The holidays are a time when many people entertain. You tend to be in a festive mood, the house is decorated, you enjoy your friends’ parties and figure — why not host your own event?
If you are considering a holiday party, or any other theme for that matter, I applaud you. Not many people host parties anymore and I’m not sure why. Is it too daunting a task? Can you decide who to invite or what to serve? Here are 10 tips that my wife and I consider when hosting our gatherings. I think they will help you too.
One: Plan ahead.
If you are reading this on Dec. 15th, it might be a little too late to host a Christmas-themed party. You need to give yourself and your guests some time unless you intend to go really simple and/or really small. If you still want to host soon, consider a New Year’s Eve party or a “Post-Holiday Thank God That’s Over” theme. Trust me, people enjoy a random theme, especially when nothing else is happening.
Two: Any major conflicting events?
Are any other friends hosting a party that day? Also check some of the bigger social calendars or even sporting events if some of your guests might have other plans. Hosting a party where 75 percent can’t attend because their favorite nonprofit is celebrating the same night can be a bit of a letdown.
Three: Decor can go a long way.
One thing that helps with having a holiday-themed party is the festive decor you already have up. The ooh and ahhh factor of any event increases significantly when your home is decked out. Consider Easter, Independence Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving themes if you are brimming with bric-a-brac prior to those holidays.
Four: Is it kid-friendly?
The answer to that question is entirely up to you. Know what kind of event you want to throw first, then decide if a dozen kids fits with your plans.
Five: Large party?
Have a potluck. When hosting too large of a group (and only you will know what too large means to you), consider a potluck. Ask your guests to bring light appetizers for finger foods, heavy hors d’oeuvres if you want small plates, or suggest they bring a side dish or salad to compliment your prime rib, pork roast, lasagna or enchilada dish. Most guests don’t mind helping with the food when they realize they don’t have to clean up their own house the day after a good party.
Six: Co-host with a friend.
If you have a close friend you can trust to host with, let them join in the preparation and the fun. It takes some of the burden off of you to host everything and lightens the load of expenses for food, beverages and decor or themed accessories. Make sure you ask someone who would invite a high percentage of the same group of guests as you would. They should have similar interests, at least when it comes to entertaining or you might end up with a party that neither of you enjoys. Make sure you talk through all of the planning up front so neither of you feels taken advantage of for expenses or duties. The last thing you want to do is lose a friendship in the name of having fun.
Seven: It’s OK to push the boundaries a little.
If you feel comfortable hosting a dozen people, there really isn’t much difference in hosting 16 (unless you plan a sit-down dinner and don’t have a table large enough). The same is true at most any size if you consider growing proportionately. Forty can easily become 50 with finger foods and the right music to keep people out of seats and dancing on their feet. Summertime is even better for outdoor barbecue events that can grow and grow. Our house was bursting at the seams for a fall party we used to host for 75 adults, so we moved the date to June for a summer kickoff that now reaches the century threshold every year.
Eight: Consider your expected event size before committing to your meal.
If you wish to host some of your closest friends with a standing rib roast, you need to limit the guest list. A group of 10 is manageable, but if you have any more, you may need additional oven space or seating options. Make sure you fully grasp your limitations for the event you have in your mind. It’s hard to “sell” hamburgers to your arriving guests when you have promised prime beef.
Nine: Keep an eye on the alcohol.
Many parties will have a counter, bar or table filled with bottles of wine, liquor and cold beer. Everyone wants to celebrate, but no one wants to pay the price for having too much fun. If you see guests who shouldn’t drive, don’t let them. You aren’t a party pooper, and they will thank you the next day for looking after their safety as well as everyone else’s.
Ten: Have fun!
Yes, your party is meant to be a great time for your guests, but make sure it is a great time for you as well. There is no reason to put forth the effort to host a fun gathering if you can’t enjoy it too. Pre-planning and prep work will help tremendously. If you are entertaining a small enough group, invite them into the kitchen area while you cook to prevent you from leaving them in another room as you run to and fro. You can even put a guest in charge of a certain task like head wine bottle opener or asking one friend to help you clear the table after the entree. If they are friends, they won’t mind assisting and are probably happy just to be invited out to a special night.
This list is by no means the end-all, be-all of party tips, but it is a good start. If you don’t want to be stuck with all of the cleaning duties, hire a high-schooler to help with the dishes and cleanup along the way. If that still seems too daunting and your bank account allows, consider having your event catered.
What counts the most is enjoying the event. Include the people you want to be with, and the ones you know want to be with you. With that as your foundation, your party should be a smashing success. Cheers!