How do you thank all those lovely people that have had you over for drinks, looked after the cat, picked the kids up from school, had you over for supper five times without a return visit?
An impromptu glittering party for Christmas or New Year of course.
Here are our Top 20 Tips (that won’t have your bank manager wailing) from owners of award-winning party and events companies in the Cotswolds including:
- Kelly Bailey at LoveBites – amazing canapés
- Julia Sibun Event Management– party planner extraordinare
- Dany Fremantle at Oasis events – incredible venue dressers
- Danielle Brown from successful Cotswold Children’s party company
So let’s see how it’s done….buckle up peeps.
1. Even though you’re being ‘spontaneous’ do email or post/hand deliver cards asking for an RSVP date if you can – if it’s a busy time of year like Christmas it could be the difference between you buying two bottles of prosecco or 20 for guests. Also make sure you cap numbers as bustling parties are fantastic but people crowdsurfing over the sofa or penned in the hall like sheep….not so much.
2. If you can clear one or two rooms of furniture that will help with flow. ‘If you are worried about available space, fear not because small frame marquees can easily be attached to rooms and with a little bit of additional lighting and decoration they are an extremely quick and easy way to extend the house for the weekend’ says Julia.
3. Get a truly festive feel without too much effort. ‘Quick ways to create a party atmosphere are to ensure plenty of spice scented candles in tea-lights and hurricane lamps in clusters on tables and window sills’ advises Julia. ‘Bring some of the woodland indoors with natural branches and then hang sparkling icicles for a gorgeous frosty look. Don’t forget pine cones or spruce either as this will give you a festive perfume around the house.’
4. Winter should be an easier time to transform a space says Dany from Oasis ‘For a night time event you can do a lot with lighting, especially at this time of year when firelight and candles come into their own. Needless to say we always advise that with a little but more if you can stretch the budget, massive savings can be made using an existing space: barns, warehouses even sports halls…’
5. Advice on how to look festive without being mistaken for Santa’s grotto from Dany is that it’s the fundamental things that count for entertaining at Christmas; provide the atmosphere by cranking the heating up or even better lighting a fire, having good music, candle light and plenty of greenery to evoke Christmas comforts without crazy spending.
For dressing, Oasis events is keen on strong ideas in single colours, leaning towards the contemporary but in traditional fabrics and natural materials. Examples might include natural hessian for table linen, wooden candle holders or tree decorations, or a colour theme such a gold on greenery for simple elegance.
6. Julia believes in using as much space as possible: ‘If it is a dry evening you may like your guests to spill out on to the terrace – so have at the ready a roaring brazier or two, or even one of the authentic flame bowls keeping the home fires burning.’
7. A good play list is essential’, says Kelly at LoveBites ‘it’s a great idea to download a party playlist beforehand that is lively and upbeat, Spotify is amazing for this!
8. If you fancy some live music, Julia recommends asking student musicians who are an excellent source for quality and affordable entertainment.
9. ‘Most importantly don’t panic’ says Kelly. ‘People come to have fun and enjoy themselves, as long as they have a drink in their hands they are happy so make sure you have plenty of alcohol and get the bubbles and white wines lovely and cold. Allocate a drink topper upper!’
10. ‘Nearly all wine merchants sell their wines, drinks and champagne on a sale and return basis so there will not be a problem of over ordering, no-one wants to run out of booze on the night of their party’ says Julia.
11.’If it’s particularly chilly serve mulled wine or cider as soon as they arrive as it looks, tastes and smells fantastic. follow up with serving festive champagne or prosecco which is Christmassy and offers so many mixing opportunities. How about an Elderflower Bellini, using a drop of St Germain Elderflower liqueur or a peach bellini with peach juice.’ says Julia.
She also recommends, for those feeling fancy, trying a couple of signature cocktails such as Negroni (utterly delicious but not for the faint-hearted) or a seasonal Spiced Cosmopolitan.
12. Make sure you’re prepared for all those nominated driver, tee-total, pregnant or already hungover types who won’t be drinking… Julia suggests non-alcoholic cocktails such as Virgin Moscow Mule, Ginger Pineapple Sparkling Punch or a delicious simple elderflower and pomegranate presse decorated with pomegranate seeds.
13. ‘You don’t need to feed your guests a huge supper, just something light and elegant is easy and attractive.’ says Kelly. ’A cheesy biscuit with some tasty toppings is always a good base and you can bake and make these in advance without them going soggy. This will leave more time for you to enjoy the party and have some fun.
LoveBites’ Parmesan biscuit, pumpkin seed pesto and cucumber twist.
Makes 30 biscuits
65g good quality Parmesan grated
This is really easy, just pop all the ingredients into a mixer until it forms a dough. Take out and place on a big sheet of cling film, roll into a long sausage and wrap tightly. Refrigerate.
For the pesto
200g pumpkin seeds
2 garlic cloves
200g rapeseed oil
A big handful fresh basil
A good pinch of salt
Put all the ingredients into a blender except the basil, blitz then add the basil until you have a rough consistency. Pre heat the oven at 180c. Bring the biscuit dough out of the fridge, remove cling film and slice into thin biscuits, pop on a tray and bake until golden. Once the biscuits have cooled, dollop on some lovely pesto and make a cucumber swirl using a potato peeler.
LoveBites decorate theirs with fresh edible flowers but also say they look and taste great just as they are!
14. ‘Get as much prep done as possible beforehand and get the nibbles set out on trays, don’t overload them, they look better and your guests will feel there is a constant flow of food’. says Julia.
15. Making your food look attractive is important as people eat with their eyes, there are lovely garnishes available at this time of year, sprigs of fresh herbs, pomegranate and frosted fruit are ideal, a little sprinkle of edible glitter will add a definite wow.
Keeping the kids entertained
We asked Danielle, of The Cotswold Children’s party company for some tips for keeping the little people happy so that the grown ups can relax:
16. If kids are invited definitely pre-plan some activities as you will thank yourself for it later. An idea that works well to entertain the children as well as expel some energy is a treasure hunt. Hide treats around the garden (or house if it’s raining) for them to search out. Be sure to make some of them quite tricky to find, you want to keep them hunting as long as possible.
17.Depending on how you feel about potential mess you can find some very reasonable seasonal activities in the shops or make your own at home. Decorating gingerbread people goes down well. If things start to get a bit out of control then don’t be scared to pop on a Christmas film in another room for the younger guests, parents won’t mind and it makes for a happy house all around.
18. The great thing about a Christmas or New Year’s party is that it can be very easy to entertain without breaking the bank. Traditional party games are classics for a reason and generation after generation they will always entertain. Adapt the party games to reference winter for example, Pin the Carrot on the Snowman, Musical Ice Statues or Santa’s Footsteps.
Time to leave
19. ‘If you have it to hand make sure you have your local taxi company number which should be offered to guests who do not wish to drive home’ says Julia.
20. ‘If you have a set time for your party to end it’s recommended to add in some sweet canapés towards the end, this a subtle hint that the party is drawing to a close’ says Kelly.
If it’s all going too well and you are all having too much fun, keep some backup nibbles in the pantry, posh nuts are always great and the protein is filling and will give them some energy for dancing in the streets later…
For more great ideas or to get in touch take a look at the websites of these talented party people: