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Designing an Afternoon Party Menu

mustache baby shower-28Food. It’s a key party ingredient. Something to drink and nibble on are just as important as the fabulous decor and party favors you plan. So how do you go about designing a menu that wows your guests, is easy enough to make and provides a good balance of choices on your table? There are certainly many approaches out there, but this is how I create my party menus. I’m going to use the mustache bash baby shower menu as an example.

mustache baby shower-23Things to consider when creating a menu

1. Any known food allergies of guests. I myself have food limitations, so I always try to accommodate guests when planning the menu and appreciate it when hostesses do the same for me. Gluten was off the menu at this party for several people. While there were items with gluten, there were also plenty without!

2. Favorite foods of the guest of honor. It’s their day! Make sure they feel special when they are dining on all the yummy things you made for their party.

3. Time of day of the party. The mustache bash menu was created for an afternoon shower – between 2-4pm. For parties at this time, you don’t need to provide a full meal, just appetizers.

4. How much time you have to devote to food prep. Some parties have lots of time and help for them, some parties don’t. You have to be realistic about what you can pull off making when you plan the menu, and how much you know you’ll have to buy. As a rule of thumb, though, I always try to make from scratch at least two items on my food tables. It adds a special touch to events.

5. Location. Do you have to bring everything to a location to set up? Can you keep hot things hot and cold things cold? Is it out side and forecast to be 90 degrees? Some foods are going to do better than others depending on where you are serving them and the temperatures where they are being served.

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So what do I make?

Again, this will vary depending on your personal entertaining style, but this is how I approach appetizer/dessert based party menu planning.

Just as if you’re sitting down to have a full meal, you want some balance. If you’re a list maker, here are the areas I try to cover:

  1. Meat 
  2. Fruit
  3. Veggie
  4. Something Starchy
  5. Dessert: one chocolate, one not. If making multiple desserts, shoot for a variety of textures; not all cake, not all cookies, etc.

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The Mustache Bash Baby Shower Menu

For this party, we had some gluten-free (GF) guests, a momma that was having some severe chocolate cravings, a party inside in the afternoon that only required finger foods, and two days and two extra sets of hands to prepare. With all the time available, we did make everything from scratch (worth every minute), but usually I purchase at least part of my food spreads pre-made in the interest of prep time. Also try to make the flavors complimentary that you serve together.

The baby shower menu:

Meat dishes


  • Sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar, basil and goat cheese


  • Wasabi vegetable and crab rolls
  • Carrots in olive oil and sea salt

 Something Starchy



Cookies – Mustache sugar cookies

Pudding – Chocolate Creme Brulee


  • Asst. hard candy
  • Chocolate mustache pops

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Making this Approach Work for You

To start your party menu planning process, pick one really excellent recipe you really know you want to serve. That dish can help you set the tone and choose flavors that are complimentary to your stand out dish. Write out some headings for meat, fruit, veggie, etc. and start filling in from there. I love spreading out with my cookbooks and food magazines and flipping through them for inspiration. A few visits to my favorite food bloggers never hurts, either!


Paula Biggs

Owner at Frog Prince Paperie
Paula Biggs is a party planner, DIY crafter, and owner of Frog Prince Paperie, where you can find hundreds of party and craft ideas. You can also buy birthday party supplies, printables and accessories from the Frog Prince Paperie Etsy shop.


Wednesday 8th of May 2013

Paula, This post is great!!! Now I need recipes for all the delicious food.-:) I'm going to print this one out for future planning. Thanks for sharing!


Wednesday 8th of May 2013

Working on having all the recipes up this week! So happy to hear it was useful. :)