Holiday Hacks

Holiday Table SettingWant to make your next holiday party a big hit without a big effort? Look no further! We asked local experts for their ideas on how to easily host parties that your guests won’t soon forget. Thanks to Gail Rocquemore of AD Parties & Events and Jennifer Laws of thelawsofmylife.blogspot.com for their input.

  • Have a theme and plan your party around that. Rocquemore says that hot trends in holiday parties now include “gold, silver and sparkle—think a Hollywood glam sort of look.”
  • Shop the dollar store to get low-cost serving pieces that you won’t feel bad about recycling instead of reusing. Visit unexpected places to find items, such as the hardware store. “A tile backsplash would make for an interesting table runner,” says Rocquemore, and remnants can often be bought on sale.
  • Clear some of your everyday items from the main rooms of your home to make the space seem roomier and allow space for decorations and food.
  • Hang light strands using removable adhesive hooks and hang ornaments around the room using ribbon to make your party look extra festive. “Don’t decorate the whole house, just do one area,” says Laws. “I bought an inexpensive piece of particle board at a hardware store and had it cut to size to serve as a background for a side table.” The board can be wrapped with decorative paper or draped with fabric, serving as a focal point for your party’s theme.
  • Invite guests to bring their party favorite foods. For example, ask them to bring their favorite food to dip into cheese fondue or a dozen of their favorite holiday cookies.
  • Buy ready-made items from the store but upgrade them. Pour the lemonade into a pitcher with fresh lemons, put the cookies on a cute plate, display meat and cheese on a wooden cutting board, unwrap premade sandwiches and stack them in a lined basket.
  • Plan to serve buffet-style instead of a sit-down meal to take the pressure off you and allow guests to tailor their food to their tastes. Put sauces and condiments in well-marked squeeze bottles that are easy for guests to use with one hand. “One year we did a baked potato bar. It was easy to make the potatoes in advance and then just have all the toppings in bowls,” says Laws.
  • Make food portable to make it easier for guests to mingle and move around. Use toothpicks and your imagination to make mini skewers (think chilled shrimp with a cherry tomato and a cocktail onion for a take on shrimp cocktail or a pineapple chunk with a maraschino cherry and a marshmallow for a fruit salad).
  • Serve drinks in a DIY bar area as well. Create a water bar with still and sparkling waters, fruits and herbs and ice cubes. For an adult bar, include various alcohols, a few soda varieties for the kids. “You could have a signature cocktail like a cranberry martini,” continues Laws. “Print the recipe on a card and guests can customize it to their taste.” Try a hot chocolate bar: make a big batch of hot chocolate in a slow cooker to keep it warm. Serve with toppings such as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, peppermint sticks, cookie straws and marshmallows with liqueurs and non-alcoholic flavored syrups for customizing.
  • Place stacks of napkins around the area so they’re easily located by a guest who might need one. Wrap utensils with a napkin and holiday ribbon, maybe adding in a sprig of pine tree, suggests Rocquemore.
  • Create levels on your buffet bar by using items you have around the house, such as boxes, bowls, or books. Disguise items by draping them with fabric or a plastic tablecloth.
  • Want a fast, festive look? Use brightly-colored wrapping paper. Wrap empty boxes (think cracker or cereal boxes) and place around the room. Cover doors with paper and wrap the existing frames on your walls with paper.

Set the Scene with a Holiday Playlist

  1. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
  2. “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano
  3. “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” by Elmo and Patsy
  4. “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry
  5. “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley
  6. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
  7. “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC
  8. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen
  9. “Let it Snow” by Twisted Sister
  10. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by John Mellencamp
  11. “12 Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser
  12. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Gayle Peevey

Create Fun Memories at a Photobooth

“It’s always fun to have a photo booth,” says Laws. Find a corner and make it festive by putting up a festive wrapping paper background or hanging streamers from the ceiling. Find an inexpensive piece of particle board or extra thick foam core at the hardware store that you can cover with festive paper. Select an area with good lighting and encourage your friends to post their pictures to social media. Laws recommends creating your own party hashtag—like #JonesHoliday2016—to make it easier for you to find the pictures later. Post a sign nearby with your hashtag and social media channels to encourage guests to post their fun and festive snaps.

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