The 2020 holiday season will no doubtedly look much different than in years past. But there is still plenty of opportunity to host a festive Thanksgiving feast or Christmas party for your nearest and dearest. As event professionals, we have compiled these 8 tried and true tips that will assure a great event and make the upcoming holiday season joyful.
We have certainly seen the shift of large gala events to smaller gatherings and we predict that trend is here to stay for a few more months. Small events and dinner parties at home can sometimes be just as stressful as larger events, so here are a few ideas to help alleviate some of the stress. Remember the whole idea behind having a party, event or gathering this holiday season is to have FUN!
1. First Priority: Make a To-Do List
Your event to-do list will create the overall concept of the party. Start with your guest list, party style, menu ideas, bar ideas, decor, music and timing. Having these items nailed down will allow you to create your actual timeline of tasks. If you get too dreamy, this can often spiral out of control and next thing you know you are planning a black tie gala for 1,000 people! So look at your ideas and full to-do list, then scale back or add as needed.
2. Plan Your Menu
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Go to your favorites – the recipes you know and love. This is not the time to try a new 450 step culinary experience. Make a timeline and shopping list and prepare as much as you can a few days before, hopefully leaving only a few things for the big day. And (this is a big one!) do NOT be afraid of buying some things – not everything has to be made from scratch. This piece of wisdom comes from my mother who used to have the turkey, stuffing and gravy all catered at Thanksgiving, which just left her with simple sides (and no one ever knew – happy wife, happy life!).
3. Make the Bar Self-Service
Unless you want to play bartender all night, this is an area that should be simple and self-service. The bar area can be such a fun, stylish and sexy part of the party. It is an area that people will congregate, so make it pretty and easy for guests to serve themselves. Great wines, a few fabulous beers and a specialty cocktail are sure to please everyone in the group.
Pro-tip: Open a few bottles of wine, have a wine and beer opener at the ready, and open your hard liquors and mixers. Guests have a very hard time being the first to open something and will more readily help themselves if the opening has been done for them.
The bar can be set up the day before so all you have to do is pop the whites and beer on ice and you are good to go. Also have a nice non-alcoholic option included in the bar offerings. Infused or sparkling waters or Italian sodas are always appreciated. Keep in mind: do you have enough glassware? Wine & bottle openers? Ice? (Add it to the To-Do List!)
4. Set the Mood
Imagine you are the first to arrive and the lights are all on and the house is super quiet… awkward for sure! The mood is set the minute guests walk in your house. The lights should be dimmed and, to help everyone look absolutely fabulous, set a mood with lots of candles. Everyone looks stunning in candlelight and it is so dramatic! The mood is also set by music. It should be loud enough to be heard but also soft enough to talk over. Music is so important. Nothing will kill a party faster than a quiet house. You can create a playlist or you can just pick a station on Pandora or Spotify. Some favorite go-tos that are mellow, keep the mood up, and are pleasing to most ears are The Motown Station, Hipster Cocktail Party, Amy Winehouse Radio, and Downtempo Radio.
5. A Seat for Every Guest
Have you ever been to a party and it’s time for dinner and everyone stands around the table not knowing where to sit? Don’t do that to your guests! Have a plan and assign seats, or at least make sure there is a seat for every guest at the party. This way you can be sure that there will not be any conflicts or awkward moments. Table assignments are also a fun way to add stylish decor or simple take away gifts to the table.
6. Provide a Welcome
Once your guests have found their seats, said hello to their dinner neighbors, poured themselves some wine, it is a good idea to welcome everyone. In this welcome you thank them for coming, give any thanks to those who helped, or simply a nice toast to all in attendance. Doing this will signify to your guest that the festivities have begun and it is time to enjoy.
7. Create Cohesiveness
Does your party or event have cohesiveness? Cohesiveness in an event is something that is overlooked but can really make a difference. The invites will set the expectations of the party. Does your decor follow through from the invites; does the menu? You want to make sure that all the aspects of the party have the same overall tone so your guests know what to expect.
8. Let Someone Else Deal with the Details
If the last seven tips had you filling with anxiety, then this is the tip for you: Hire a Professional! Party planning can be very stressful. If all of this becomes overwhelming, there are professionals who plan parties and events for a living. You can simply hire a planner to handle all the details and you can just show up to your own party. Remember, the idea of having a party is to have FUN and ENJOY your family and friends.