Whatever the scale of the party you decide to give, the same principle applies, in that meticulous planning is essential. Decide first on the type of party you wish to give and think carefully about the date, then issue your invitations as soon as possible, this is particularly important at busy social times of year such as Christmas.
Make an inventory of your glasses, cutlery (flatware) and china, and the cooking and serving dishes that you have, so that you are alerted well in advance to any shortfall. If you only need a few extra items, you could probably borrow from friends; otherwise you would be best advised to use an outside supplier. Some wine merchants will lend glasses for a party, and some also offer a sale or return service. If your stock of tableware is inadequate for the numbers involved, you could consider good quality disposable plates as an alternative to hiring (renting).
Calculate the quantities of food that you will need, and check that your pantry is stocked with all the long lasting items that you are likely to use for cooking, to save time on shopping later. Then make a shopping list of the fresh foods that you will need to buy nearer the time, and the flowers and foliage to compose any decorations.
If necessary, clean and defrost your refrigerator days in advance and clear space for the party food, soft drinks and wines. Make quantities of ice cubes and fancy ice shapes, and store them in plastic bags in the freezer.
If it is to be a large gathering and your ‘reception-room’ space is limited, pack away any valuable ornaments to avoid damage and, on the day of the party, re-arrange or move back the furniture to make easy ‘traffic’ routes. Set out the drinks at one end of the room and organize a table with the food at the other end, or in a separate room.
How much food you make is up to you, but there should be sufficient refreshments to balance the alcohol intake. Preparing canapés, hors d’oeuvres and snacks for a party is deceptively time consuming, so a better option may be to make a large pot full of something wholesome and to serve it accompanied by a great bowl of rice or a stack of baked potatoes. As most guests will find themselves a seat on the floor if the party atmosphere is informal enough, presenting food that needs to be eaten with the assistance of a knife is rarely a problem.
With your plans made in advance and put into operation smoothly, remember to leave enough time to get ready, as it is your welcoming and relaxed smile that will put your guests immediately at their ease.
- Clear the floor in the largest room to allow space for dancing. Set chairs aside but make sure that there are some comfortable areas where less-lively guests can congregate and talk.
- Subdued lighting always casts a flattering glow, so arrange table lamps around the room. The food and drinks tables should be well illuminated.
- Lay a thick cloth on the drinks table for protection and pile plenty of clean towels and rolls of absorbent paper towels nearby in case of spillages. Place waste bags under the table.
- If you are short of chilling space, particularly for beer, use a clean dustbin (trash can) and tip a large bag of ice into it and pour in a couple of buckets of cold water. Stand the dustbin conveniently outside the back door and place all the unopened bottles and cans inside. Knot a few towels on the dustbin handles for wiping off chilled bottles and cans.
- Be sure to supply plenty of alcohol-free drinks: mineral water, soda water, lemonade, tonic, fruit juices, alcohol-free beer and low-alcohol wine. Make large chunks of ice for chilling punches: they do not melt as quickly as small cubes, so they dilute the punch more slowly. Use margarita tubs or similar containers for this.
- Make colorful ice cubes for mixed drinks and cocktails by freezing cherries and pieces of orange, lemon or lime in water in ice-cube trays.