Any event planner or caterer will tell you the key to a successful party is planning. It's not enough to simply make a few dishes and send invitations. A little advance planning saves you time and headaches later so spend five or ten minutes envisioning the party and walking yourself through as a guest. When party time comes, both you and your guests will have a night to remember!
Dreaming of the Perfect Party
The holiday season is packed with parties, so it's a good idea to send invitations three weeks in advance. The sooner you send your invitations, the less likely it is that your guests will have committed to another event. Your invitations should state the starting and ending time of your party and should mention the food you will be serving, whether it is light holiday fare or a traditional sit-down dinner. And don't forget to include directions!
Choose a menu for which many of the items can be made ahead of time. Some appetizers and desserts can be made and frozen several weeks in advance. Other recipes can be mixed together a few days before and stored in the refrigerator. Simply bake and finish the day of the party. Remember that parties aren't the time to try a new recipe. Either test a new menu item before the party, or stick with tried-and-true recipes.
Opt for heavy finger foods instead of recipes that require dinnerware. Foods that can be eaten without a fork and knife keep spills and dribbles down, and they reduce the amount of dishwashing you have to do later. If you do serve dishes that require dinnerware, make sure you have table seating for guests to sit down and eat. Make it easy on yourself. If you dread cleanup, opt for nice plasticware that can be tossed in the trash.
Think about traffic flow. Place your bar close to ice and water. Place trays of finger foods on side tables and buffets throughout your entertaining area. Provide enough chairs so that at least half of your guests can be seated at a time. Position several trash cans inconspicuously near the food tables and bar to prevent precarious pileups of plates and traffic jams in the kitchen.
If you don't have time to deep clean your home the day of the party, hit the heavy traffic areas such as your living room, dining room, and bathrooms, and leave the rest for later.
Set the mood with holiday music playing in the background and lit candles sparkling throughout the house. Personalize the night with a special activity. Invite your guests to write a holiday wish in a guest book displayed on your coffee table or ask them to join you for some caroling. Little details such as these help make your party an event to remember.
Guests love party favors. Send yours home with a little something extra: a small ornament, a bag of cookies, even a candy cane with a bow is a sweet way to say happy holidays.
An invitation is your guest's first impression of what your party will be like. To build the excitement, don't settle for a phone call or purchased invitation. Instead, use your party's theme to inspire your own quirky creations.
For a nice personal touch, use a photo from last year's party as the front of your invitation, or send one with your family dressed in holiday garb or outfits that complement your party's theme. You might also have your child draw a picture of the nativity scene, your party, or a present. Scan the photo onto a computer and print onto cardstock.
Get guests into party mode by making a custom CD of holiday music or other music that goes with your party theme. Write the party details on the CD label and send in a bubble-wrap envelope.
If you'd like an invitation with a hand-crafted look, purchase holiday stamps, and use them to make custom invitations. Stamps are available in a variety of seasonal motifs, making them ideal for expressing a particular party theme.
No time to make your invitations? Purchase nice note cards, and write a handwritten invitation with black ink. This is an elegant and personal way to announce your party.
Themed Christmas Parties
There are many different Christmas parties you can plan aside from the traditional tree-trimming parties. Here are some colorful alternatives.Boxing Day: In merry old England, servants were required to work on Christmas Day. However, they were given reprieve the day after to visit family. Their employers would send them off with a box containing gifts and food, hence the holiday "Boxing Day." Today, people continue to celebrate by taking the day off to visit family and friends.
This event is a combination of Christmas festivities and those of Boxing Day. Decorate the table with pine boughs, holly, mistletoe, juniper berries, cinnamon sticks, oranges with fragrant cloves, bowls of fruit, and tiny Christmas trees. Wrap small boxes with metallic and holiday paper and use for decoration or add small gifts that your guests can open after dinner.
You can also fill English "crackers" (colored paper tubes) with candy and small presents. For a unique Boxing Day invitation, write the party information on a piece of paper, fold it up, then place it in a small, wrapped box to hand-deliver to guests.