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1.) Do overprepare.
What’s the harm in buying a bit more food and a few extra bottles of wine simply for peace of mind? The last thing you want to do at your own party is excuse yourself for 10 minutes while you run to the store for more crackers or beer. Buy a little extra and rest assured that you’ll have enough supplies to keep the party going all night. Plus, I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who minds having a little bit of leftover wine to enjoy the next day!
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2.) Don’t forget to keep your guests hydrated.
A few years ago I threw a party, and about 2 hours in I realized that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- was drunk. The wheels started to come off real fast, and there was only one reason why: I forgot to set out water! It was a rookie mistake, but one that is easy to make. When setting up for a party, it's easy to get distracted by the cheese board, the bar, the cocktail napkins.... But don't forget to have non-alcoholic beverages readily available so you and your guests can pace yourselves!
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3.) Do keep the host in the loop on dietary restrictions.
You get invited to a party, and you want to be a gracious guest, but are worried that there won’t be something there for you to eat. The RSVP is the right place to speak up about this. If you have an allergy or a dietary restriction, let your host know ahead of time! Send an email and polietly mention your allergy, or intolerance, or preference. Then, offer to bring a dish to accomodate your needs. Chances are, the host will make sure you are comfortable and well taken care of, but at least there’s no surprises for your host and you don’t go home hungry!
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4.) Do show up 15 minutes late.
A few years ago I had a couple friends show up to my holiday party 30 minutes early. I still had curlers in my hair! I had to politely welcome my guests in, pour them a glass of champage then excuse myself to furiously primp. Their early arrival set me back big time in my party prep, and I’m almost positive I went through the rest of the party with mascara on only 1 eye. I think even Emily Post would agree that if there is ever a time to be a little late, it’s to a party at someone’s home. That extra 15 minutes gives them a wee bit of time to apply finishing touches to their food, and ensures that your host or hostess will be fluster-free the rest of the night!
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5.) Don’t overdo it.
When you’re hosting a party, it’s completely reasonable that you want to impress your guests, but don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s important to do what’s in your capabilities. If you don’t typically bake, then it’s unreasonable to assume that you’re going to be able to whip up a cake for 30 guests. It’s ok to buy dessert, or have your food catered if you don’t want to cook. It’s important to understand your culinary limits -- no one expects you to be Martha Stewart, so stick with your strengths and play them up!
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6.) Don’t forget the gift.
It’s never okay to show up to a party empty-handed. Your gift doesn’t have to be extraordinary, but it’s good to show up with something as a thank you to your host or hostess. Flowers or wine are always a safe choice, and they don’t have to be elaborate or pricey, just a simple way to express your gratitude to your friend or coworker for putting in the work to celebrate the season. If you forget to show up with a gift, then make sure you send a thank-you note after the party...and no, an email doesn’t count!
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7.) Do add an extra touch.
So we’ve already established that you aren’t Martha Stewart, and your guests don’t expect place cards at the dinner table made out of gingerbread or anything crazy like that. But DO budget the time to add some extra touches. Holiday decorations, flowers, and festive cocktail napkins make all the difference. My favorite way to add a little festive flare before guests come over is filling flower vases with unexpected items, like colorful ornaments. Last year, in an effort to save a few bucks, I filled my flower vases with cranberries. It added a nice pop of color to my table display and was far less expensive than going to a florist. No matter how casual the party you’re throwing, take a few extra moments to spruce up the table or bar. It will make a huge impact and put your guests in the holiday spirit. Happy holidays!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tess is a restaurant professional, home-baker and downtown Dayton dweller. When she's not mixing drinks for restaurant patrons, she's drinking champagne, buying shoes, or writing her blog, Ciao Vella. You can read about her home recipes, party planning tips, and more at www.CiaoVellaBlog.com.