Planning a Holiday Party


Tips and ideas on making it a success

Just as with any other event, planning a holiday party at your home, or at a restaurant or banquet hall is an exercise of creativity and organization.

Like all events, your holiday party can be as simple or as lavish as you wish. Holding a party at your home can be a little easier on the wallet than a restaurant or banquet hall party.

When to hold the party depends largely on your guests’ schedules and need to be taken into consideration when planning the time and day of your holiday party. Events welcoming spouses and significant others are best held on evenings and weekends. Events on a Saturday night tend to be more formal and lavish.

Planning a Home Holiday Party

A Holiday party at your house can be a lot of fun. It can also be pretty stressful.

At-home holidays parties have a "warm and cozy" feel to them, and can make socializing more comfortable and enjoyable.

Whether you serve brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktails, be sure the quality and taste of the food and drink is superior; this will add considerably to the party experience.

When deciding who to invite, take into account the size of your place and the fact that some guests will probably bring a friend or two without asking you. Do all your inviting at once so no one feels like they were an afterthought.

Try to make provisions for parking in advance. If you will be allowing guests to park on the lawn or in the back yard, let them know in your invitation.

Choose your finger snacks carefully. Choose foods that complement each other. Try setting a theme for the food in each room or on each table. Allow 4 to 6 hot hors d'oeurves per person. Don't serve gooey, drippy sauces near expensive rugs or furniture.

Create items you can prepare in advance. Select what you can make from scratch, but don't be afraid to use takeout. Also, a restaurant may be willing to fill your casserole dish with your favorite choice from their place.

Use shortcuts, like bagged lettuces for salads and bottled dressings. People feel that they have to be the ones to make everything; it's not important who does, just that it's done.


Create a festive party atmosphere with decorations, scents and music. Use scented candles or fill the house with a delightful aroma. However, don't use scented candles at the dinner table. No matter how pretty they are, you do not want to mix the smell of one thing with what you're eating; it can throw off the whole taste.

Choose your favorite music and have it playing softly in the background when guests arrive. Consider unplugging or removing your television if it's located in the party area. Nothing spoils the interaction of guests quicker than a group of people huddled around a television set.

holiday party

A scented candle in the bathroom is a nice touch. Leave an extra roll of toilet tissue in easy view.

Consider removing all the chairs from the party area. This will create more room for people to mingle.

Be sure to have plenty of hot coffee and snacks on hand for late in the evening. A coffee bar is a simple but elegant touch. Along with hot coffee, offer a bowl of whipped cream and an assortment of liqueurs (Kahlua, brandy, rum) so guests can create their own coffee drinks.

If you choose to have alcohol served at your home holiday party, don't offer a full bar. Serve one specialty cocktail, and then offer wine and water. Make food available when the alcohol is served. Hire a professional bartender to serve drinks. Consider putting the alcohol away an hour or two before the conclusion of your party. Have a back up plan for people unable to drive home safely.

Note: The social host law, passed by the New Jersey legislature in 1987, says that if one of your guests consumes too much alcohol and injures someone in a car accident after the party, the injured person can recover damages from you. In some ways, the social host law runs counter to our natural impulse to please our guests. As hosts, we want to be generous; we want to have more than enough food and drink on hand, so that our friends will want for nothing. But it is through this natural generosity of spirit--and of spirits--that we might expose ourselves to lawsuits.

Whichever way you choose to go, -- keep in mind that if you do serve alcoholic beverages, this could lead to some unpleasant, unsafe or litigious consequences: embarrassing or inappropriate behavior, unsafe driving, accidents or claims of sexual harassment. Avoid liability and keep workers safe by keeping a watchful eye for any over-indulgers and having designated drivers on hand if needed. Be sure to serve non-alcoholic drinks as well

Be sure to give yourself enough time to get ready. You want to be able to shower, do your hair and put on a nice dress. If you're working right up until when your guests come, you're going to look as frazzled as you feel

Restaurant and banquet hall parties
A benefit with the holiday season is that Christmas and holiday decorations are available almost everywhere you look, and if your event is being held at a restaurant, the facility may already be decorated for the holidays.

Another benefit in hosting a holiday party at a restaurant or banquet hall licensed to serve alcohol is the availability of professional bartenders and waiters that can monitor alcohol intake and politely cut off anyone they perceive has had enough to drink.

Luncheons are typically less expensive than dinners. Many restaurants offer a number of party menus to choose from; i.e., lower priced menus featuring less expensive foods such as chicken and pastas, or higher priced menus featuring entrees such as steak and shrimp.

Those plans including unlimited wine and beer are also considerably more expensive.

Because holiday parties are so popular, December is one of the busiest months of the year for the special events industry. That means hotels, restaurants, caterers, D.J.’s, entertainers, are running at peak capacity. They book up quickly. So if you are planning your holiday party during this time of year, extend your time-line.

Hint: Consider moving your Holiday party to January or February. Facilities are in less demand and providers are able to be more flexible. Plus, during the middle of winter, people will welcome a chance to celebrate.

The holidays should be a festive and fun time, a time of good will and as much generosity as one can muster.



Frank Dalotto is a freelance writer and travel consultant. His specialty is writing articles about New Jersey travel, including attractions, events, and restaurant reviews. Frank works in New Jersey and is the owner and editor of New Jersey Leisure Guide and a travel consultant for Leisure Travel Mart. He is a member of ASTA (American Association of Travel Agents) and CLIA (Cruise Line International Association).

His academic credentials are:
MBA, Pace University
BSEE, University of Missouri

Frank Dalotto

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