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Whether you have an open concept kitchen or one hidden behind closed doors, this space may be the most needing of a little extra TLC when throwing a party. The most important prep step? Plan ahead: “You don’t want to be exhausted the day of the party, and will want to enjoy it,” says professional party thrower Julia Lake. Follow these steps to not only avoid being a slave to your kitchen during your holiday party, but to help it be a useful and enjoyable entertaining space.
“Always make sure you kitchen is totally clean before the party starts,” says Lake. “There's nothing worse than a messy kitchen mid-party, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of prep time for the food.” Although you will need to re-clean immediately after the party, make sure all countertops, floors and even the inside of the refrigerator are spotless, so food can be prepared and displayed safely. Clean out your refrigerator in advance, and toss anything expired. Keep a stash of surface wipes handy for quick cleanup during food prep, display and serving.
Food Preparation and Display
“Try to pick recipes that can be prepared the day before, so you're not rushed all day getting everything ready,” says Lake. Or, prepare items in advance that can be frozen until party day, when you can easily pop them in the oven the day of your party.
If you have the space, the kitchen can also be used to display and serve food. The easiest option is to serve food buffet style on the kitchen table. Desserts and hors d’oeuvres can be displayed on tiered serving platters, or even open shelving. “Get creative with where you stick goodies,” says Lake. “It’s always fun for guests to find surprises in different corners of the room. Put a bowl of candies by the windowsill, or nuts tucked in the counter corner beside family photos.”
Carry your holiday decorations through to the kitchen. In addition to choosing display dishes in festive holiday colors, place bags of caramel popcorn in baskets around the kitchen to serve as decoration and party favors for guests, says Lake. Above all, personalization is key. For inspiration, check out holiday Pinterest boards to find ideas that match your taste.
When deciding on the menu, keep it simple. Instead of complicated entrees, try easy appetizers like dips, pizzettes and toothpick-friendly options like meatballs for easy serving. “Use all white plates and platters for a chic, minimalist look,” says Seri Kertzner, founder of Little Miss Party Planner. Place all serving dishes, platters and plates in a designated spot in advance, so you aren’t looking for everything the day of the party.
The drink menu should also be kept simple. Designate a small bar area in the kitchen, so spills can be cleaned easily. Choose one themed drink, such as a red punch or pear sparkler, instead of stocking a full bar. Add in prosecco (champagne’s more inexpensive cousin), wine or beer, and prepare for a memorable night.
Prepping your bathroom for a holiday party may be the last thing on your busy mind, but this private space is more important than you think. After all, there will probably be a continuous flow of people in and out of this quiet room, so why not impress them with a little bathroom flare? Carve out time during your planning for prepping this room.
The first step in bathroom party prep is to make sure the space is organized. Is your vanity covered with everyday items like makeup, hair dryers, toothpaste and face wash? Find empty drawers or closets to store these products. The room will be easier to clean, look less cluttered, and you’ll have more space for decorative items.
Now that you’ve organized, grab your cleaning supplies. “The one spot in your home that should be shiny and spotless are the restrooms,” says Seri Kertzner, founder of Little Miss Party Planner. People are typically distracted at parties, but in the private bathroom, they’ll likely notice a clean versus dirty space. Focus on the vanity and toilet (a shower curtain can hide soap scum), and be sure to vacuum or wash any bathmats. Always be sure to keep a visible air freshener spray available for guests, or look for a plug-in freshener.
Don’t overlook the bathroom when it comes to party decorations. “Lay out nice hand towels for your guests,” says professional party thrower Julia Lake. “I have an embroidered linen set that only comes out for parties.” Look for inexpensive seasonal linens with snowflake patterns, or in holiday colors like red, silver or gold.
Just as you would in any other room, help guests feel comfortable in this space. “Light a candle and place a small bud vase in the bathroom to make for a pleasant experience,” says Kertnzer. Small flowers and candles not only create a pretty and intimate feel, but can help mask smells. For added décor, swap out a normal hanging picture for a seasonal shot of a winter wonderland.
Finally, use the clear space on your vanity to provide your guests with an emergency hospitality basket. Fill with items like dental floss, hairspray, stockings, lotion and breath mints.
Throwing a party doesn’t need to be a stressful planning process, as long as you’re prepared. By prioritizing rooms, you can focus your attention in spaces where it’s needed. What should be at the top of the list? The living room -- large open spaces, like a living room, are often where much of the festive action happens. Get ready, get set and get organized with this living room party preparation checklist.
Party Prep Step No. 1: Cleaning and Organization
Living room spaces often double as playrooms and TV rooms -- basically a space where anything goes. “Spend a few hours de-cluttering or ‘primping’ your room so every corner looks its best,” says professional party thrower Julia Lake. “Clear off surfaces and dust your shelves so you have space for bites, drinks and decorations.” Aside from getting your room organized, get yourself organized. Seri Kertzner, aka Little Miss Party Planner, suggests following a checklist so you’re not stressing to get things done. Plan a timeline needed for this room, such as décor, accessories and other DIY projects.
Party Prep Step No. 2: Choosing a Theme
“A theme is a great way to set a cohesive tone or to cast a color palate,” says Lake. Since the living room is often the largest space, it’s where your themed décor can really shine. This year, think about seasonal décor rather than holiday-specific décor.
Party Prep Step No. 3: Setting a Mood
Lighting is the easiest way to set a mood at a party. Instead of harsh overhead lighting, work with table lamps and floor lamps at different heights to create a more intimate feel. “Candles always bring great warmth to a holiday party,” says Kertzner. Look for candles in festive colors and seasonal scents, but be sure to place in safe, out-of-reach locations.
Party Prep Step No. 4: Arranging Furniture
Be sure to provide enough seating options for guests. Not all guests will be sitting at once, but be on the safe side and bring in extra folding chairs in addition to your couches and chairs, and decorate them to match the décor. Arrange seating so guests can have comfortable conversations. Lastly, swap out your everyday pillows for inexpensive seasonal throw pillows. And keep them until the weather starts to warm!