So you’ve decided to throw a party. Here are some tips to help you curate the perfect event.
We’ve all been there: a paper cup full of boxed wine in one hand, a slice of sheet cake in the other, standing in a too-bright office corridor, chatting over an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song. A poorly planned holiday party can feel more like an obligation than an occasion, turning the festive season into something decidedly un-fun. But don’t despair: it’s easier than you might think to plan the perfect holiday soiree, and a little bit of foresight can mean the difference between a forgettable gathering and a legendary bash.
Location: Lay the foundation
First thing’s first: Setting is everything. The bigger your guest list, the more space you’ll need so it’s important to have a sense of scale before you land on a location. The size and layout of the space can help you create the right vibe for your party—whether it’s an intimate dinner for 20 people or a spectacular blowout for 200.
You’ll also want to consider how your guests are getting to and from the venue. The right space in the wrong location isn’t much use if guests can’t cab home, so choose somewhere that’s accessible by taxi and transit if you’re not arranging cars.
Décor: Set the mood
Black-tie affair? Casual cocktail hour? Victorian masquerade? The décor of your party is not just nice to look at; it sets the tone for the whole event. If you’re working with an empty space, you can put your own flourish on things – but it will take a bit of planning. You’ll want to consider the mood you want to create, and source furniture and decorations well in advance. Try searching for some inspiration online to get an idea of what you’ll need.
If you’re into something more turnkey, look for a space that comes fully equipped with everything you’ll need for your event. This will require a bit less work, but you might spend more time finding a space with the right vibe. Either way, be sure to create some natural places for people to gather so they can mingle, eat or dance, depending on what you have planned for your event.
Food: Make everyone happy
If you’re planning to feed your guests, create a party-friendly menu. Hot tip: ribs are tough to eat out of your lap, so if you’re hosting a southern barbeque, you might consider a location with tables. A few snacks are a nice touch, so long as they’re easy to nibble. Finger foods are you best friend if you’re keeping things casual, and standing-room-only.
Drink: Keep the party going
Science shows that people are generally willing to forgive anything if you keep them quenched, so taking a little extra time to think about your drink menu goes a long way. You can stick with a theme and curate a short list of beverages, or you can go for a full bar menu—you really can’t go wrong as long as you don’t run out.
Music: Make it magical
Sometimes a party needs a 10-piece mariachi band. Sometimes all it needs is a playlist to throw on in the background. Consider the mood you’re going for and then get a little creative. If you’re planning to make music a focal point of your party, you’ll need the right equipment to get the job done, and it gets booked up fast. Rent your tech well in advance.
The Extras: All things considered
It’s often the little things that make the biggest impression. If you have the budget, a few thoughtful extras can go a long way. Consider hiring an event photographer to capture your event, or organizing a photo booth. If your budget allows, it’s nice to leave your guests with a memento of the evening.
And most importantly, make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare. Having everything sorted in advance helps you avoid host frenzy and enjoy everything along with your guests. Which is what it’s really all about, right?
Photography by Kayla Rocca
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