Every year when the holiday season rolls around, we count on certain things getting stuffed: stockings, turkeys, and bellies. But one kind of stuffing that always seems to sneak up on us is the kind that requires a rubber band to cinch the increasingly – shall we say “jolly” – girth of our invitation-packed date books. If it’s not a flyer for a Christmas pageant, it’s a memo reminding you about secret Santa at the office. All of this merriment is, of course, loads of fun. But it makes organizing a party at this time of year a daunting prospect. Don’t worry! I have come up with some party planning tips to make your festivities less stressful.
Before you start planning the menu or décor, you must know how many people you will be accommodating and who they are. Consider yourself the casting director of a fabulous production. Settle on a number of guests that will suit the scale of your kitchen’s output and the number of diners you can seat around one table. As a basic rule, avoid multiple tables: the evening starts to feel more like a banquet, and inevitably one table ends up as a castaway (and talking to a volleyball on a deserted island is not the most jolly experience). After you’ve settled on a number, start balancing extroverted guests with less outgoing ones. And if you’re not a big talker and storyteller, make sure you invite at least a couple of people who are; you’ll be a guest, too.
There are only few fundamental rules here, and the most important of all is to avoid experimentation. Instead, do what you do best. The second most important rule is to select a menu that can be prepared mostly in advance. This point is especially important if you don’t have help in the kitchen. The only thing worse for a dinner than the smell of burning is the sight of a frantic host shuttling from kitchen to living room with his or her face covered in flour. Plan out the timing of various courses in advance so you can spend time with your guests. Finally, serve dinner no more than one hour after everyone arrives, shooting for forty minutes as the ideal. Although your guests should have something to nibble on as soon as they get comfortable, and the pace of the meal should be leisurely.
All of your guests should enjoy the décor. The best advice I can offer is to maximize the effects of minimal effort – you’ll be busy. Focus attention largely on the spaces your guests will occupy: foyer, dining room, living room, and lest we forget bathroom. Create a consistent mood that unifies the spaces through which the gathering will circulate. Update the old green-and-red Christmas color palette with a bolt from the closet of Saint Nick: Red and white throughout a party space will surround your guests with the chromatic equivalent of cherries and cream. Known for its ability to soothe tired caroling voices and promote stress release, a zing of peppermint in the air will be great for the party’s atmosphere. The trick is to avoid overdoing it, which, in case you’re wondering, happens at the moment when your guests start wondering if Altoids has a factory in the neighborhood. I would suggest putting peppermints in the powder room as well as lighting peppermint-striped candles in a few corners of the apartment.
It is crucial to kick off a holiday party with upbeat music. Expand the typical holiday repertoire from “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells” and include more contemporary songs like Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” and “Last Christmas” by George Michael and some of my other favorites are Barbra Streisand: Christmas Memories and Christina Aguilera: My Kind of Christmas.
David Tutera has created a name for himself by taking his passion for designing spectacular events and transforming it into a lifestyle. He continuously exceeds the expected with an unmatched level of inspiration, imagination and innovation to create the latest trends in entertaining.