Hosting a holiday party can be daunting – you’re in the hot-seat in front of colleagues, family, and friends. I have been in your shoes: I first started catering when I was in college.
That meant that I had to make other people’s holiday parties memorable and striving for “perfect.” Rocklands started because I liked to throw great barbeque parties for other people.
Over the past 24-plus years of party hospitality, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to throw a great party. I’ll let you in on a secret: Planning is key. If you plan enough pieces of the party ahead of time, you’ll be able to relax into the event and enjoy. So here are five tips on what to plan, and one on what to plan for:
- Count on six to eight hors d’oeuvre per person and one beverage per person per hour. Remember that party you went to – hungry – and all that was left was half-a-bowl of hummus? If you’re throwing a cocktail event, you do not want to run out of nibbly bits.
- Assume that a bottle of wine will give you four to five glasses of wine. Keeping this in mind helps you when you’re facing a wall of wine bottles and pondering quantities. That’s a generous pour into each glass.
- Keep the food simple and focus on a stand-out dish and a stand-out drink. If you’ve got good basics, one fabulous extra—a heaping platter of grilled shrimp, a big filet of beef being sliced by hand, even a towering donut-cake at the end of your buffet—will make your guests smile. Same for your drinks: Whether you’re serving wine and beer or a full bar, create a specialty cocktail or mocktail. Then make a fun sign for the drink, and you’re ready.
- Decorate with the season, and light it up. Hothouse flowers in December or January look great, but so do bare tree branches spray-painted in festive colors, or a big bouquet of holly (off your tree, NOT your neighbor’s). Some of our best parties have been “dressed” with the simplest of decorations. The touch that makes it all come alive? Lights, candles, little strings of LEDs. There is no such thing as too many.
- And the “one thing to plan for:” If you’re throwing this party at your house, someone will come in the door with a lovely bouquet of flowers. Rather than scrambling for a vase and flower cutters, just have a nice pitcher already filled with water, waiting by the kitchen sink. “Thank you,” you exclaim—and the flowers go into the pitcher until you have a spare moment.
One final party hint? January is a good time of year to call a caterer to plan your next big event—they’ve got lots of time to talk through options and brainstorm ideas with you.