Whether you’re planning an intimate dinner with friends, or an all out holiday bash, we’ve got you covered with expert advice for throwing a stress-free soirée. We teamed up with Kimberly Kee, a professional partier and owner of Party Stylings - a full service catering and event production company in Castle Rock, Colorado. She knows how to create a festive mood on just about any budget. Kimberly says hosting a party can be a great way to connect with friends and family, but the time and effort needed to do so can cause so much stress and "party anxiety" that many skip the effort altogether. She believes just about anyone can throw a completely stylish, affordable, and stress-free holiday party.
Here are Kimberly Kee's top ten tips for hosting a stress-free party:
TIP #1: PLAN THOROUGHLY
Take the time to create a detailed timeline of activities. As early as two weeks before an event, you can make certain hors d'oeuvres or cookies and store them in the freezer until the day before the party. Stage your buffet the day before - then you can focus your attention elsewhere on the day-of.
TIP #2: SCALE IT
Have a large guest list and don't know where to draw the line? Try hosting a single party in multiple shifts. Host an open house from 2:00-5:00pm - invite co-workers from 2:00-3:00pm, family from 3:00-4:00pm, and friends from 4:00-5:00pm. No one has to know you double-dipped, and guests will feel more comfortable with people they already know.
TIP #3: USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Professionals create beautiful buffets by using a lot of ordinary household items -- one of Kimberly’s favorites is paint cans. By stacking leftover cans of paint on a table and then draping with a linen or even raw fabric (just tuck the edges under), you can create beautiful lifts and levels on which to stage platters of food.
TIP #4: KEEP WASHING TO A MINIMUM
In this day and age it's important to stay eco-friendly, so try to avoid disposables. Instead serve food that requires nothing more than fingers and cocktail napkins, which means you can skip the plates altogether. As for glassware, opt for renting which will run about 65 cents a glass. You don’t even have to wash them afterward -- just rinse and return! Keep your bar simple by offering a mix of non-alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and one signature cocktail such as Pomegranate or Peppermint martinis.
TIP #5: HIRE HELP
Service staffing agencies can provide help at the rate of $25 per hour, give or take. Hire a helper to arrive an hour or two before the party and stay an hour after to help with clean-up. That way if you run out canapés, you won't have to end your conversation to escape to the kitchen.
TIP #6: HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Create a menu that has variety. You never know who has a gluten allergy or is a vegan - and try to be more creative than just offering crudités with dip. Those guests will appreciate both your effort and your thoughtfulness.
TIP #7: SUPPLEMENT WITH A CATERER
Many caterers offer a pick-up or drop-off service for hors d'oeuvres. Stick to your signature dishes and then supplement them with food from a caterer. This way, you can still enjoy the compliments on your cooking, but you won't be spending quality mingle & jingle time in the kitchen.
TIP #8: HELP SOMEONE IN NEED
Use your party as an opportunity to support the true spirit of the holidays. Most guests will want to bring a gift, but if you really don’t need anything consider partnering with a non-profit and ask instead that guests bring coats and blankets for your local homeless shelter, or cans of food for the local food bank.
TIP #9: AMBIENCE IS MORE THAN PRETTY COCKTAILS
Don’t forget to do the simple things that will make your party elegant and festive. Dim the lights, turn on some music, and light some scented candles. Whether you’re hosting an intimate cocktail party or a New Year’s celebration, games are a great way to liven things up. A few of our favorite crowd-pleasing party games include Table Topics ($25), The Cocktail Party Box of Questions ($19.95) and iMAgiNiff ($29.99). With just a little effort, you can appeal to ALL of the senses, making your party truly memorable.
TIP #10: PICK YOUR BATTLES
It won't benefit you to fuss endlessly with the décor on the front porch while your food sits on the counter cold. Learn to pick your battles -- your guests are coming to spend time with you, not run their finger over your fireplace mantle to see if you dusted. Focus on what's important and let the rest go.