Planning the perfect Christmas party

As we slide into the festive season (like it or not) and start thinking about our entertaining plans use our Perfect Party Planning Pointers to host the party of the year. Whether you are organising an elegant dinner party for work colleagues, hosting this years Christmas lunch or throwing a casual party at home for your closest friends you want to get it right. Before you work yourself into a frenzy thinking about the invitation, venue, theme, food and drinks, music, decorations …… grab a pen and paper, take a deep breath and start at the beginning.

Pick a date and time. Consider the effect of school holidays, public holidays, day light saving, weekend sport and other factors which will influence the ability of guests to attend and be on time. If the event will be at a venue other than your home, ensure the date you have selected is available and make the booking immediately.

Consider hiring a venue if your home is not large enough or suitable for the type of event you will be having. There are usually a number of venue listed in the yellow pages including community centres, private rooms in hotels, clubs, function centres, scout halls, etc.

Decide on the style of the event you will be having, including the theme and number of guests to ensure your timeline and budget is achievable.

Organise the invitations and ensure they are sent out well in advance to give your guests plenty of time to make arrangements and respond. Most guests appreciate a dress code on the invitation if it isn’t immediately obvious. Maintain an organised and up-to-date list of your RSVPs.

Plan the menu for the event. Consider the time of your function when planning the menu. If the event has an early start such as 6pm, you will need to ensure the food you provide will be sufficient as your guest’s dinner. Make arrangements with the caterer as soon as possible or if you will be doing the food yourself ensure you will have sufficient time to shop and prepare the food in advance. The general rule of thumb for the quantity of food to replace a meal is approximately twelve pieces per person. Enlist the help of friends if possible, and book any additional help needed for the event such as waiting staff, bar staff or cleaners.

If you are doing the catering yourself order any specialty ingredients in advance. This includes meat, baked goods, cakes, breads, etc. Shop for non-perishable items well in advance to take the pressure off last minute jobs. This provides the opportunity to locate difficult to source items. Leave plenty of time for perishable and last minute shopping to avoid stress.

Work on an average of five drinks per person when purchasing your alcohol requirements. Make purchases early to ensure you can source exactly what you need. Utilise wine club memberships as this is a great way of accessing top quality wines at competitive prices and reducing your alcohol bill. Be sure to have low alcohol beers and soft drinks for those that do not drink alcohol or are the designated driver.

Hire your glassware and food serving requirements. A general guide is to hire twice the number of guests attending for your glassware requirements. Water jugs, water glasses and serving platters may also be handy.

Have a running schedule for the event. Even if the party is very casual it is helpful to plan when you will serve food, have the cake, speeches, games, etc to enable the event to flow smoothly.

Order if necessary and purchase decorations, centrepieces and other party goods. Ensure you have sufficient spare light bulbs, batteries, tablecloths, napkins, candles, matches, power cords, eskies, etc on hand.

Organise table and chair requirements. Ensure there is adequate seating available, particularly if your guests are of an older age group. Consider how many large tables will be required for serving food and drinks.

The type of event you are holding will determine your music requirements. Young guests will appreciate loud music and if the party is large enough then hiring a DJ may be appropriate. An advantage of this is they will bring their own sound equipment and dance lighting effects. The DJ is also able to assist in the schedule of the event and can assume some of the MC roles. If your music requirements involve simple background music then loading an appropriate playlist onto an MP3 player should take the pressure off fiddling with CDs throughout the event. Sound and lighting equipment can be hired from a number of music and entertainment specialists.

Plan sufficient time to have the venue ready for your guests. If necessary hire cleaning staff to ensure the party area is clean and tidy. Arrange a location for guest coats, handbags, etc. Consider the comfort of your guests with the provision of heating or cooling requirements. Hire or borrow portable gas heaters or fans to ensure your guests are comfortable. If the venue for the event is outdoor make sure you have a wet weather plan. Perhaps reserving a marquee for last minute rain forecasts will ensure your guests stay dry and comfortable. If the party is at a non-smoking venue aim to organise a designated smoking area if you have smoking guests attending. Ensure ashtrays are available. If a smoking area is not possible then be certain to inform guests in advance.

If there will be children attending the event with their parents consider hiring entertainment to keep them occupied. DVDs, board games, a small billiard table, computer games or any other equipment that keeps the littlies happy will keep your guests happy. Children’s party bags are sure to be a hit.

Advise neighbours well in advance of the event on the details including the start and finishing times. Better still, if they are likely to be inconvenienced by the noise invite them along.

If the party is likely to have a high number of guests, particularly in the young adults age group then security will need to be considered. Registering the event with local police, and maintaining door security and if necessary a door list will improve the likelihood that your event remains free from gatecrashers.

Consider parking requirements if parking in the area is limited. If necessary provide details on the invitation of the most suitable area to park. Advise neighbours on what your parking instructions have been so their inconvenience is minimised. Ensure guest rooms are adequately stocked with handwash, toilet necessities, handtowels, etc.

Leave adequate time for yourself to get ready. It’s your party so you will want to feel your best.

Consider how your guests will get home after the event. Have the phone numbers of taxi services handy or assist in organising a car pool for groups of friends. Be responsible for your guests and ensure no-one drinks and drives.

Have a plan in place for the clean-up. If you have hired a venue for the event check what your responsibilities are for cleaning the venue after the event, and make the necessary arrangements to ensure this is achieved. Similarly if the event is to be at your home, enlist the help of professional cleaning staff if possible or friends, to get the house back in order. Have on hand all the necessary equipment such as cleaning utensils and materials, plastic bags, a vacuum cleaner, rubbish and recycling bins.

Now you’re free to let your hair down and enjoy yourself.