10 Holiday Party Planning Tips
Does the thought of having family over for the holidays terrify you? Stop worrying! Make your Christmas or New Year’s party an unqualified success with these ten planning tips.
Start Planning Now
The more time you have before the Big Day, the more shopping and cooking that you can do well in advance. The first step is to create three master lists (guests, menu, shopping) that will help you keep track of everything for the party. Give people no less than three weeks’ notice — remember, holiday schedules fill up fast. Jot down a list of recipes you’re confident that you can cook well and that are proven crowd pleasers. Then look over each item on your menu and list everything you’ll need to make it happen.
Beautify Your Food
In planning your menu, take time to make sure you have as many colors and textures as possible. Think red peppers, tangerines, yellow squash and green beans to brighten up otherwise bland-looking dishes. Garnishes are another great way to add color. As professional chefs know, most garnishes only look difficult to create, yet they have the power to make even a simple dish look special.
Know Your Kitchen
It’s pointless to plan a party that your kitchen can’t handle. Every kitchen has space constraints; make sure you know yours. For example, can your stove handle heating the five dishes you plan to serve hot at the same time? You can avoid kitchen crunch by choosing a menu of foods served at a variety of temperatures and preparing as many dishes in advance as possible. The one catch: Don’t forget to allow enough time for defrosting and reheating on party day.
The sanest way to shop for a party is in stages. Divide your shopping list by store and buy all the nonperishables you need as early as possible. Consider some alternative resources for what you need. Read the ads in the newspaper to see what’s on sale at the supermarkets in your area. Finally, thrift shops can yield wonderful finds for entertaining. Extra glasses, tableware, silver and candlesticks can often be had at a fraction of what new ones would cost.
Set a Gorgeous Table
A beautifully set table can make even plain food look elegant and inviting. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do it. Start with a great tablecloth, especially if your dining-room table has seen better days. When it comes to centerpieces, don’t limit your thinking to flowers. A bowl of Christmas balls, fruits, vegetables, even toys can add whimsy and charm to your table setting. And you can’t go wrong with candles. Candlelight is the kindest light of all — warm, cozy and very Christmasy.
Start Cooking Now
Waiting until the last few days before your party to cook everything just doesn’t make sense — especially when, if you examine your menu, you’ll see that much of it can be prepared ahead, frozen and reheated. Just pin up a reminder to yourself so you don’t forget to defrost in time.
Keep Cleaning Simple
Don’t attempt a top-to-bottom housecleaning before your party. Confine your efforts to the rooms your guests will see and use. And close the doors to the others. But there is one place you should spend some time scrubbing: the bathroom. It’s the one room by which your guests will judge the cleanliness of the whole house.
Keep Serving Simple
For a small number of guests, a good arrangement is to place all the food, buffet-style, on one main table, and designate another table for the bar. However, the bigger the party, the more you ought to consider setting up several food areas so that everyone doesn’t end up crowded in one spot. One place you should avoid using for food service is your kitchen, which will be far too busy already.
Ask For Help
The larger your party, the more help you’ll need. Consider hiring university students as bartenders or waiters. But the number one source of your household help should be…your household. Most kids love being more than just decorative accessories at their parents’ parties, and they’ll be happy to clean up and gather coats. In addition, don’t hesitate to look beyond your doors to relatives, close friends and coworkers.
The final rule is both the hardest and the most important thing for a party giver to do. Most people are delighted to have someone go to all the trouble it takes to entertain. When guests arrive, they’ll be in a party mood and pleased just to have been invited. So take a deep breath before you open the door to your first guest and relax. This is going to be fun.