Basic planning can ensure your holiday get-together is festive indeed
By Taylor Rao
Albany Times Union
Published 2:20 pm, Friday, December 4, 2015
For many people, the holidays are not complete without an opportunity to welcome friends and family for a festive, cozy get-together.
But trying to plan a great event takes a lot of time, especially when there are other peoples' parties to attend, cards to send and gifts to wrap.
"Around the holidays, we see parties and events of all shapes and sizes," says Katie O'Malley Maloney, owner of Katie O' Weddings and Events in Troy.
The typical at-home holiday party could be a small get-together with several couples, or a larger gathering of up to 40 to 50 people, with the latter being a slightly more popular "open house" style event, where guests can come and go, dress festively and enjoy hors d'oeuvres, music and good company, says O'Malley Maloney.
"A great host always tries to keep in mind the personalities and tastes of the guests, while incorporating their own spin on the food and beverage menu," says Sheldon Wiley, Ciroc trade ambassador in New York City. "Shake it up with items that represent the evening's theme to create a deliciously fun holiday party that your friends will be talking about tomorrow."
If you're a shoes-at-the-door household, leave a bucket of festive holiday socks and slippers for your guests to wear throughout the night. Or if you're over the ugly sweater party fad, host a "naked tree" party where each guest brings a unique ornament and decorates the tree as a group.
No matter the size, a great party doesn't come together overnight; it takes weeks of preparation, budget planning, decorating and list-making to combine all the best elements needed to throw a fantastic event.
We've taken a look at the best tips and tricks for a holiday host to prepare for this season.
The first step to throwing a great party is determining a budget for your event. Depending on how much you're willing to spend, you'll be able pinpoint approximate numbers for the costs of each of the necessary element, allowing you to create the right sized guest list and plan your trips to the grocery or liquor store. To find the best savings on certain items, download the RedLaser app to compare prices and secure the best deals from store to store.
EXPERT TIP: "For a party with about 50 guests, when you consider the costs of food, alcohol and décor, you're looking at around $25 per person," O'Malley Maloney says. "The spending can certainly be less, but if you want to throw a kick-ass party, you'll want to spend a little more."
Parking space. Consider the space outside and around your home to make sure people have a clear-cut place to park. If you live on a neighborhood street, let your neighbors know in advance (or perhaps extend an invite) so no one's caught off guard by a parade of cars down the block.
Party space. Create more room by rearranging your furniture layout or taking some pieces away for the evening. Make sure there's plenty of seating for guests by bringing in extra chairs from other rooms of the house, or renting folding chairs for backup.
Important information. While formal invitations may seem passé, it's the best opportunity to let guests know what to expect at your party. As a host, guests look to you to set the tone by providing a start and end time, and any special instructions like how to dress or whether an RSVP is required.
Spreading the word. For a party with only a few weeks notice, skip snail mail and try creating modern, classy e-invitations on websites like Paperless Post or Red Stamp. Online invites are a cute, creative step up from a Facebook event, with all the personalized details and dose of holiday spirit to get guests excited.
Good timing. Set out your cold appetizers, like a fruit and cheese plate, along with beverages and ice prior to guests arriving to make them feel welcome when they come through the door. For the main spread, don't wait longer than an hour and a half into the party — and if all dishes are prepped and ready-to-serve beforehand, it'll be a flawless transition from hors d'oeuvres into the next round of your merry meal.
Options. To throw a great party where everyone has fun, it doesn't hurt to ask your guests about any dietary restrictions. Guests will appreciate the thoughtfulness and perhaps provide a suggestion for an easy dish to make, or one they'll offer to bring.
Stock up. Give your guests plenty of choices to please everyone's preference for a beer, glass of wine or a seasonal cocktail. Vodka is a versatile spirit to use when creating many different types of specialty drinks. Keep all guests hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages throughout the evening, and consider having a mocktail on hand for the designated drivers of the night. And don't forget: buy plenty of ice. Typically, plan for about 2 pounds of ice per guest.
Décor and cleanup
Simplicity. As a host for the holidays, there's not typically a need to tack on any additional decorations aside from what you've already done within your home. For the finishing touches, light some scented candles around the party space and add color with fresh flowers in a festive vase. Holiday music throughout the home is a perfect source of entertainment for those willing to join in on an impromptu Christmas caroling session, or to simply enjoy the seasonal melodies and embrace the holiday spirit.
Hire a helping hand.
Even with a small budget, it's a smart investment to hire a helping hand to be on standby to replenish food and drinks, clean up and make sure the party's running smoothly. A babysitter or neighbor wanting to make some extra bucks while still being included in the event grants the host some breathing room to socialize and become a guest in their own home.
Sources: Katie O'Malley Maloney, owner of Katie O' Weddings and Events in Troy; Sheldon Wiley, Ciroc trade ambassador in New York City; Peter J. Damiano, Whole Foods Market northeast regional chef.
Taylor Rao is a freelance writer living in Rexford. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.