Before you get yourself upset that this is not a traditional cookie recipe post, don’t you worry, there will be cookies for my coworkers tomorrow morning. I threw a holiday party last night. It was a magical night all around. We spent 12 hours straight prepping yesterday, so there was no chance I was going to be doing any baking or cooking today. But I figured I owe it to my loyal weekly Sunday night readers (hi mom) to get a solid post out there tonight.
Hostessing a party is a lot of work. Some people think it’s so overwhelming they just don’t bother, or other people throw Mariah Carey’s pandora station on their computer and pop open a case of natty ice and call that a party. We’re not in college anymore. Hostessing is a real thing when you are a grown-up. Expectations are even higher when you own your own house. Last year I had just closed on my house and moved in after Thanksgiving, so a holiday party was not happening. So this was my first official Christmas party in my house, which meant I was going to pull out all the stops to ensure a perfect night. And it was.
So this post is meant to drop some hostessing knowledge on you, so that anyone can throw a successful party. There are just 7 keys to success for hostessing a great party.
1. DON’T FLY SOLO: GET YOURSELF A CO-PILOT
- I’ve been throwing parties since the day I was born (Palm Sunday, 1985). And let me tell you, having a co-host for throwing a party reduces the stress tenfold. First, you need to make sure you pick someone reliable who can add value to the party-hosting. After a breakup a few years back I went a little too far on the Kelly Clarkson “miss independent” side of the spectrum, and would try to do everything myself when hosting people. Too much stress, then you barely enjoy it yourself. And you always look like crap. Colleen and I co-hosted Merry Glitzmas last night and I can say she pulled her weight in hostessing duties. We teamed up on everything from the invite, to the baking, cooking, planning, hashtagging and champagne popping.
2. PLAN, PLAN, AND THEN PLAN SOME MORE
- Now, some of you may know me on a work-level. Which means you know I am a project manager by occupation. Which also means I love plans, excel spreadsheets, and excessive structure. So while some people thought pre-party planning all of the food in a spreadsheet was overkill, that organization meant no detail was left behind. First we start with a high-level plan (HLP) of what food we want – separated into appetizers and desserts, include owners (who’s doing the baking) per item, and any applicable recipe link. For example, Colleen was making a new recipe for spinach artichoke bites (http://recipesweet.net/spinach-artichoke-bites/). Then you break that into a mid-level plan (MLP), where you derive an itemized grocery list from the recipes. This will avoid you being halfway into baking cheesecake, realizing you forgot cream cheese. We’ve all been there. Two days prior to the event, do your grocery shopping. Then making your low-level plan (LLP) for the hour by hour breakdown of how things are going to be cooked/baked on the day of the event. This ensures you’re optimizing your kitchen time and don’t wind up unshowered in sweatpants covered in flour when the first guest shows up on time at 6:30.
- Too much you say? You’ve gone too far? Nay. We had the prep yesterday down to an absolute science. I had the morning shift, while Colleen went to the gym and ran errands in the morning. In the afternoon, we swapped and she took over the kitchen while I went and dominated a tennis match. At 6pm, we both were fully dressed with a nicely applied smokey-eye and sparkly attire, 30 full minutes before the first guest arrived (exactly on time).
3. IF YOU FEED, THEM, THEY WILL COME
- Exactly like in field of dreams, if you promise people food, they will show up. How do you think I get my team to show up to work before 9am every Monday morning? I tempt them on social media with up-close-and-personal shots of freshly baked cookies. We promised heavy appetizers and desserts, and boy did we deliver. This is also not a time to try any brand-new-complicated 17-step recipe. You’re hostessing, keep it simple. That doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, just assess the risk factor. Low-risk recipes, go for it. Also make sure you have some of your staples in there. For me, homemade pretzel bites, pepperoni bread, and baked brie are always Becca staples at parties. The other major benefit of having lots of food is that people come to your party first if they have multiple in one night, stay longer, and do not get sloppy drunk (or at least, not as quickly). Here is the menu of what we served last night.
