So, you want to throw a memorable holiday party. Chances are, yours won’t be the first — or last — soirée your guests attend this season. Get inspired by these tips from local pros and make your party one your guests won’t soon forget.
Name: Katina Kaisher, event planner from Columbus
Start by deciding the type of party you’re hosting and begin planning as soon as possible, Kaisher said.
Anchor your party with a theme. It will help with everything from the menu to the decorations. Maybe offer a mod nod to the 1950s or ’60s with a “Mad Men” motif, Kaisher suggests. Or adopt a tradition from another part of the world.
“Build your party around that tradition,” Kaisher said. “Let it influence the decor, food, music and activities for the evening.”
Or just keep it simple with basic holiday color, like red. The vibrant color feels festive, and is a snap to pull off.
Regardless of the theme, consider adding a charitable twist. Ask guests bring a gift to donate to charity, such as something that represents peace, love or joy, Kaisher recommends.
“It’s always nice if the party has a purpose,” Kaisher said. “If you have a purpose, guests are more likely to come.”
Everyone likes to bring something to a party, so delegate responsibility, Kaisher said. Consider putting one helpful guest in charge of music, another in charge of drinks and recruit yet another to head up desserts. Enlisting the help of friends alleviates some of the pressure.
And don’t feel pressed to buy lots of new decorations. Kaisher said there’s beauty and purpose in the most mundane items.
“You acquire different things over the years,” she said. “There are things that can be brought in where you’re not accruing expenses. It’s a lot of repurposing and reusing things you have, too.”
For instance, frost or paint an old vase to give it new life and use it as a centerpiece. You may not know what you have until you start looking through cabinets, Kaisher says. Don’t be afraid to get
And don’t forget about parking.
“Make sure you have enough parking around your home so it doesn’t interfere with your neighbors,” Kaisher said. “If your party’s going into the late evening hours, consider the noise level and traffic of those coming and going from your home.”
Of course, if all else fails, extend an invite to the people next door so they’re not left out of the excitement.
Name: Alexa Lemley of Lemley’s Catering in Columbus
Plan ahead, Lemley says.
Be considerate of your guests’ potential dietary needs by offering a variety of options, such as gluten-free and vegetarian items, she said.
“Make a list of what you need to prepare and space everything out,” Lemley said. Create a timeline so you know exactly when items should go into the oven, and when they should come out.
So how do you know how much food to order or make? Lemley breaks it down like this:
Meat/main dishes: Four to six ounces per person.
Fruit and vegetable trays: Plan for one piece of each option per guest.
Sides: Six to eight ounces of starches per person; four ounces for everything else, such as cooked veggies.
Desserts: Offer a variety of sweets with a serving size of 1½ pieces per person.
Buying a big enough bird can be tricky. To ensure you have plenty to go around, Lemley suggests getting one that offers one and a half pounds of raw, uncooked meat per person.
“By the time you cook it and remove the bones, you’ll end up with about a half a pound per person,” she said. “And a few leftovers.”
Give the meat about 20 to 30 minutes to rest before carving it, and set out side dishes as close to serving time as possible, Lemley said. As a rule, keep hot food at 140 degrees, and the cold stuff at a chilly 40 degrees or cooler.
And at least a few days before, take stock of enough food warmers and serving dishes —such as thick ceramic dishes and platters, plus china, glassware, and silverware to be sure you are covered.
And don’t forget to stock up on ice.
Name: Jeff Baker, owner of Bakers Fine Gifts in Columbus
It takes more than unique decor and scrumptious food to be a great host. Entertaining is a life long lesson, says Baker, who’s known to many as the go-to authority for hosting an unforgettable fête.
For him, it’s all in the details. Have the house in order before the first guest arrives, he says.
“Make sure trash cans in the kitchen and bathroom are empty at the start,” Baker said. “There’s nothing worse than to have an overflowing trash can that needs emptying halfway through the evening.”
Seating guests to get the most out of a dinner party is an art, he said. Take into consideration guests’ varying personalities, and don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit. For instance, he says he rarely seats couples together at the table.
“They already spend all their time together,” Baker said. “It mixes things up to seat them apart.”
And at cocktail parties, be sure to mix and mingle, he said. Never confine yourself to a single location.
Stave off conversational lulls by leaving cards with conversation starters throughout the room where guests will gather. At the dinner table, have guests move four seats to the right to change the conversation’s dynamic, Baker suggests. Better yet, migrate to the living room and offer guests an after-dinner drink.
And keep the bar stocked.
“I’ve always been of the opinion you offer guests whatever they want,” Baker said.
Always exude hospitality to your guests to make them feel welcome and appreciated, he said. Even if someone spills cranberry sauce on the new carpet in the living room, don’t make it a scene.
“Throw some club soda on it and deal with it later,” Baker said. “But never make the guest feel bad. Accidents happen.”
He suggests giving guests a small trinket to commemorate your party, such as an ornament or unique napkin or votive holder. The token will keep your party in the minds — and hearts — of your guests for years to come.