It’s safe to say that fall is officially in full swing. Leaves are red, the air is cool, days are shorter, and pumpkins are popping up on every doorstep. With November right around the corner so is the start of holiday party season. It’s never too early to start thinking about how you will execute the perfect party. The most important part of any gathering is the chance to spend time with people you care about. The better you’re organized, the more time you can spend relaxing with friends and family. At the NJRHA, we love to plan and are already getting in gear for our office’s Thanksgiving feast. Here are our tips on how to host the perfect party!
It’s Okay to Outsource
Being the perfect host doesn’t mean you have to be a DIY master. You’re already letting guests come into your home and providing them with hours of entertainment. While making your signature dishes adds a special touch to the party, don’t be afraid to buy pre-made entrées or use catering. Better yet, allow some of your guests to bring their own dishes. Aubri learned from her mother that it’s okay to say “YES” when guests offer to contribute.
“As the host, you feel obligated to say, “don’t worry about it.” Learning to say something like “not required, but please feel free!” has added so much diversity and abundance to our parties. Bonus: Introducing someone with the dish they made is an awesome conversation piece!” – Aubri, Director of Membership & Communications
Okay, so you’ve decided to evenly split the amount of homemade entrées and outsourced entrées you plan to serve. Now it’s time to choose the dishes you want to make. When putting your menu together, take some time to consider the elements that go into creating each dish. Avoid dishes that require a lot of preparation the day of the party. Foods that only require a quick pop in the oven or a swift mixing are your best bet. In addition to selecting dishes that you can prepare ahead of time, Marilou suggests to go outside of the box with your recipes.
“Have fun with your cooking and make a dish that isn’t so traditional. It will make your party stand out. Funny story: One year I had a Christmas party and in walked Congressman Pallone. He came in, had a drink, talked to some people, and then realized he was at the wrong house!” – Marilou, President
Finger Food Is Still Important
Commonly overlooked, and underappreciated, appetizers get the party started. They prepare the stomach for the heftiness of the main dishes and get the guests excited for what’s to follow. Remember, they don’t have to be gourmet hors d’oeuvres to keep the crowd satisfied. Sometimes the simpler, the better. Ali believes that a party isn’t a party without a cheese plate. The best thing about cheese is that it’s easy to walk around with and is delicious at any point throughout the party.
“Living in my parents’ house, I don’t host any dinner parties so much as attend them… but my most important tip would be… Always. Have. A. Cheese. Plate. This is probably my favorite part of any gathering and I notice if there isn’t one!” – Ali, Events & Marketing Coordinator
Stick to the Good Stuff
Karen is no stranger to hosting parties of any size or occasion. Check out this funny story and you’ll be able to figure out what her secret to success is.
“Over the years, I have made many family Christmas dinners. I cook ham, mashed potatoes, turnips, green bean casserole, and lasagna… I know everyone always says it’s way too much. This dinner is after appetizers of stuffed mushrooms, kielbasa, shrimp, crab dip, and a vegetable platter!
“One year I was talked into doing a ‘healthy’ vegetable lasagna. Now keep in mind, my lasagna has four layers of noodles, three cheeses, beef, and sausage meat covered with marinara. The ‘healthy’ vegetable lasagna was suggested by a family member who said to use… STOUFFER’S VEGETABE LASANGA in a box… and I did it! Well, it was horrible. It tasted like the box: wet, slippery, and no taste at all! Now, every year I cannot get past my son bringing it up and then everyone asking, ‘Where is that delicious Stouffer’s Lasagna?’ I will never live it down!
“So I have learned my lesson and will not have anything on my table that has even been near a box. My tasty, not-so-healthy, meat lasagna is back on the menu. My tip… stick to what you know works!” – Karen, Director of Operations
Quality and Quantity
Whether you’re throwing a backyard BBQ or formal family gathering, you have to make sure you have enough food for the guests. The ideal situation is providing enough so that everyone is full but you’re not left with a month’s worth of leftovers. Unfortunately, there is no secret formula or standard rule that tells you how much you need to have. There is good news is that there are some basic guidelines that you can follow. For example, salad should be about one cup per person, fruits and vegetables around a half a cup per person, and around four appetizers an hour per person. There are other factors to consider, of course, such as the amount of children and allergies. Either of these can effect how much of each dish is consumed. It can get pretty tricky, but Leslie has a simple solution.
“Make the amount of food you think you need… and then make more.” – Leslie, Educational Foundation Director
You’re Never Too Old for Games
Most people assume that you only need games and activities when you’re hosting a child’s party or are just trying to keep the children occupied at an adult party. However, games, activities, or any type of entertainment, can liven up a party and give guests the chance to interact and make fun memories.
“Every year I host my annual Gingerbread House Party. Everyone brings a dish and I supply all my guests with a gingerbread kit and Grinch Punch (which is green margaritas). All my guests wear an ugly sweater and whoever has the ugliest sweater wins a prize. (Last year it was a Sephora gift card.) Whoever creates the best gingerbread house wins a prize as well. (Last year was a really nice wine opener.) We also do a White Elephant gift exchange. All my guests bring a wrapped gift and then pick a number that indicates when they get to choose a gift off the table. Ideally, you want to be the last person to pick so you can steal the best gift. My annual party is something that everyone looks forward to during the holiday season.” – Shah, Executive Assistant
While everyone is enjoying the party and you’re making sure everything is going smoothly, don’t forget to keep your eye on open flames or burning Sternos,.as well as look out for any unfamiliar guests. The last thing you need is a table catching on fire or a stranger stealing your belongings. Speaking of those two scenarios, they actually happened to Sarita and Hannah!
“I hosted a Halloween party one year and my stuff was stolen and the cops had to be called.” – Sarita, Education Coordinator
“My family hosted a News Years Eve party one year. I was maybe 10 years old and one of my best friends and her family came. It was the end of the night and it was only my family and hers at the house. The parents were talking in the family room and my friend and I were walking downstairs when we noticed the dining room table was on fire. A Sterno caught the table cloth on fire and the flames were getting bigger and bigger. We yelled for our parents to come help but they thought we were making a joke and brushed us off. We really started to panic and told them we weren’t lying, so they finally came to the dining room. The flames were huge but luckily they were able to put the fire out with an extinguisher. We still use the dining table today; it just has a huge black burn mark in the center!” – Hannah, Marketing & Communications Intern