Whether you’re throwing a party for 6 or 60, putting together a memorable bash can be a daunting experience. You can never be 100% prepared but the tips below can get you pretty darn close. What you’re about to read below may sound a bit extreme, but I am pretty extreme when it comes to party planning. Everyone has different thresholds for what they want to endure so take a few or all of my ideas or customize to your personal taste!
I’m going to break this down into 3 simple stages – Planning, Prepping & Party Animal
Make a list and check it twice – This may sound like a cliché, but it really helps you stay on track of every detail. I tend to throw family parties where the kids are welcome too, so make sure to list every member, especially if you’re preparing a separate meal or snacks for the little ones. Because we live in a multicultural society we always welcome guests of various backgrounds – cultural and religious, so make sure you have something for everyone. Never forget to take allergies and other conditions into consideration. If your guest has a nut or shellfish allergy or is gluten intolerant you should consider alternative options when you’re planning your menu. This one may seem a bit silly, but keep a list of all the items you have prepared so you don’t forget something in the back of your fridge. There’s nothing worse than having to drink 3 liters of forgotten eggnog all by yourself.
Drink up & dance like nobody’s watching! Drinks and music are as important as the food. Serve an easy cocktail or signature drink to welcome your guests and if you are not enlisting paid help, stock your bar with libations, ice, pop and juice and make it easily accessible for your guests to help themselves. I usually store extra pop, juice and other drinks under the table for easy refill access. Make music playlists ahead of time so the party can keep rocking without you having to fuss over it.
You’re invited! Send out invites early. If you want to take a more formal approach, you will likely want to send printed invites, but if you’re like me, a fun and personalized e-invitation is emailed but not before a more informal ‘Save the date’ email is sent to secure the date. If you’re not artistically inclined, there are so many options out there, try pingg, smilebox, punchbowl or evite. And if you want a more interactive social media feel, use Facebook event. The Holiday season is a crazy time and you want to ensure you have your party date in everyone’s calendars.
Food for thought: During the planning stages, identify appetizers that can be prepared ahead of time and stored or frozen. Whenever possible, prepare ahead to free up time for items that can only be prepared the day of the party.
Clean as a whistle! Begin cleaning and organizing your house weeks before the event so you are not rushing around last-minute throwing stuff into a closet. A few days before the party, besides cleaning the obvious places, it’s also really important to clean areas that perhaps you won’t expect your guests to see… like your fridge, microwave and under sink cabinets. There’s no bigger turn off than seeing dirt, dust and crumbs lurking. Throw out your old, nasty kitchen sponge and replace it with a clean one. I often have girlfriends offer to wash dishes and the least I can do is give them something clean to use. Wash all the glasses you need – chances are your guests don’t like their cocktails laced with dust.
Don’t air your dirty garbage! Make sure all your garbage cans have been emptied and cleaned out. And if you’re using multiple spaces in your home, outfit every area with a clearly marked garbage and recycling containers to avoid a huge mess. I once put labeled my garbage, ‘Dry garbage only’ and in fine print, ‘My next collection is in two weeks, feel free to take this home with you’. Nobody did. But at least they got the message.
Out of the closet: Most Canadian homes aren’t equipped with a guest cloak closet. Instead of emptying your closet before a party or dumping your guests’ coats in the laundry room or a bedroom, invest in a free standing coat rack and hangers. Leave it in the foyer and let your guests hang their coats and take them home without having to worry about it.
Don’t cry over spilled wine – If you’re using multiple spaces like I do, stock every area with antibacterial wipes and kitchen towels. Spills happen and you need to be prepared. I also always have a broom and mop nearby but for emergencies. You want to be ready if there’s a big mess but you don’t want your guests to feel like they’re being messy. Know where your stain removers are, wine has a habit for finding its way to your new rug.
On a roll – Stock up on toilet paper for all washrooms. I like to use the low ply versions for parties to avoid clogging catastrophes. Double quilted comfort has its place, in their own homes.
Smell the roses – Keep some extra vases on hand. Guests often bring flowers and you don’t want to go digging through closest looking for a vase. Ditto with platters, bowls etc. Make a list for what you will need and have them all out ahead of time.
Out of town guests – Over the holidays you may have guests that have come to visit. Prepare to prep meals above and beyond the prep for your party. It’s easy to get so consumed by party prep that you forget to eat and feed the household.
What’s in a name – If you’re offering food buffet style, label everything so people don’t have to ask you multiple times what the ingredients are. Keep some ziploc bags and disposable Tupperware on hand for guest that insists on taking something home.
You want what? Guests can ask for the strangest things so keep them on hand – hair clips and pins, safety pins, scotch tape, paper and pencils and stain remover pens. I have storage in my powder room where I stock these things in addition to perfume, deodorant, sanitary supplies, dental floss and mouth wash. That’s Mi casa, Su Casa … literally.
Show me the way to go home – Some guests may not be able to drive. Be prepared for last minute overnight guests. Keep linens etc. washed and ready.
Party like there’s no tomorrow – If you’ve gone through planning and prep you should have your arms free to throw them up in the air Gangnam Style. Except for a few things that must be done at the last minute, you should be able to let your hair down and enjoy your time with your guests. Fabulous food and drinks are great, but most guests don’t want to call you a figment of their imagination.
Be Merry & Safe – Food safety is important. Keep cold foods cold and warm foods warm. Don’t let food sit around indefinitely.
Somebody call 9-1-1. Don’t leave candles burning unattended. There are many safer options available, use them. When you have kids running around or guests with flowing and highly flammable Holiday wear, you really can’t risk it. One of my friends’ kids once started feeding toilet paper to the flame in the washroom and almost started a fire. Even if there are no kids in attendance, I never leave candles burning in washrooms.
Get by with a little help from your friends – If you have fantastic girlfriends like I do, they are always willing to help – accept it when you know it’s going to make a difference and politely say no if it’s not needed. After all, you want them to have a good time too!
And all’s well that ends well – be sure to thank your guests with a follow up email and send them a links to any pictures that you’ve taken. Be sure to edit the pictures and video that may embarrass your guests – that ‘teach me how to dougie’ clip may not be as funny the next day.
Cheers to the Holiday Season!
Karen Ahmed is a wife, mother, blogger and Bollywood Ninja in no particular order. Kravingsfoodadventures.com and youtube.com/kravingsfoodadventures