Prepare To Party

Read our 10 tips for a fabulous festive bash that’s fun for everyone, including you. The key is in the preparation…

Set the theme
Christmas itself may be enough of a theme for you, but this can add an extra sense of fun and, if you’re having a large party, it helps to tie everything in together and acts as an ice breaker.

Here are some ideas...

Outdoor Christmas:
Get everyone to come bundled up in hats and scarves and host your party outside. Gardens look beautiful lit up with Christmas lights – and if you want to provide shelter with a gazebo, you can hang them around that too. Add mulled wine, barbecued nibbles and marshmallows toasted over a fire pit.

Festivetipples

Cocktail party:
Go sophisticated and get everyone to dress up for some festive tipples and nibbles. Cocktail parties are traditionally early evening affairs, so this is a good idea if you don’t want a late night! Check out our cocktail recipes.

Winter wonderland:
Decorate your home in cool, classic white and set a dress code to match.

Bring a bauble:
Ask each guest to bring a bauble and get them to place it on your tree. It will provide a talking point and fill your tree too.

Get in early:
Christmas is probably the busiest time of the year socially, so send invitations out early and make sure your party is in everyone’s diary.

Christmas canapés
For minimal fuss, plan finger food that’s easy to eat and can mostly be prepared in advance. It’s good to have food on offer, but you don’t want it to take too long to prepare during the event.
A mix of bites including cocktail sausages roasted with honey and soy sauce, smoked salmon blinis, mini oatcakes with camembert and a slice of fig will work well alongside nuts, crisps, vegetable sticks and dips. Ready rolled puff pastry can be a saviour – just spread sundried tomato paste over it, drop some goat’s cheese and basil over, pop it in the oven and slice it up into bitesize pieces. It’s not Christmas without classics such as mince pies and gingerbread, and it’s nice to have a big centrepiece such as a traditional trifle, which guests can help themselves to (the exception to the no cutlery rule).

Pastry

Seasonal sips
Mulled wine is a must for a seasonal shindig – warm it up half an hour before guests are due and your home will be filled with the scent of cinnamon and Christmassy spices by the time they arrive. Aim for a glass per guest before moving on to other drinks as it’s a faff to keep going, and you don’t want to risk red wine on your carpet! It’s good to offer something sparkly – and if you add pomegranate juice to create a pomegranate bellini, that gives it a lovely festive twist. A cocktail (in a jug) is a nice touch, as is a mocktail – go for something seasonal – plus beer, wine and mineral water. That should cover everyone!

Deck the halls
Decorations are key to creating a festive feel and unless you go for Christmas kitsch for effect, it’s best to stick to one colour theme and keep it simple. Create a few focal points in the party room(s) rather than filling every available space with decorations – obvious features to highlight include the tree, fireplace, food table and bar.

Set the scene
Get guests in the festive spirit on their way in by hanging a lavish wreath on your front door – if you have a front garden or drive, you could decorate them with Christmas lights or candles in lanterns, too.

Top tunes
Create a playlist in advance so you don’t have to worry about music on the night. A ratio of three Christmas tracks to 10 party tunes is recommended by party planners. Include tracks to suit your guests as well as yourself, and think about whether you want it to provide background ambience or you’re keen to get people dancing.

Go for the glow
Lighting sets the mood, so aim for a warm, inviting glow. Everyone loves fairy lights, and candles create a lovely ambience – stick to unscented ones so everyone can smell the mulled wine!

The alternative playlist
It depends what kind of friends you have, but sometimes games can work well as an ice breaker, a conversation piece or just for fun. You could have a competition to see who can decorate the best gingerbread house or bauble – have a table set up with kits for anyone who wants to have a go. Don’t make it obligatory, as some people just don’t like that kind of thing.

Make life easier
As the host, you want to enjoy the party as much as everyone else, but when you’re the one responsible for clearing up, it’s not always easy to relax. Here are three top tips to make it easier for yourself. Put up a coat rack in your hall – borrow one if necessary – along with some hangers. It’s much easier than trekking to another room to deposit/retrieve your guest’s coats. Use paper plates and napkins as far as possible, and keep a bin somewhere prominent so people can get rid of their rubbish. Fill a bucket or big tub with warm soapy water and pop dirty dishes in so you’re not constantly clearing up or stacking the dishwasher.