So, you’re still in college or just out, and the holidays are fast upon you. Let’s face it, these are not the years when most of us are thinking ahead and planning. Mostly we are just getting by, figuring out what’s next and making ends meet. That means there are likely plenty of holidays when it just doesn’t make sense to travel because flights are so costly, weather is not cooperating, or your new work schedule is not going to make it easy.
The holiday doesn’t have to pass you by, and likely you have friends in the same boat as you. It’s time to throw a party—or perhaps, your friends and family decided it was time for you to throw a party. Either way, make it fun and make it festive. That’s what awesome girls do.
Food the Easy Way
Having never made dressing, not even from a box, I’m not going to advise on food. However, if you can’t afford to have a party catered, I will suggest a very successful technique from my childhood that has saved me on more than one occasion: potluck.
Hey, potluck doesn’t have to be about random luck! As a food innovator, (yes, now I’m a food innovator) I like to suggest a theme for my guests then guide them on what they should bring to show off their culinary skills. You can handle drinks, dessert, set up and the rest. I like to give myself all the things that don’t require heat. I balance that with being diligent about engaging, then highly praising, the talents of others. With potluck, there’s always more than enough, but if you like you can spring for a sliced, pre-cooked honey baked ham or slow-roasted chicken. Display the meat on your best platter or dish and decorate with carefully scattered fruit—maybe some slices of pineapple and blueberries for a ham, or rosemary and sage branches for chicken. Easy, right? Decorate, display, delight and make sure to toss the packaging deep into the trash.
With food taken care of, you can focus on the fun part—creating an environment out of the ordinary. It doesn’t cost much, if anything, to make your little apartment sparkle with that something extra. Here are my top three tips for setting the stage for a successful party.
Lighting is essential to mood. Turn off the overheads, and turn on the accents. Nothing is worse than glaring light. If you have a nice lamp, but it’s still too bright, drape a colored scarf or cloth over the lampshade for ambiance. Candles, even fake ones, are great to put around. Look for scentless candles to have near your food so the odor doesn’t conflict or distract from your guests’ efforts but have enough light over the food so people know what they are eating.
Fill an old lantern with a small bundle of Christmas lights and plug them in for more ambient light in a corner or by the door.
Pick Music that goes with your theme or sets the tone. I like Coldplay Radio on Pandora for when guests are arriving and some classic swing or jazz while eating. Turn off the TV unless it’s your source of music. The TV prevents people from coming together and talking and will often separate genders or create little cliques.
Design on a Budget
Themed color or design for your table and other decorations adds tremendously to the holiday festivities. If you have a tablecloth, get it out, iron it if needed, and use that as your base. There are a few easy things you can then add to make it extra special.
If you live in a place where the fall leaves change color, collect leaves the day before, gently rinse/wash and lay out to dry, then decorate your table with nature.
Make a trip to Michaels or Party City and look for a little pack of confetti. Often they will have themed packets of different colors. You might find silver and gold stars. Sprinkle these among your plates and candles. Once I even used leftover cake sprinkles and freckles! A little girl at the party noticed immediately and enjoyed interacting with my decorations—mostly eating! But it was fun for everyone. These types of stores are also good for picking up a few simple extra decorations that you can put on a coffee table or hang from a door. Whether your budget is $5- or $20, you’ll be surprised at what you can do with very little.
Also for your table, add color to a pitcher of water with a slice of apple, orange and lemon.
Fill a vase or large glass with flowers, fruit, or delicious pinecones and put that with the drinks.
IKEA is great for getting inexpensive and matching flatware and glasses, but you can also
go to Goodwill or Salvation Army and celebrate mismatching. Just make sure you have enough unique and different choices. It will become a conversation starter as well when everyone sits down.
Even paper napkins can be dressed up. I once used curtain rings as napkin holders for white paper napkins. No one ever suspected they were curtain rings and it added to the decoration on the table. Think of the things you can use. Cookie cutters, rope, packing cord, or a little bit of wrapping paper ribbon can go a long way.
Dressing Like the Hostess!
Don’t forget the most fun of all. Leave yourself time to get ready and then put on that favorite outfit you never get to wear. Maybe it’s an old prom dress, a retro skirt, a gown for Oscar parties, or a bridesmaid dress that you had altered to finally look good. It doesn’t matter what it is, go for it. This is the time when you can wear whatever you want. You are the hostess. You are supposed to stand out. Pull out the tiara and go for it. You are the queen tonight. Own it and have fun!
For more on how to throw a successful soiree, come back for Parts 2 and 3. On Monday I’ll have tips on Mixing and Mingling successfully with your guests, even if you’re introverted. Wednesday will be tips on Cleaning up and Cleaning out your guests (with class), so you can put up your feet!
Until next time,