- Baked brie with raspberry jam
- Pepperoni Bread
- Cranberry turkey kielbasa
- Homemade pretzel bites
- Buffalo Chicken pizza bagel bites
- Mac & Cheese Balls
- Spinach Artichoke Bites
- Homemade meatballs
- Tomato Basil Mozarella Skewers
- Assorted cheese, crackers, and hummus
- Peppermint dipped vanilla bean sugar cookies
- Cookie Dough truffles
- Milky Way Snickers Blondies
- Red Velvet whoopie pies
Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto Bites
Mini-buffalo chicken pizza bagel bites (pre-oven)
4. HYDRATE YO-SELF, SO YOU DONT WRECK YO-SELF
- A very common rookie mistake is to run around all day prepping for the party, not eating or drinking anything, and then you’re the kid that wakes up with sharpie all over their arm after passing out early. We’ve all been there, right? Anyway, hydrate non-stop. I bought 3 Powerade Zero drinks and a coffee at 6:30 am and kept chugging along all day with water and diet coke and more coffee. Guess who had a hangover today? Not this girl. We also ordered a carby calzone to split right before the party, since we always are walking around socializing and forget to eat when we’re entertaining.
5. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
- There is no witty way to put this one, but I am telling you, this is not the night for your new 6-inch Loubiton spikes. First of all, no one is going to be looking at your feet. If they are, well then you have friends with a weird foot fetish that you might want to address. You’re going to be running around on your feet all night, mitigate the risk of tripping or falling, and put on your most comfortable flats. We both had cute black boots on last night. If you’re a dude, Skip would recommend LLBean’s boat shoes. Reliable, fashionable, low-risk.
6. PUMP DA JAMZ
- Music is key, especially in the beginning when people are just filtering in. At my company party last year, the “DJ” booth was basically someone who had picked a Pandora station. You know what will make you question the financial viability of your company? Listening to Pandora ads during a 600 person event. Make your own friggin playlist. I’m a big advocate of Spotify. Colleen and I have our own set of collaborative playlists for regular days, so we just made a Merry Glitzmas playlist for last night. It was a combination of classic holiday music, pop versions of holiday songs, pop songs of today (obvs we had to have Ke$ha), and then some throwbacks (Think: Ghetto Superstar). Put that bad boy on shuffle, and you’ve got yourself a party. And you MUST include Wilson Phillip’s “Hold On” on any party playlist. Trust me on this one.
7. GET AWESOME FRIENDS
- You know how every time a celeb accepts an award they end it with “and this is for you fans, without you, none of this would be possible”? Well you can plan every detail of a party, and follow steps 1-6 to a tee, but guess what, if nobody shows up, it’s not a party. Now, I did not just say “get friends”, I said “get awesome friends” because there is a difference. Awesome friends can mix and mingle with anyone. They don’t require you sitting next to them and entertaining them the entire time. They pop champagne bottles with you. Bring you many bottles of wine. Start dance parties, take photos. Make memories. Overhead clap to the chorus of Hold On. Help you clean up the entire house at 1 AM and then text you the next day saying that you are the best hostess ever. We have amazing friends. Without them, the best Merry Glitzmas party would not have been possible.
So I will graciously accept this People’s Choice Award for Best Holiday Hostess and since they are already shoo-ing me off stage, I’d like to quickly give a few shoutouts to the people who made this event possible.
- First, God. Thank you for getting Mother Nature to cooperate with us this time around, even in December in Boston. Last time she dropped 2.5 feet of snow and shut down public transportation, so thank you for that.
- Second, my parents. Skip, thank you for planning our family vacations to Disney World in color-coded excel itineraries since I was 5 years old. Without you, I would not understand the importance of excel spreadsheets or knowing where I am eating breakfast at the Magic Kindgdom 180 days in advance. Mom, thanks for the motivational emails the day of to remind me to relax and not stress out.
- Colleen, my trusty co-host. You are the Kieffah to my Barb (watch Teen Mom 2 and you’ll get it). Thanks for jumping onboard the organizational spreadsheet train and applying the best smokey eye my eyelids have ever seen.
- Uncle Jimmy, for always being able to come up with great recipe ideas on the spot. Buffalo Chicken mini pizza bites got 2 thumbs way up. Without you, I would have never known the delicious combination of fig, goat cheese and prosciutto.
- Friends, thanks for showing up, eating our food, and making us feel awesome and loved.
We have friends sign our guest book at each party we throw
Watch for a mid-week post this week for the Great Food Blogger Cookie swap! The Peppermint Dipped Vanilla Bean sugar cookie recipe is coming your way this Wednesday.