Christmas is just around the corner, and you know what that means – It’s party season! We understand just how challenging planning holiday parties can be. And that’s why we have decided to feature an exclusive series by The Unofficial Christmas Party (TUCP) to provide BellaNaijarians with creative ideas on recipes, decorations, prep tips and much more!
Each article is written by a TUCP partner and they will discuss the vital ingredients necessary for throwing a fabulous Christmas party. They are the top experts in the industry and will be letting us in on a few trade secrets on how to make this Christmas a really special one. Part one of the series discusses top tips on planning the perfect Christmas dinner party for the holidays from event architect and renowned event planner FVO, CEO No Surprises. Enjoy!
This time of the year can be immensely stressful as so many things are added to the already stretched “to-do” lists. On top of all our daily activities, now we have to tackle the long holiday planning list!
However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the holidays and Christmas are all about spending time with family and friends. It’s the time to share the joys of the season and what better way to do that if not hosting a Christmas party for your friends.
So it’s Christmas and you’re not a professional event planner and you’d like to host family and friends this Christmas season, what do you do?
First of all draw up a budget!
December is an expensive month. No-one wants to be broke before they pay bills, do the monthly food shop and buy presents for their loved ones, so know what you can afford and cut your coat according to your size.
Decide on the venue
You have to consider where you’d like to host the party, in my opinion the home, is more intimate. A Christmas party is a good opportunity to get people to know you better and what better way than to invite them into your personal space! There’s also something really warm about inviting people to your home.
Guest size/guest list:
After you have decided on the venue you have to consider the capacity and the number of guests. Make sure you don’t invite more people than the space can accommodate. This brings me to your guest list. Now you don’t want “drama” at your party if it is an intimate affair so make sure you invite people that like each other; family, close friends and their dates or spouses.
On the flipside, if you are having a jump-off then the more the merrier, invite everyone you know: Friends, co-workers, your BBM contact list, you decide…once that is clear the list becomes easy.
Personally, we never exclude the children from our gatherings with friends, especially at Christmas, but if you prefer not to, specify on the invitation that it is for adults only. This will give everyone enough time to counsel their nannies or organise the kids to be dropped off at grandma’s.
Alternatively, you could hire an entertainer for the day to take care of all the kids that attend. Again if your budget will not stretch that far then engage them with face painting, a Christmas raffle draw, musical chairs, and a dancing competition. Kids are really easy to please, and your friends will thank you for being so thoughtful.
There is so much inspiration at this time of the year. There are loads of Christmas decorations and accessories out there, and it’s easy to go to the stores and get what you need. But feel free to hire a decorator if you need help.
Set up the table and decorate a day in advance. This will give you time to purchase whatever is missing to make your table and rooms look beautiful. Leave glasses until the last minute so they don’t gather lint and dust particles overnight. After setting the table, check around to make sure everything is clean especially in the areas where guests will be mingling.
Don’t forget to spray your house with insecticide, nobody wants to be having dinner and also serve their ankles as dinner to a swarm of hungry mosquito’s who have strategically positioned themselves under the dining table.
Save the date/ Invitation
Invite guests in advance. There’ll be lots of parties around this time, the Christmas engagement calendar fills up fast and you want to get your party on the roster. Send the ‘save the date’ well in advance so your party takes priority.
Nigerians by nature do not RSVP, so if everyone hasn’t responded a week from the date, contact them with a quick message. Make sure you prepare a few extras as people tend to bring friends along sometimes and if you’d rather they didn’t, please indicate it in the invitation in the best possible polite way. For sit-down formal dinners, having an accurate head count is necessary to be sure there is enough seating for everyone.
Decide what kind of meal and the style of service, is it buffet? Sit down meal? Whatever you decide you have to plan for it in advance. Your budget will determine whether to cook or cater. Feel free to hire a catering company or get a friend or family member if you feel you need help with the cooking. Some people work till the last days of the holidays and may not have time to shop or cook, or let’s face it; you may not necessarily be able to cook everything on your menu, so get real!
If you chose to do the cooking yourself make sure you plan your menu in advance so when your guests arrive, everything is set. Keep the menu simple and opt for a buffet presentation instead of table service, allowing guests to “help” you this way.
To make your life simpler and make your guests comfortable, prepare a table with a beautiful tray with glasses, napkins and the drinks you’ll be serving. Serve your guests’ first glass to welcome them and let them know they can help themselves at any time.
Introduce your guests when they arrive, especially if you feel they don’t know each other “Shade meet Ngozi, you remember when you said you needed someone to bake your daughter’s cake? She bakes delicious cakes!” That usually helps to break the ice and encourages your shy guests to mingle.
Finally, get yourself ready a good hour before your guests are set to arrive. The last thing you want after so much preparation is to look stressed out when welcoming your friends and colleagues in.
Make sure you check your restroom and include a small candle or flower arrangement in there. Place a small basket with items that guest may need – from personal care to over-the-counter pain relievers.
A Christmas party is a nice way to relax with family and friends you don’t see much of during the year. Everyone has a chance to show off their best holiday clothes and share good laughs.
Have fun, take lots of pictures, and enjoy the party!