In my blog entry “Make Thanksgiving Stress Free”, I give many of my tried and true entertaining tips that bear repeating. Basically, as with everything, pre-planning is everything. If you are having a holiday party, large or small, any or all of these tips will be beneficial for having your party run smoothly.
Have a designated closet or space for coats. Preferably not right at your entrance, so as to avoid a cluttered look. Rent or purchase a rolling coat rack, or clear out your hall closet of your own coats, so as to provide ample space for your guests. Be sure to add hangers.
Clear out your refrigerator of any excess food, condiments, etc., so as to make room for large platters (that you have made in advance) and also for the leftovers that will be going in after the party.
Prepare as much of your food as you can in advance. Have it ready to be placed in the oven or on the buffet in it’s serving container.
Empty the dishwasher so it is on the ready for loading day/night of your event
Look around, do you have enough seating? This depends on the type of event you are throwing, naturally if it is a dinner you need chairs for your guests. If you are throwing a cocktail party, I have found the majority of people stand or walk around having conversations. Still, have seating in conversational groupings. Many people make the mistake of removing too much furniture, you will need small tables here and there as a landing place for a drink or small plate. If you must, re-arrange your living room furniture to accomodate.
If you have a fireplace, make sure the wood bins are full. Have the logs stacked and ready to light. You don’t want to be running around looking for newspaper minutes before your guests arrive. Light the fireplace at least 1/2 hour prior to your event. It could be just that night that the flue decides not to draft! At least you can resolve that before anyone shows up!
Lighting is everything. Lamps and candles help to set the mood. Avoid bright overhead lighting unless it is a chandelier with a dimmer. I always like to have a candle in the powder room, but avoid having them close to the bar or at the buffet. And try not to have scented candles close to your food.
Be sure that there are ample hand towels in the powder room. I like to use decorative paper hand towels, that way each guest has a clean dry towel. Always have at least an extra roll of toilet paper in a container or under the vanity. Place a fresh new bar of soap in the soap dish or use a pump dispenser but again, make sure it is new and full.
Set the mood with music, but keep the volume from becoming overwhelming.
Have your entrances well lit and be prepared for winter weather by keeping shovels and salt handy if needed.
My children love to help at parties, and truthfully, they are quite good at it. My son usually helps to direct with parking, shoveling walks and hanging coats. My daughters clear away plates and work the buffet and loading dishwashers. If you can’t hire a caterer, I suggest hiring a freind’s son or daughter for help – I have found that they are always more than happy to help out, plus they earn a little spending money!
And finally, always, always greet your guests. Do not be upstairs fixing your hair as your guests show up. You want to exude effortlessness and hospitality. This instantly makes your guests feel welcome. Let the festivities begin!