I love to throw parties…I love to cook, entertain, decorate and make my guests feel special. BUT, I have been known to “stress out” a little over these parties. I have been called, on more than one occasion, by my own husband and children, a “PARTY WITCH!” How dare they! Ask any of my friends, and they’ll tell you my parties are perfect…great food, drinks, music, decorations. But at what cost? The few days before a party, I become a drill sargent and my house is command center. However, over the years, I have realized that parties DO NOT need to be perfect! Friends are happy to gather around and just enjoy each other, even if it’s with a box of pizza! For the sake of my sanity (and my marriage!), I have found ways to make party-throwing actually enjoyable. Here are my secrets to a stress-free Holiday Party:
- Throw a party on FRIDAY instead of Saturday– I have been throwing parties on Fridays for a few reasons. It forces me to get organized ahead of time and spread out the work over the week. People are ready for a good time by Friday, and that helps get everyone in a good mood, ready to let loose and party. The big difference is that Saturday parties consume your entire day with preparations (even if I had 16 hours that day I would spend them preparing for the party), and the next day with cleanup! Friday parties allow for a free weekend!
- Plan ahead- Of course this is KEY, especially with Friday parties. I plan menus and grocery lists weeks before the party. We throw a big wine-tasting party every year, and I shop for prizes and wine-shaped candles weeks ahead of time. For dinner parties, I always set the table the night before. I also like to make signs for food and I make those even a week before the party.
- Throw a Theme Party- Theme parties are fun, and it narrows down choices when it comes to food, music and ambiance. I love our wine tasting party, paella party, outdoor movie night with the girls (Magic Mike, need I say more?). Party stores and of course the internet are great sources of inspiration.
- If people offer to help, say YES!- This is the toughest one for me. I want my friends to have fun and not worry about bringing food or cleaning up, but I have learned over the years that people are truly grateful to have someone else host and have NO problem bringing a dish! I do have a rule about cleaning up during a party…I just don’t do it (my husband Rob, or “Roberta,” as we call him, is my official party cleaner!). I also have a friend who always becomes my “party helper;” opening the front door, refilling trays, checking toilet paper, whatever is needed! (thanks Jodi!)
- Shopping and prepping food- when I shop for food a few days before the party, I don’t unpack the non-preishable groceries…it’s just less work. I make sure most of the food can be made ahead (a couple even the night before), and I try to minimize my time in the kitchen during the party.
A few last tips:
- Strongly consider paper or plastic plates and paper napkins, especially for larger parties
- Use digital invites…does anyone mail invitations anymore?
- Don’t forget the ice! Make or buy enough!
- Have some disposable containers for guests to take leftovers with them
- Offer a fun, holiday or themed drink or punch (think sangria!)
I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season full of laughter, friends, good food and stress-free parties! Feel free to comment and share!