6 Easy Steps to Keeping it Simple When Planning a Party During the Holiday
Yes, it is possible to host a party during the holidays without getting frazzled! All it takes is a little planning before hand to ensure it all comes together they way you want.
The first thing you need to do is plan a day and time that not only works for you, but is convenient for your guests. No, you don’t have to ask everyone you want to invite what works for them, as everyone will have a different answer. Just ask yourself which day is probably good for most people. Things to consider might be; do most people on your list work, is it a church night, week night or weekend, traffic times or do they have small children at home. I always found that the best nights for a gathering were Tuesday or Thursday as most people are free those nights. Also 6-8pm was always a good time frame. Of course it goes without saying that the earlier you decide on a date and time and let your guests know about it, the more likely you are to get a positive turnout.
This brings us to the second thing you need to do, send out invitations. There are several ways to do this. I personally still like the old fashioned way of sending a card by mail. But many people have now gone to virtual mail. This can mean sending an email or using a virtual invitation service like Evite which is completely free and includes customizable invitations, automatic reminders and RSVP. Punchbowl is another one I like for sending beautiful free online invitations and ecards instantly by text message or email. Of course you will need to make sure your email and phone numbers for your invitees are up-to-date. Be sure to always ask them to RSVP by a certain date. I also like to specify a dress code. I like business casual, but you might want something fun like ugly sweater, so let them know. (You might also like to ask them to bring a new unwrapped toy for a children’s charity or a canned food item to go to the the local food bank.) If you have everyone’s current phone numbers, you can simply phone them for an informal invite, but you may end up calling them again to remind them and find out if they are planning to attend the party.
Once the invitations are out, it’s time to plan the menu. I have always been a fan of finger foods for simplicity. I like to include both cold and hot options. My favorite cold menu items are Shrimp Cocktail, a small version of Caprese Salad (small tomatoes & mozzarella balls drizzled with a balsamic dressing and topped with small basil leaves, a goat cheese log topped with cranberries (store bought are good, but you can make your own), and a Charcuterie Board with meats, cheese, olives, nuts & fruits. Hot items might be a cheese dip, meatballs with your sauce of choice or Pigs in a Blanket. I say keep it simple and stick with what works. I once did a dessert table of just chocolates. Cookies, candy, pastry all on their own table using a pretty assortment of different serving bowls, dishes and glasses. It was a big hit! You will also need to decide on drinks for the party. You should consider both alcoholic and non-alcoholic items. The easiest thing to do is to make up a punch and serve it in a pretty punch bowl. If you don’t have a punch bowl, look around the house and see if you have something that will fill in. You can have both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version of the same punch. Consider having some bottled water available. (Make the bottled water special by using a sparkling water.) If you do want to set up a bar, stick with standard liquors like rum, whiskey, vodka or gin. Set out some mixers, ice, citrus & fruit garnishes and let guests make what they like.
Next thing to do is make sure the house is festive ready. You don’t have to go all out unless that’s your thing. A few ribbons, bows, ornaments and the like will do just fine. I love using things I can find in the garden or around the neighborhood; pine branches for garland, pine cones, acorns etc. Leaving them natural or spray painting in metallic colors works wonders. Winter fruits & berries are also pretty additions.
Plan to clean the house several days before the event. And prepare any food you can at this time and keep in the refrigerator or sealed containers. I like to set out all serving pieces now and arrange how I want them on my table. You want to make things flowable along the table to keep guests moving at a steady pace. I also like to use small placecards along the line describing the dish, cheese, and alcohol/nonalcohol.
Last thing is to finish preparing the food. Have a plan as some things will take a little longer than others. Heating up hot foods and arranging the Charcuterie Board, for example. Cheeses should be placed out about an hour before guests arrive to let them warm up. Garnishes can be cut & stored in the refrigerator the morning of the party. That way they are ready to be placed on serving dishes when the food is out. (Note: any garnishes for food and drink should be edible.) All this planning means you can spend more time with your guests when they arrive.
Now go get dressed, then sit down and take a look at your beautifully planned party and listen up for the doorbell to fun!
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