With the holiday season upon us it’s a good time to brush-up on those things that take a party from good to great. Here’s a collection of my top 10 steps that will help you do just that.
- Send out invitations. Evite, Facebook, printed invites… do it however you choose. Just know ahead of time that people are generally slackers when it comes to responding. If you really want these people at your party, don’t hesitate to send out an “are you coming” message. They’ll appreciate the fact that you thought of them and you’ll appreciate knowing how many people to plan for.
- Get your house clean. You can do this yourself or have someone come in to do this. More importantly though, de-clutter Even if you have to throw all your crap into one spot you don’t need for the night and call it a day. Pay special attention to areas like the bathroom. When you are in the bathroom, there are no distractions to take you away from your surroundings. This is when people look around- and judge… don’t even tell me you don’t do this yourself. Make sure supplies are stocked; soap filled, extra toilet paper, fresh towels, air freshener and don’t forget to wipe those pesky fingerprints off your doors!
- Have music playing when the first guests start to arrive and put some thought into what that music will be ahead of time. Just like retail stores understand that music directly affects atmosphere and mood so must a good host. Music sets a mood and you want to make sure you match the one you’re trying to set. Don’t be that person who pulls out their ipod and puts it on random shuffle or worse yet, the one who forgets the music all together. There is no excuse not to have a decent playlist for this with the digital access we have these days so shelve your workout mix and hip-hop for the night (or at least until the end of the night) and think of some other favorites that will work with your crowd. If this is just too much for you handle, assign this task to someone you know won’t mind showing up a little early to get this done.
- Make sure your house smells good or at the very least, make sure it doesn’t smell bad. My husband & I still refer to one couple we know as the “stinky cheese” couple because- you guessed it- their house reeked of pungent cheese when they hosted a party. Light a candle or use an electric plug-in but whatever you do don’t be a “stinky cheese” host. I like to use scents that compliment the season and aren’t overly floral or fruity. Subtle spice blends usually work nice for this.
- If possible, greet each person as they arrive. If you can’t do this, make sure someone knows to watch the door. This is the first impression to make sure your guests don’t feel like they stumbled into your home on accident. Assuming you created the guest list, these are people you WANTED at your party, make them feel that way. Consider giving a run down of whats going on (so & so is putting the final touches on dinner so feel free to munch on some apps in the meantime which are over here)
- Keep the drinks flowing. Whether alcoholic or something else, make sure your guests are offered a drink soon after they enter your home. I cannot tell you how many times I have been to a party where I have had to ask where the drinks were. If you are having a self-service drinks, consider serving them the first drink and then telling them where to get refills. That way pressure is off of you to keep on top of their drinks and they can imbibe at will.
- Make sure there is a variety of drinks to suit differences in taste. Just because you think Golden Monkey is the nectar of the gods doesn’t mean that your guests will. A nice mix of interesting craft beer (something Victory or Sam Adams?), standard beer (Yuengling Lager?), light beer (Michelob Ultra?) and bottles of red and white wine usually work for us. In addition, consider having a signature cocktail for the night. Remember the “stinky cheese” couple? The one saving grace for them was that they had really yummy pomegranate martinis poured and ready to serve
- Usher them into the room that you want them to hang out in. If not, they will probably follow you back into the kitchen as you go about taking care of last-minute details. For some reason, people seem to gravitate to standing around the kitchen island. This is fine to a point but I’m sure you have more comfortable spots in your house and since you already cleaned and made them presentable, go ahead and encourage your guests to spread out and enjoy them as well. Always remember, a good way to lure people into other areas of your house is placing food there If you want them in the kitchen, consider giving them something to do while there like putting together a cracker and cheese tray or cutting bread.
- Provide some ice breakers. There are so many creative ways to get people to interact and just about all of them can be found by googling “ice breakers”. If that doesn’t fit your style, at the very least do a good job at introducing people. Start with names but take it a step further and give them something to talk about once you have introduced them. For example, “This is Bob. He & Dennis are friends from college. If you play your cards right, maybe he’ll tell you about the time when…” However, from prior experience I caution you from taking this ice breaking too far. On one occasion, one well-meaning (?) couple did just that when one of their “getting to know you” activities that included a quiz where the guests were supposed to guess the couples favorite position- ewww, TMI alert!!
- Feed your guests. Yes, it seems obvious but coming from a girl raised in an Italian family it’s a super important element. You want to have food and plenty of it but don’t stop there. Think about what occasion or theme you are celebrating and build the menu from there. For goodness sake, don’t serve taquitos for a St. Patty’s Day get together and ham & cabbage for a Cinco De Mayo fiesta. (Actually, you should probably skip the latter altogether because of Step 4) Think theme and ease. Ideally the items should be able to prepare ahead of time and heat up right before if necessary. Do yourself and your guests a favor and save the fancy stuff for an intimate dinner party.
Final step is to relax and enjoy yourself. Yes, any good party is a bit like a camp fire… it takes some work to get it started but once it has you get to sit back and enjoy the warmth and atmosphere. Once you have put these steps in place, you will be able to do just that.
Hope these tips come in handy for your holiday entertaining as well as throughout the year. What tip do you think is most important? I would love to hear your thoughts as well!