Holiday entertaining survival guide
Got a million holiday drop-ins to attend? Hosting a handful of seasonal sit-down dinners? Make sure your holiday party season is a smashing success; from foolproof hosting tricks to hostess gift-giving tips to seasonal decor hints. Just like the twelve days of Christmas, Style at Home has a no nonsense guide full of twelve of the ultimate entertaining tips to get you through the holidays with style and grace.
1 Make an event calendar
Writing out all the events that you've been asked to go to throughout the festive season is the first step to organizing your party season. Look at the dates and then add in the handful of parties that you want to host. Once you've plotted out the entire season, be ruthless and pick and choose the parties you want to attend. Allow yourself some breathing room and try not to be overly ambitious (as much as it sounds like a great idea, three parties in one evening is a hard thing to manage). When planning your own parties, try to give guests enough notice so that they are able to juggle your party into their schedules.
2 A present drawer is a must
Don't go to a party empty-handed. Stockpile a drawer or basket in your house with drool-worthy gifts. Cool stationery, cookbooks, condiments, ornaments and CDs make great gifts to bring the host. Buy items during sale season and throw them into the box so that you'll always have something to give at any time. And make sure that you never give something that you wouldn't want yourself.
3 Deck the halls
Pick a holiday decor theme for your house so that you don't have to redecorate for every occasion. The trend these days? Opt for something non-traditional (say no to red and green) and add glitz and holiday glamour by hanging sparkling ornaments in plum spots around the house. When it comes to décor any colour combo goes - as long as it's consistent. Try brown and pink, yellow and orange or black and white. An inexpensive and organic way to decorate is with fruit - a vase full of clementines, pomegranates or kumquats look festive and will last the full season.
4 Build a wine bar
Whether hosting your own party or going to a holiday fete, having wine at the ready will save you time and prevent you from lining up at the liquor store. Early in December, buy a collection of wines in bulk so that you will have white and reds available for friends and family when they come over for a holiday visit. As for hostess gifts, buy ten bottles of the same wine and store it in a different spot so that you won't be tempted to use it in a pinch and you'll always have a bottle of fabulous wine to bring to a party.
5 Plan your pantry
Having a few key items on hand for the holidays is essential. Gourmet crackers, antipasto, hummus, crudite, a variety of cookies, a selection of cheeses and a good quality savory jam are staples for the season. If you have any unexpected guests drop in to celebrate, you can whip up some appetizers in no time.
6 Tabletop must-haves
Square vases are essential for making last-minute centerpieces. Fill them with festive cranberries or holiday greenery and voila. Paper napkins come in all types of prints and patterns and look just as elegant as linen napkins. Stock up - you'll go through a ton of them. White plates are always good to have in a pinch. Restaurant supply stores sell a zillion types from square to round to ornate and chances are good that you'll get a deal if buying in bulk. Grab at least 10 and keep them packed up with the ornaments so that each season you'll discover them and use them at party time.
7 Stick to standards
Drinks that is. Create a signature drink to use throughout the holidays, providing that you aren't inviting the same people over each time. Offer a crantini and beer and wine. That way, you don't have to be stuck mixing drinks all night and playing bartender. Assign a friend bar duty so you can focus on other host-like things.
8 Repeat dinner
There are no rules that say you can't repeat meals, the only big thing to consider is making sure you don't have the same gang over to eat. Take the stress out of the holidays by cooking something you're good at and is delicious. By doing this, you won't spend an excessive amount of time in the kitchen and you'll be able to entertain your guests.
9 Clean out the closet
Thin out your closets of coats and boots that you aren't using so that you'll always have room for coats at your party. This will also save you from having your friends traipse through your bedroom to drop their coats in a pile on the bed.
10 Pace yourself
Whether hosting a party or going as a guest, it's easy with all of the entertaining excitement to have one too many. Plan ahead and take taxis to your parties or pre-order taxis for guests attending your own. Make sure to have an abundance of sparkling water at your parties so that people can re-hydrate between drinks. The last thing your guests or host needs is to think of you as is the ultimate smashed party girl.
11 Create a mood with music
The music you play can make or break a party. Depending on the type of party that you want to throw, music is a great tool. Start the night with something festive and mellow and morph the mood by stepping up the sound. Dancing is always a good way to get the party started, so create a play list with a wide range of favourites but make sure to wind it down so partiers will get the hint that the night is dying down.
12 Send thank-you notes
Forget about e-mail. Emily Post sent notes and so should you. Sending a hand written note is so appreciated and thoughtful. Buy a bulk of cards to keep on hand and write the way you speak, with humor and kindness. Let the host know what you loved about the party and keep it simple. There's no need to write a two-page letter, a simple statement will do and end the seasonal fete on the right note.