The holiday season is the perfect excuse to invite your favorite people over for laughter, cocktails, conversation, and delicious food. Roman and I love to host parties at our home and through the years, friends have repeatedly asked us for party planning tips. Since it is now holiday season and many of my blog readers are my friends, I’ve put together a list of some of our favorite traditions, many of which we have copied from friends near and far. With the right planning, food, drinks, and guest list, the fun and memories will take care of themselves.
A great party is always a little crowded. Not too crowded, just a little bit. Think about how many people you can comfortably fit in your space and then think about inviting the right people. Who do you genuinely want to share the evening with? Some people mesh well because they have common interests, other people mesh well because they have diverse interests. Getting the right mix of people is largely a gut-instinct matter. Think about who you think will have great conversation, and remember to account for any partners they might bring along when estimating your headcount.
Sending invitations in the mail is such a nice touch if you can do it, but let’s be real. Who has anyone’s address anymore and who has the time to write out invitations? Digital invitations are easier and have become the preferred method for non-formal events because RSVPS can be easily collected and reminders can be sent when needed. An email or phone call is a great way to follow up with a digital invitation to show your invitees that you really do hope they can make it. Facebook is great for event invitations because many people are on Facebook and guests can post party photos on the event page. Use Evite and Facebook together so you don’t miss out on anyone who is not on Facebook. Be sure to set the start time for early, around 5-6 PM, so you have plenty of time to catch up with everyone who comes.
For holiday parties (as opposed to smaller dinner gatherings), guests will likely be eating while talking and standing. The perfect food for this is any that can be held in one hand while holding a cocktail in the other. Be sure to spread the food out around your apartment so that people don’t group together in a small area. Some foods we like and recommend include:
Oysters will be delivered to your doorstep a day after you order them. Here are several trusted companies around the US, or to reduce your carbon footprint, order from one of these East Coast locations:
- Fishers Island Oysters (Block Island Sound, NY)
- Permaquid Oyster Company (Damariscotta, ME)
- Island Creek Oysters (Duxbury, MA)
A full bar is always a hit, especially if you hire staff to help make and distribute drinks. Or you can keep your drink selection simple by offering a signature holiday cocktail alongside wine, beer, and champagne or prosecco. Eggnog is always a hit or a classic winter cocktail will work, too. No matter what you’re serving, be generous when pouring drinks. Finally, have some non-alcoholic options for those who are underage or prefer not to drink alcohol.
Setting the mood
Candles provide perfect dim lighting, which is a party must-have. You can never have too many candles! They provide an intimate feeling while being flattering, romantic, and festive. Keep decorations subtle and classy by selecting those that are white, silver, and gold rather than red and green. Hang some mistletoe around your home to keep guests laughing, and add a cozy feel to the room by screening a fireplace on your tv using a fireplace app or youtube video.
Of course, no party is complete without the perfect playlist. Rather than playing holiday songs the whole night, sprinkle them into the mix. Here is a great selection of holiday tunes on Spotify that you can choose from to sprinkle into your favorite party playlist:
Incorporate fun holiday activities throughout the evening to keep the party going. Fill a jar with jelly beans or other candy and have your guests estimate how many pieces of candy there are, then send your winner home with the jar.
Set up a photo booth with props to create mementos your guests will take with them and share on social media- Sweet Booths is a highly rated classic option and PHHHOTO allows your guests to create instant and shareable moving photos.
Tis the season for giving
In lieu of a gift exchange, host a charity drive for canned goods, winter coats, or gifts for kids in need to spread the holiday spirit beyond your party.
On the day of your party, start your preparations early, so you can focus on entertaining your guests when they arrive. Always greet guests at the door with a drink in your hand to make them feel welcome and put them at ease. Show your guests where to set their coats, and let them know where they can find food and a drink. When introducing them to your other friends, be sure to mention several interesting facts about each person you introduce, so as to give them a starting point for their conversation.
If your guests will be bringing their children, take some steps to make them feel just as welcome as the adults. Have an age-appropriate activity prepared, whether it’s a coloring book or place mat, a dessert bar, or even a surprise visit from Santa Claus. The latter is bound to get some laughs from the adults and will create some great photo opps! You can either hire a professional or buy a Santa suit and convince someone from the party to dress up for a while.
The most important element of a good party is the positive energy you share with guests. Be sure to relax, have fun, and laugh as much as you can. I always love to hear additional tips so please send them my way if you have some to share! You can comment below or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much and have a wonderful holiday!