Many of you have emailed me asking for 'Holiday Party" ideas, easy appetizers, and decorations after I shared my Holiday Party Photo Essay last year. I had been patiently waiting for December to share and 'tis finally the season to get together with friends and families. My Holiday Party involved plenty of food, a photo-booth, and games in my 750 square feet apartment decked out with Christmas decorations with about 20 friends. While I truly enjoy cooking and having people over, hosting a party is stressful and requires lots of planning in order to make sure everything will go smoothly. I am one of those hostess who wants to do 'everything' before the guests arrive and plan a party by the minute but in reality and in my past experiences, I have found that kind of mentality only creates more stress (to both hostess and guests) because things won't alway go as planned. So no matter how big or small your party is, prepare to adapt and be okay if things don't go as planned. Remember that the most important thing is making sure everyone is having a wonderful time together...So for anyone looking to host their first ever holiday party, or a holiday get-together, I hope these ideas will help make your party planning process easier, provide easy DIY-decoration ideas, and plenty of recipes. Guests: Before you start planning, know how many people you can realistically and comfortably fit into your apartment/house then send invitations. Since I am friends with most of my friends on facebook, I created an event with all the necessary details (date, time, location, and general info/special instructions) and requested a RSVP (at least a week before the party). No matter what route you choose to invite your guests (email, text, card, phone), ask for a RSVP as it will give you a general idea on how many people to expect and plan for food and such.
Decorations: In my opinion, one of the most important elements besides food is the decoration. Don't be shy to spruce up your place with all things red, golden, and green. We had a real Christmas tree with red, silver, and golden ornaments which also served as the main attraction of the party. The boxes underneath the tree were empty boxes neatly wrapped with different holiday themed wrapping paper. I covered the wall on my living room with net lights that made the room softly lit and looking festive. For a 12-foot wide wall, I used six 4 feet net lights and hung them using push pins. Besides that, I had bows, stockings, and a wreath, all spread throughout the apartment. Photo Booth was probably my favorite part and something everyone enjoyed... I made it using a holiday-themed table cloth taped on the wall. You can also use wrapping paper but make sure to use the matte kind and not the glossy one. Have plenty of props for the photo booth which can be easily downloaded for free here, here, and here. My personal suggestion is to go with the big prop pieces that stand out. Besides that, get a couple of santa hats, reindeer nose/ear and fake nerdy glasses for a very inexpensive price. Food: While decorations/props can be made way ahead of time, the food needs special attention because you can only prepare so many days/hours in advance depending upon what's on your menu..I had a table spread of food, mostly made/assembled at home while some were catered from outside. Depending upon how many guests, your budget and needs - you can go either ways. Potluck is another great idea asking everyone to bring a dish for the party to enjoy. I have not tried that yet but maybe in the future... I like to have a variety of appetizers that can be made in advance and served at room temperature. Some of the appetizers besides chips/crackers/nuts/hummus/salsa/veggie tray were:
- finger sandwiches - I don't suggest these as it takes time to assemble and it got dry when it sat on the table. Instead I'd go for bruschetta. Make the filling ahead of time and assemble them right before the guests arrive.
- make ahead snowman cheeseball - this acts as your centerpiece as well as ball of deliciousness. The only problem is its so cute no one wants to demolish it.
- lemon couscous with chickpea salad, red peppers, and almonds - everyone loves a good cold salad that can be made a day ahead, no?
- guacamole deviled eggs - they were a major hit and just remember of add plenty of lemon juice to prevent it from browning. I made them ahead of time and covered them with shrink wrap.
- chicken patties - this is my go-to appetizer for parties because I can assemble and freeze them weeks in advance and simply pop them in the oven 15 minutes before the guests arrive. the best part - everyone loves it.
christmas fruit tree - this is more for a table decoration than consumption. If you have time go for it..it's time consuming but certainly a festive addition to the table. I wish I had more time to make this tree prettier but here's a step by step tutorial. Instead of using a carrot and apple as a base, you can use a styrofoam cone as well.The rest of the food was catered from outside which consisted of a traditional holiday feast. If you plan on having lots of appetizers, go easy on dinner because people tend to nibble throughout the evening and won't care too much for the 'actual food'. Next time I may just skip the dinner-part and go heavy on appetizers. For desserts, I had one bowl chocolate cake minus the frosting, cupcakes, chocolate peppermint bark, chocolate truffles tree, and chocolate covered pretzel rods. Most of these can be made ahead of time. Chocolate truffle tree looks so perfect and easy to do but mine turned out ugly and unstable. Also, I did not have enough truffles to cover the whole cone. You need about 50 truffles..lots of patience, and time to make a gorgeous tree! I used these free christmas theme printable labels for the water bottles - how adorable are these, no?
Games: We played 'dirty santa' (also known as white elephant) which everyone seemed to enjoy..remember to inform your guests on the invite about the game and also if there are any gift value limitations. Another game that my friend Megan suggested was "heads up" which can be played on the ipad/phone was fun too...I wish I had planned for more games. I used all plastic wares besides the serving trays because it's much easier to clean. Most of my decorations/supplies came from Target/Walmart/Dollar Store but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section...It's been almost a year since this Holiday party - I still remember hurrying up to get ready when the guests had slowly started arriving...So my advice is to plan ahead as much as possible but be ready for the unexpected, roll with the punches and most importantly have fun!! I have been awfully quiet lately because of traveling/work/finals but now that's all over, I will be sharing some holiday-themed stuff, stay tuned.