If you don't live in a boots advert, have a team of fabulous best friends that all have wonderful close families with comfortable, stylish, cosy homes then join the club. I don't. I occassionally miss not being a 'working' woman, because I miss the Christmas parties that come with clients, office relationships and the ability to pop out after work for "drinks" before going home.
After a brief lament to the change of now living in a small sussex village with two children, where babysitters are as rare as unicorns and no-one lives anywhere near their own family (this I've learnt is a very southern thing) - The only way around missing out on Christmas parties is to throw one. If, like me, you are the type of person who thinks,
"no one is going to come, its going to be a disaster, they are going to judge my really old bathroom, and my felt-tip covered sofa."
Here are a few hints and tips on throwing your party at home;
In order to try and impress, (which we all really do want to do, for all kinds of weird reasons), I'm digging deeper and deeper, having gotten carried; food, cocktails, decorations, invitations, waiters, fireworks - my poor husband is having a cold sweat about the credit card bill.It doesn't have to cost lots, but if like me you do little entertaining the rest of the year, its actually a nice way of giving something to all the people you like and love. So never be stingy. Set yourself a reasonable budget - then add half on again... Try and keep either a stack of reciepts as you shop, or a quick list of totals on your phone, otherwise its easy to loose track of the £12.93 you spent on something vitally unimportant that you deemed vitally important for your party!
However, when having a party the logistics are tricky - where do you put everyone? What music do you play?
Its Christmas - unless you have a core group of friends who are heavy metal fans, its fairly safe to say, Christmas music. However, in my opinion, avoid anything by Cliff Richard, anything your mother says, "Oh I like this one", and generally anything that was written in the last 12 months - (as its rubbish and no respectable person would listen to it.)
What do you do with the first slew of people to arrive?
This question I really worry about - the first people to arrive WILL be the people you know the least, or the most. Obviously if they are your best friend from down the road, great. But chances are they will be the parents from your childs class who you have never met ever before as they always send their nanny, (who you like very much and contemplating inviting!). Get them a drink, and be upfront, "lovely to meet you, I've no one to introduce you to just yet, youre the first to arrive, let me get you both something really good to drink, and please take a look around the house,"
Its a really good idea if you have room to put some food out in the room you plan to entertain the most in- NOT nuts or chocolates. No one wants to start cracking nuts or worrying about sticky fingers in their new LBD. Make sure some music is already playing before anyone arrives and put husband/boyfriend/best friend on "social duty".
When do you serve food? Is it best to serve food early to avoid hunger, drunk people, or once everyone has arrived?
A little bit of both. If you have been organsied enough to arrange hot food, make sure you set yourself a time you want to serve, 8:30 perhaps, prior to which make sure there is plenty for people to help themselves to. Then all you need do is waft about excellently with about 3 trays of hot canapes and voila, you look super organised and hopefully its in time to soak up all the red wine and gin people have been knocking back.
Should you serve beer?
NO. But do have a few in your fridge, there will be one awkward person who won't drink anything else. I have stuck by a personal rule for celebrations and gatherings, pick a 3 or 4 drinks and serve nothing else. Red wine, (Mulled if its Christmas), Gin and Tonic (easy to clear up if spilled), Champagne or Prosecco and thats it. (save for the spare beer in the fridge). These choices cover most ordinary peoples taste. The prosecco is better than serving white wine, because people prefer fizz, and Gin or Vodka are clear and colourless. If you start offering coke, lemonade rum etc etc, your kitchen/bar will be chaos and your carpets and surfaces will be sticky and yuk. By removing choice from people altogether you would be suprised how much nicer they find it. Your house - Your rules.
Do you allow people to smoke in the house?If you make people go outside should you put heaters out there?
Yes and yes - there will always be one old chap who wants a cigar next to the fire, and nowadays most people over 25 remember the pre-smoking ban, and don't care. Play it by ear - we are now trained by society to go outside, so make sure its comfortable, warm and maybe even pop up a coat stand with a few warm coats or cardigans for ladies to slip on and off it they nip outside instead of disturbing the PILE of coats in the spare room upstairs.
The questions are quite literally endless. I don't have all the answers- I just loved finding lots of ideas.
If you like going the extra mile, putting in the creative efforts here are a few gorgeous finds from some great websites;
Another is the beautiful trend of colour themeing your food and "spread" - Chloebleu.com
Although this does tend to look best done with dessert tables, its also possible to create really scrumptious looking canapes, that dont look like a pile of butter new potatoes and flabby pre-shopped things that smell like seafood.
this last picture is from yarahdesigns.blogspot.com
I've decided this year to employ two "servers", staff can aleviate the pressure to be the hostess-with-the-mostess, giving you the time to circulate, chat and actually enjoy your guests, thanking them for coming and making the right introductions. This cost addition was minimal as they will be serving the drinks, collecting the empties and ensuring that ashtrays, napkins and canape remnants are whipped away with haste, leaving everything running smoothly. (She says optomistically)
Last good tip - smell - dont buy anything you plug in, or spray, (unless its really good quality) - your house needs to smell of christmas the moment they walk in the door - try real cinnamon, cloves, put some mulled wine on the stove - the smell alone will make it inviting. (Call it Christmas Fog!)
I've also decided to put on fireworks at 10pm, as I think this really gives the party a focal point, its something that always makes everyone smile, no matter whether your the designated driver or not. We have naturally had to invite and inform neighbours because of this, but the more the merrier - It's Christmas after all! The dogs won't thank me stuck in the greenhouse, but its about making it something special.