This holiday season, relax and join in the fun! If you’re having friends and family over, there’s no need for it to be a stressful headache — not if you follow our fast-fix tips and festive entertaining solutions for a stress-free party!
1. Plan ahead
- Set the date. As soon as you’ve decided on the date for your party, phone or email everyone ASAP. It’s only natural that most people will have lots of things going on at this time of the year, so you’ll have to be prepared for some ‘Sorry, I can’t come!’ replies — you’ll never find a date when everyone is free.
- Can the kids come, too? Let your guests know whether children are invited or not right at the start. Rather than be disappointed that your two best friends won’t be able to make the party because they can’t get babysitters, you may want to think about setting up a kids-only room with food, drinks and a TV or games to keep them amused.
- Choose a theme. Be clear as to what the evening is all about when you issue your invite. Make sure you let your guests know if they’re being invited round for drinks, nibbles and a friendly game of 30 Seconds, or whether they can expect a full-blown dinner party or lots of alcohol and dancing until dawn. This will help them decide what the dress code is and whether to have a meal before they come.
- Lists, lists, lists! Lists are key to every successful party — making a note of everything you need to do and buy may seem endless, but it’s so rewarding as you go along ticking things off. Think about what you normally have in the house, but will probably need more of than normal — like bin bags and loo rolls!
- Right timing. It’s not a bad idea to stagger the arrival of your guests over an hour — no matter how big or small your party is. Invite the first group or couple at 7pm, then a few more at 7.15pm and so on — just make sure you invite the usual latecomers in the first group! This will give you time to sort out drinks as people arrive and introduce people who’ve never met, before the next group arrives.
2. Set the scene
- Little extras. Of course, the house is going to be looking cheerful and festive, but just a few extra touches can make the atmosphere even more special. Put a small tree outside the front door and smother it in twinkling fairy lights, or run lights through hedging or bushes in the front garden to give an instant feel of entering a joyful wonderland.
- Mood lighting. Keep lights low throughout the house and dot tealights and candles around — just make sure they’re out of harm’s way. And don’t forget the loo — put a scented candle in there to keep it smelling fresh all night.
- Fresh flowers. Fresh flowers always look fantastic. A good idea is to spread them throughout the house by using a couple of small vases in each of the rooms that your guests might go into (including the loo).
- Party tunes. Getting the music right is probably one of the most important elements for a successful celebration. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a party and walking into silence, or the music stopping and starting throughout the evening because no one knows what to put on or how to work the music system. This is where your iPod comes in. Make up three playlists — dance music, holiday tunes and easy-listening — to categorise your beats. If you haven’t got an iPod, sort out enough CDs to last the evening, make three piles and put one person in charge of them.
3. Eat, drink and be merry!
- Fast food. The type of party you’re having obviously determines the style of food you’ll be serving, whether it’s a dinner party, buffet or finger food. But, whatever you’re doing, make sure you keep it simple — this is your party and you want to enjoy it!
- Shop ahead. Get all your shopping done early. This will allow you time to check your food and booze lists to determine if you have everything you need to avoid any last minute hiccups.
- Less work. If it’s for a dinner or buffet, ask about the party food service at your local supermarket, or check out some of our party nibbles. Ask around for a caterer — they don’t always work out wildly expensive as a lot of small businesses are geared towards ‘time-poor’ women, rather than those with more money than sense.
- Helpful hostess. Make soft drinks a bit more exciting for the drivers — if you’re catering for a large crowd, make a fruity punch — it’s a lot less time consuming than shaking cocktails.
- Keep cool. Put beers in a big bin outside the kitchen, or use picnic cooler boxes and fill them with ice blocks. And, the number one rule: don’t forget the ice! Rather buy bags of ice than messing around by making it yourself. Also, start stocking up with it soon — everybody is partying!
Top tip: If you decide you’re only serving beer, wine and soft drinks, let your guests know so that if they prefer to drink spirits, they can bring their own.
4. Finishing touches
- Drinking and driving. Keep taxi numbers handy for those who’ve had a bit too much to drink, and try to arrange for possible sleepovers prior to the event for those who need to drive far.
- Secure parking. If you don’t have enough secure parking, arrange for a car guard to watch the cars that are parked outside.
- Big thanks. Why not send all your guests away with a little gift? If you’re having a dinner party you could leave a pretty organza bag with a few chocolates at each place setting or have a big bowl of sweet treats at the front door for people to take as they leave.