I was planning on a Christmas cocktail party this year but, timing-wise, it just didn’t fit. I have organised numerous parties and events over the years though. So, for those who are still planning to host a festive get-together, I’ve created the following guide to help minimise some of the stress and ensure you don’t forget anything.
Date and Time
- people are always so busy in December, so give plenty of notice when sending invites, ask people to RSVP by a set date, and double-check numbers just a few days ahead of the date so you can tweak catering requirements to suit final attendee numbers.
- give yourself enough time to get everything done that you want – if you’re hosting on an evening when you’ve worked all day, make sure you’ve prepared as much as you can on the evenings leading up to it.
- make a written schedule for the days leading up to the party and also one for the evening of the party itself – this will help prevent you from missing or forgetting anything.
- a party is easier to manage and looks more professional if you have a clear theme and you stick to it throughout. Use it for your invites, the dress code, your food and drink choices, your decor, and your music.
- printed invites, e-invites, a WhatsApp group or a bulk Facebook message; there are so many ways to invite people to your party. Pick one method and stick to it though. There’s nothing worse than being invited to an event through Facebook, but then receiving the additional information in an email, and then getting the reminder as a text message.
- don’t forget to mention a dress code.
- make it clear on your invite what food will be served – canapés, finger food, hot buffet, sit-down meal.
- if you don’t know already, make sure you find out any food preferences and allergies from your guests ahead of time. If there are severe allergies (nuts, etc), avoid any triggers completely. If there are other allergies or intolerances (gluten, etc) or dietary preferences (vegetarians, etc), then accommodate for those and make it clear with labels or printed menu cards.
- decide whether you’re cooking from scratch, buying pre-made, or a mix of both.
- for canapés or finger food, go with a mix of meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan options (and don’t forget something sweet for dessert)
- for a hot buffet or sit-down meal, it’ll be easier to go with meat as a main dish and then supplement with a vegetarian/vegan option.
- this one’s pretty straightforward…beer, wine, something sparkling with a cork to pop, spirits, soft drinks and water (still & sparkling). It is Christmas after all so go all out!
- you can’t have a Christmas cocktail party without a Christmas tree (which should hopefully be up and decorated already anyway!).
- use your party theme to decorate the rest of your room. There’s no harm in putting away some of the usual items on display and replacing them with festive decor instead just for the party.
- there are festive tunes from every genre – from Crosby to Bublé, Slade to Band Aid, Mariah to Bieber – but make sure your music meets your theme. Don’t have a classic theme and then play festive pop songs!
- create (or select) a playlist ahead of time and adjust the volume once all guests have arrived so that it’s not too quiet or too loud.
All in all, hosting a party can be overwhelming and stressful but use my guide, pour yourself a glass of something lovely, and have a bloody great time! Your guests will be so appreciative of what you’ve put together that any mishaps (and something will always go wrong, or won’t be as perfect as you wanted) will be overlooked as long as bellies are full, glasses are topped up, and there’s laughter and love.