Note: I’m mixing it up a bit around here and trying a new topic! I originally wrote this article way back at Christmas time, but procrastinated on posting it (bad blogger!) and then it was too late and out of date. However, it’s Easter weekend here in Canada, and that means four days of sleeping in, relaxing, and… in-laws? It’s pretty common to get together with the whole fam-damily and have some sort of big old dinner party. Break out the Easter ham!
Our home-sweet-home is a 2-bedroom, 900 square foot apartment in south-ish London, Ontario. It is not a palace. And I am not exactly what you would call a whiz in the kitchen. (“Culinarily challenged” is a nice way of putting it.) But I did manage to host (hostess?) a pretty sweet holiday party for 10 lovely ladies from my sorority, Beta Sigma Phi (Beta Rho chapter), in my dinky little home.
Here are some helpful hints that I discovered whilst hosting this party:
1) Prepare early.
Clean the apartment in advance. That way you won’t be a stressy mess the day of the party. If you’re really running behind, focus on the parts that people will see: the main entryway, the main party area (generally the living room), the kitchen and especially the bathroom. For other rooms, just close the door. Make sure you have enough room for everyone’s outerwear. If you’ve got a front closet, take all your excess coats and shoes and toss them in your bedroom so there is somewhere for people to hang up their coats and tuck away their boots. Wash all your dishes. Every single one. (I’ll explain further below!)
2) Theme it out!
Keep it simple. Start with the front door and put out a cute decoration, such as a wreath or a sign. My mom makes incredibly creative wreaths (she’s made me an amazing skull-themed wreath for Halloween and a blue and silver wreath for all of winter) but I’ve also gone the el cheapo route and found some really cute door décor from the local dollar store. Speaking of the dollar store, it’s a great place to find cute themed decorations from plates to napkins to tablecloths. I always like getting themed hand towels to have in the bathroom! Bridget Marquardt always has cute ideas for theming out parties, and of course, there’s always Queen Martha.
3) Create ambiance.
You don’t need much to create the mood! In the winter, I adore putting the Fireplace Channel on TV (there are tons on DVD you can buy, if you’re a Rogers subscriber in London it’s channel 204); in the summer, for a tropical mood, try the Aquarium or Sunset Channel! (Or use them to bust away the winter blahs!)
Use scented candles or incense to both make the room smell nice but also to mask potentially embarrassing odors (burnt food, pet smells, noxious gasses from the bathroom…). Bonus points for nice-smelling soap and hand lotion too. (Lush and Bath & Body Works always have lovely scented goodies!)
You also should create a holiday playlist! Music gets everyone in the right mood right away and is often a good conversation starter! Just don’t have it blasting at ear-splitting decibels (both for your guests’ sakes but also for your neighbours!) My go-to Christmas albums are The Christmas Collection by Frank Sinatra (so classy) and Barenaked for the Holidays by The Barenaked Ladies (fun and festive). There are oodles of spooky Halloween albums out there. Easter is a bit more challenging… since it’s generally a religious holiday, a search for Easter music turned up mostly cutesy children’s albums and hymns. I’m open to suggestions!
4) Get extras.
The party I hosted was a pot luck, so everyone brought a dish to share. I can’t imagine trying to cook for 10 people myself! However, even for a party of 10 or less, you should always have on hand some extras:
- a couple of bags of chips or party mix
- a case of pop (Dr. Pepper is my choice!)
- at least two bottles of wine (one white, one red… or more if your friends are big drinkers!)
- a large carafe of cold drinking water
- extra napkins
- gift bags and tape (if you’re doing a gift exchange; someone will inevitably forget to wrap)
- pens and notepads (for quick and dirty party games or to determine a gift-opening order)
- festive hats (to draw numbers out of a hat or wear jauntily)
- Bonus points for seasonal goodies like egg nog or margarita mix!
5) Have a few basic supplies handy.
Useful kitchen supplies:
- a set of nesting bowls with lids (if there are leftovers, you can just toss the lid on and throw them in the fridge)
- a cookie sheet (for heating up hors d’oeuvres)
- toothpicks (for finger foods)
- every single plate, glass and fork you own (I assume you don’t have a set of “fancy china,” I certainly don’t and don’t want any!)
- cheapo Dollarama punch bowls (can be a makeshift chips bowl)
- corkscrew and bottle opener (duh!)
- trivets (so you don’t burn your table)
- cutting board and set of sharp knives.
Bonus: If you have a dishwasher, make sure it’s empty before the party. It’s tempting to hide your dirty dishes in it, but once everyone is done eating, you can toss all the dirty dishes in there and feel like the most smug hostess ever because you have a clean, empty sink after the party.
- Easily available garbage receptacles and recycling bins.
- Tablecloth so you can just shake the crumbs into the tub
- Folding chairs that you can store in the closet
6) Break the ice!
Inevitably, most parties are all about the food, but if the party is off to a quiet start or there’s a lull in the conversation, it’s fun to play a few goofy games to get the party going! Get a few simple presents (such as seasonal stationary, scented candles, or yummy nibbles) and try a few quick and dirty party games to spread some smiles!
It could be something as simple as:
- Guess the number of ornaments on the tree,
- How many holiday songs can you name in a minute,
- Who can tell the funniest holiday story,
Or something more elaborate, like the winner of a giant Monopoly tournament! I always like giving a gift to the first person who arrived — encourages your guests to be on time for your next party!
7) Relax and enjoy!
It’s so easy to get stressed out around the holidays. Remember the reason why you’re having this party — you’re getting together with friends and family to share quality time!
And remember the bonus: you inherit all the leftovers. Great for hungry post-work fiancés, super-fast next-day lunches, and bribing your co-workers. Also, free leftover wine = private wine-tasting party for you!!!
Do you have any suggestions for making your party a success? How many people have you hosted at once? Let me know in the comments!