condo? Any your tips for pulling it off?

Serve guests a plated meal so you don’t need to take up room on the table for platters. Keep those in your kitchen and take the finished composed plates to the table. Then you have room for candles and flowers to make things feel special. 

Roll a bar cart up to the table with a pie, cake or dessert, as well as cocktails on ice. You won’t need to run back and forth to the kitchen as you go through your courses. 

Don’t keep all your fluorescent lights on! Turn some of them off and add more candlelight. Keep it intimate. And if people are going to be fighting for space, best to keep your guest list smaller and make sure everyone is comfortable.

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