Holiday How-To: Party Style

There comes a time in every college student’s life when he or she needs to learn how to host a killer holiday party. Here is the crash course on party planning. Follow these tips and host the ultimate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s or end-of-the-semester party.

Step 1: Send out proper invitations.

Before anything happens, guests need to know about the event. It is very important to send out the invitations early enough that guests have time to respond. Yeah, college is all about doing everything at the last minute, but when it comes to a dinner party, planning is necessary. The invitation can be anything from a massive Facebook message to a bunch of consecutive Twitter mentions, from a creative e-vite to a good old letter delivered through snail mail. Avoid general invites, such as a Facebook event or a casual tell-him-and-her-and-everyone-else-that-I’m-having-a-party text to a friend.

Step 2 (Optional): Choose a Theme. 

Plateful of cookies
The possibilities are endless when each guest brings cookies. | Photo by Estefania Souza.

Themes are a great way to make a party more fun. Plan it correctly and be surprised at how entertaining it can be, for the host and the guests.

A delicious twist to the traditional holiday party is a cookie swap. Make guests bring a batch of cookies to share—potentially allowing store bought goodies for those who are culinarily challenged. Then all you have to do is warm up the milk and stuff your face with as many cookies as you can.

The idea of inducing a sugar coma surrounded by your closest friends does not sound appetizing? Throw an ugly hat party. Let’s face it, ugly sweaters get all the attention, but there are some horrendous hats out there on which the spotlight should be shining.

Some people love theme parties; others hate them. Regardless, it is important to make sure that all guests are on the same page. So if a theme is in order—be it ugly sweaters or classy attire—let everybody know about it.

Step 3: Decorations.

Adorning your place for a party can be a hassle and taking it down is usually much worse. But decorations can add that extra oomph, so give it a shot. Even just the classic mistletoe or dreidels filled with goodies will make the party more fun. Other ideas are magazine Christmas trees, a glass bowl full of round tree ornaments or a homemade Menora.

Step 4: Create a playlist. 

A party without music is like a cupcake without icing; it is just not right. And while it’s perfectly acceptable for the music to play quietly in the background, it is a must. No music, no mood.

When deciding what to play, think about your guests. Low music is good for mingling and conversations; turn it up when you want the dance party to start. As for choosing the type of music, think outside the box. Mix different genres and time periods, but do so wisely. In other words, do not go Kanye-Adele-Michael Jackson in the first seven minutes; a good way to switch genres is by playing songs that do so anyways. For example, use Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” to ease from rap to pop or vice versa.

Also, keep in mind that theme related songs make the party more exciting, but don’t go overboard on the holiday music. Here are some tips for making a winter holiday playlist.

Step 5: Set a menu.

If the occasion is a dinner party, decide what kind of food is to be served: a meal made from scratch, an array of fancy canapés or classic store-bought party trays. They are actually pretty tasty.

When deciding what to serve guests, think about all the possibilities. It is better to stay on the safe side than to spend the whole party stressing over the lack of appetizers because the home made salt and vinegar potato chips burnt while you were trying to decide whether to ice the red velvet cupcakes or assemble the hand tomato pies first. Not to say that serving chips made from scratch along with velvety cupcakes is a bad idea; just make sure your skills are up to par.

The easy way out is serving an array of easy to make canapés. Guests will be entertained trying the different treats available, and everybody’s belly will be satisfied by the end of the night. Whip up some ricotta bruschetta, wrap some baby potatoes in bacon strips, fill some bowls with candied nuts. Put out a platter of crudités with a side of ranch and a fruit-cheese plate and show off your Martha Stewart skills.

Step 6: Set up the other menu. 

Drinks are a party must—regardless of their alcoholic content. There’s two options. Keep it low-scale and serve casual drinks like soda, sparkling water, juice  or beer (if you’re twenty-one) or bring the party up a notch and mix fancy cocktails (virgin or not).

Before deciding what to serve, look back at your theme and food menu. If a cookie swap is happening, skip the soda and replace it with a piping mug of peppermint hot chocolate; if canapés are being served, pair them up with a pitcher of virgin sangria.

Step 7: Get Ready. 

Make sure you have time to set everything up. Decorate the party space hours before the event. Put out plates, make sure enough cups or glasses are available and leave out a big stack of napkins—whether you are serving food or not, napkins are always useful. Then put on your party attire, press play and enjoy the night because you know you deserve it!

About Estefania Souza

Estefania is passionate foodie and magazine lover. She could spend all day every day flipping through food magazines and dreaming of a kitchen equipped with everything from a pair SubZero refrigerators, to a professional KitchenAid electric mixer to a brick oven. Follow her on twitter @estefaniasouza

View all posts by Estefania Souza →

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