With many Christmas parties to attend this week, as well as hosting my own at my home last Saturday night, I thought I’d share some of the lessons learnt. As they say, experience is the best teacher.
1. All anybody wants is to be invited somewhere. So don’t stress too much about your party. You’ve already done the most important part – giving people a place to go. Mission accomplished. After guests receive an invitation, everything else is icing on the cake.
2. Always ask the host if it’s okay to bring friends and accurately judge the sincerity of their “the more the merrier” reply.
3. Don’t RSVP and then not show up.
4. Conversely, don’t go all incommunicado pre-party and then turn up on the night.
5. When party shopping, do not attempt to carry all the supplies home on public transport yourself in one sitting. Not only will you look like a packhorse, your arms will feel like breaking and you’ll feel incredibly frustrated by the whole process and think bitter thoughts. Only shop at places that home deliver.
6. Know that whatever time you start preparing the day of the party, you should have started at that same hour the day before.
7. When friends offer to arrive early to help, let them. This is no time to be Queen of Effortless Perfection. Throwing a party takes effort and is no place for a perfectionist.
8. And so, for one night only, you must live by the motto: ‘close enough is good enough’.
9. It’s almost impossible to do, but as the host, you must be dressed before the guests arrive. I know hoovering seems more important, but no. Eyeliner with decent lashings of mascara is. Put down the vacuum cleaner and pick up the eyelash curler.
10. You as the host set the tone for the evening. Guests are tuning into you. What frequency are you on?
11. Know what you’re going to wear at least five minutes before the party starts. Crying that nothing fits, bemoaning you have nothing to wear and wailing about all the wretched wrongs in your life is the quickest way for guests to ask you to turn down the psychotic and turn up the music.
12. Friends of friends who are tagging along, on entry, please introduce yourself to the host. Don’t just start helping yourself to the buffet table.
13. Having said that, don’t begrudge interlopers. We have each been one ourselves and on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity plenty more than once.
14. Remember who brought what. There’s nothing like admiring the beautiful biscotti Christmas tree with a resplendent icing sugar figurine of Santa on top, and not knowing which kind soul brought it.
15. Finger food means no forks.
16. Or spoons for that matter.
17. ‘Bring a bottle’ does not mean one bottle between four people.
18. Have a room or balcony at the party where people can escape. Others. The Noise. Heat. Anything.
19. As the host you can’t always have in-depth conversations with everyone in the room, so the people you do manage to talk to – talk with them – instead of thinking how you never get the chance to chat with anyone.
20. If people are hungry, they will eat. Don’t force-feed them.
21. But then everybody likes to be served. Just practice a touch of restraint with the ‘hostess with the mostess’ routine.
22. Ask a few, dear friends to clear dishes here and there throughout the evening. All the more to see what’s edible, instead of inedible.
23. Remember to light all the candles. There’s always one you’ll forget.
24. Have a dedicated room for coats, unless you want the party to have a student feel.
25. Understand that some guests don’t want to be connected to others. They like standing on their own, drink in hand, taking in the scenery and people watching. Saying, “Oh you must meet so and so” is their idea of hell. They were very happy in their isolation and you just made them miserable with company. Not know thyself but know thy guests.
26. If someone spills something on the carpet, don’t do the half-assed “I’ll deal with it in the morning” spiel. Deal with it now.
27. Get a good ‘time/energy spend to guest ratio’ with the food. Three hours to make a few plates of homemade mince pies that are gobbled up in under a minute is neither cost, nor energy efficient.
28. Sandwiches on the other hand, always a winner.
29. Guests that bring their own cocktail supplies right down to the ice, limes and cups are always more than welcome.
30. Ditto those that bring champagne and delectable macarons.
31. If you’ve made a special music mix for the party, don’t let anyone near your iPod. It’s the one thing you’re allowed to get all schoolmarm about.
32. Whatever your opinion of the Black Eyed Peas, their song I Gotta Feelin’ certainly gets the party started.
33. At a house party, dance in the living room like it’s the hottest nightclub in town, with your shoes off and feet in the air.
34. There’ll always be someone at the party who can sniff out a bottle of wine still containing liquid when all others claim defeat.
35. Keep your own secret stash for this very purpose.
36. Or make that person with the sniffer dog nose your best friend.
37. A quick wave and mouthed ‘thank you and goodbye’ when leaving is enough if the host is busy. Just leaving – rude.
38. Before crashing into bed still fully dressed you will get a genius idea, and believe in the clear light of day it’ll be even more genius. Know whichever light bulb went off in that moment won’t be switching on again anytime soon.
39. The morning after, eat the leftover cake. And whatever else is not too dry, soggy, stale or beer soaked. And don’t feel guilty about it. It’s one of the only pleasures of the cruel tidying up ritual.
40. Dregs of wine and half-finished cocktails are a no though.
41. As you’re clanking the empty cans and bottles into bin liners, don’t play the same music you did the night before. No matter how good it was, you gotta wash that party outta your hair. It’s a new day.
42. Give up the recriminations. Yes, you should have spoken more to Natalia, and put Danny in touch with Marcus, and told Julie about drinks on Friday, and remembered Felicity’s new boyfriend’s name, and asked Jeremy how he’s coping with his job loss and complimented Charlotte on the cherry shortbread she kindly made. But you didn’t. Deal with it.
43. And you shouldn’t have glugged the port like it was wine or sculled the Amaretto like it was juice. Or scoffed the crisps like a pig at a trough. Or had a few too many helpings of said shortbread. But you did. Again, deal with it.
44. Guests that stick Christmas cards to gifts are the best ever. In the morning after the night before haze, the immediate linking of bearer to gift is most appreciated.
45. It’s no good having a lost and found box containing one glove, two scarves, a rather lovely canvas bag, a baby’s bib and a Santa hat – but not your own earring.
46. To post a thank you note or not? Yes, always. But in the following days until the post is delivered, the host may think you rude for your lack of communication. So send a text or email, as most people do, and then go in for the kill with the card.
47. Receiving a note saying yours was “a wonderful party, the best of the year!” Priceless.
Wishing you all a happy and joyful festive season! Kristina x