Well, I hope everyone has greatly enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. And that the turkey was moist and delicious. And that the pumpkin pie was yummy. And that everyone gobbled up all of the stuffing. Because now, the serious entertaining season is upon us.
I usually host several parties here at the house over the holiday season . . . and thought I'd share some of my favourite ideas for the makings of a great party.
1. The plan. And this is where one almost always goes astray. The best idea is to keep it simple. One of the most important aspects of any successful party is a calm host - and overshooting your 'skill set' is a sure-fire path to disaster.
The one thing that I always think about - I truly want my guests to enjoy the experience of being in my home. I think one of the disadvantages of being an interior designer is that the bar is set kind of high when I'm entertaining . . . and although I love that challenge, I also keep my limitations in mind. Though I'm a good cook - I'm not a great one - so, I hire a caterer for most of my events. I'm fairly fastidious but, I always schedule the cleaning service for the day of (or the day before) a party. I also like to have a few 'staff' people on hand as well. Just someone to help answer the door. Or re-stock the bar. Or help with the food or the caterer. But - basically, an extra person or two will help free up my time to spend with my guests and to enjoy my own party.
2. The invitations. I love printed invitations. Stop. the end. I love the way they feel. The way they look. The ritual of hand-addressing envelopes.
3. The decorations. Now THIS is part of my 'skill-set.' I'm a big fan of the 'multiple.' If I'm going to use votive candles - I'm going to use 100's of them. If there's an arrangement of white roses on the table - I try to use several dozen roses. Several - like maybe 10 dozen. Last year, when I was *especially* crazy, I used almost a dozen Christmas trees in the house (this is used only as an example - it was lovely - but, it was tons of work!)
4. The menu. One of the annual events at the house is a large cocktail party for around 50 to 75 guests . . . and I love experimenting with the menu.
I often start by planning out a menu as if it were a more formal sit-down dinner - and then adapt everything so that can be passed as hors d' oeuvres . If the dinner was to start with a lobster bisque - I've used the same bisque, but passed on trays - in antique shot glasses - maybe with a little crustini balanced across the top. Maybe there's a miniature bread pudding. Or a tiny bit-sized shepherds pie. But, make sure you don't have too many items that require last-minute attention. A few things that need to be warmed . . . but the bulk of the menu should be room-temperature.
5. The prep. I'd much rather run around like a madman for the three days prior to a party - and spend the afternoon OF the party getting a manicure. I take an inventory of the bar a week in advance - fill in any voids - and get the whole thing set up at least three days in advance. I try to have all the decorations in place (other than the fresh flowers) at least a week before. And flower arrangements the morning before.
And there's nothing like a long, warm bath prior to your guest's arrival. I always keep in mind that I'll need to be at my most charming for several hours - and I need to be up to the task. Relaxed. Confident. Prepared.
6. The doorbell. I'm standing in my doorway. In my favourite shoes. With a big smile - and a fresh manicure. Greeting special friends. Putting coats in the hall closet. Great music streaming from the stereo. Appetizers in the oven.
ps. it's also great if one of your friends is a professional photographer. The images are from a small cocktail party at the house last year.