Planning is the key to hosting the perfect festive gathering
Create yourself a manageable timeline of what needs doing and when, from decorations and music to food and drink, and you will be able to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. Here, our Christmas party planner, Laura, shares some of her top tips on organising and hosting a seamless seasonal soirée.
Create a theme
Pick a colour scheme and apply it throughout your home, including flowers, napkins and even cocktail mixers. Keep to one seasonal colour for maximum impact: green or red are always great for Christmas. Create three or four focal points in the room, such as tall flower-filled vases, a fireplace filled with glowing pillar candles and a sofa adorned with an opulent fur throw and seasonal cushions.
Go all-out with your door wreath. If you have time, create your own with an oasis ring and seasonal greenery and foliage. Finish the look with a bunch of mistletoe hung from the ceiling with red ribbon.
Set the mood
Plan a playlist containing your and your guests’ favourite songs as well as the obligatory Christmas classics. Create an inviting glow with candles, tasteful fairy lights and dimmed lighting. All will help to create a warm and intimate ambience.
Stick to unscented candles as a general rule, as they will allow the lovely aromas of mulled wine and mice pies to flood the house, but do use a seasonally scented candle in the bathroom, such as cinnamon or spiced apple.
You don’t want to run out of drinks, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. The average guest will drink three to four glasses of wine over the course of the evening, so try to do a rough calculation to help with your pre-event purchasing.
It’s always a good idea to have a few extra bottles in the wine rack just in case, though; they can always be enjoyed over the course of the festivities if they don’t get opened. Mulled wine is a great winter-warmer to serve at the start of the evening, as guests come out of the cold.
Remember to serve something non-alcoholic. Sparkling water is a basic must-have that can always be given a festive twist with a dash of fresh pomegranate or cranberry juice.
Mocktails are also a nice touch, such as Ginger Cinnamon (juice of half a lime, 60 ml ginger beer and 30 ml apple juice served over ice with a cinnamon stick to garnish). Make sure cold drinks are chilled well in advance of guests arriving and don’t forget the ice!
Guests will often expect nibbles with their drinks at a festive get together, so plan some easy recipes that can be prepared and even frozen well ahead of the event, so that all you have to do is warm them as they arrive. If there are children at home or even on the guest list, task them with serving nibbles to your guests, so that you can enjoy spending time with your guests and not chained to the kitchen.
Balance the obligatory mince pies with savoury bites such as smoked salmon blinis and pigs in blankets. Just ensure that every plate is well presented and keep to one type of canape per plate.
Keep the canapes bite-size and keep napkins on-hand. Accidents will happen if nibbles are more than a mouthful, as guests may well struggle to juggle a glass and a plate piled high with food. Napkins will also make sure greasy hands don’t get wiped on your best sofa or favourite curtains!
Rather than turning off the music and switching on all the lights, you can avoid guests lingering late into the night by noting down a finish time on your invitation. This will avoid any awkwardness and ensure everyone plans their departure time accordingly.
Christmas is a notoriously busy time for taxi firms so take the initiative to also note down a couple of local taxi firms on your invitation, to encourage guests to plan ahead.