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Christmas Party Potluck

party decorationsOur party is tonight. It has been fun preparing for guests and decorating. Here are some tips that we learned by doing this for several years in a row.

• Start planning early. We decide on a theme a year in advance, and then look for items on sale throughout the year that fit the theme. This year we are doing a peppermint candy theme. Gathering up a bunch of themed items provides inspiration for your decorations, and shopping with a mission is fun—like a scavenger hunt.

• Leave a lot of counter space open for food and gifts that your guests bring. They’ll appreciate you saving a spot to display their special offering for the event.

• Use stations for serving. Have a drink station located in an area where things can spill and get wet. Have a separate station for plates, napkins, and utensils. Plan the buffet navigation that guests will take from start to finish to avoid bottlenecks in traffic. Different stations spread the crowd out nicely.

• Put out a large bowl or container with ice and tongs, or a scoop, near the drink station with glasses.

• Rather than planning on too many guests, put out enough for only ¾ of the invited total. Have extra small tables waiting in case you have an overflow crowd, but less clutter makes for a prettier home.

• Have plenty of extra food waiting in the fridge, just in case the food dishes disappear too quickly. If you are hosting the party, have a meat entrée, drinks, a sweet dish, a savory dish, and snacks ready to provide balance if there is a void in what people bring to share.

• Have a handy place for several serving utensils your guest can use for their dishes. It an easy item to forget when you are carrying food to a new place.

• Prepare floral oasis a week in advance, so it will be nicely soaked and heavy by the time you start designing arrangements. Begin floral decorations a day or two in advance. You’ll always need to do a little tweaking to make things look just right for the big party. This gives you time to pick up a few extra bits of greenery or blooms if what you have on hand is a bit thin.

• You don’t have to use live flowers everywhere. At Christmas, there are always lots of ornaments and tchotchkes waiting to be displayed.  Tie or wire them into groups and place the clusters around the house in areas that need some sparkle.

• Keep things simple. If you have lots of different decorations with different looks, choose just one or two and save the others for another year. There is no need to display every ornament and piece of tinsel you own. After to put out all your decorations, live with them for a day and then remove at least ¼ of all of it. Less is more.

• Hide clutter and personal items away in an off-limits room.

• Keep furniture and tables to a minimum. Leave room for people.

• Plan some music for the party and have it playing quietly in the background.

• Plan two or three activities for guests. One during arrivals and one after the main meal, and one final closing activity.

• We like to offer prizes for things like “best ugly sweater” or “trivia contest winner”.  These prizes can be really simple items you picked up earlier in the year, or they can be something easy like a few home-made cookies.

• Provide a map or good directions to your house. Try out your directions to make sure they work!

• Plan where your guests will hang their outerwear during the party, or go with the classic bed toss area.

• Plan how parking will work and add inexpensive solar lights to help direct your guests to the right parking area.

• Nobody cares if your house is dusty and imperfect. If you showcase a palatial estate, people go home and feel depressed. As a good host, you want them leaving happy. Everyone remembers your company rather than your possessions. Relax, and enjoy your guests!

Party Decorations