The Easy Holiday Party

20837992_SHoliday parties may be fun to attend, but do you find the idea of throwing one a challenge? Here are a few simple approaches to make your holiday party easy and fun for everyone, including you.

Go small: Don’t feel obligated to invite everyone you know. Select four to six of your favorite people and invite them for dinner. No need to decorate beyond what you normally do, and you can even order take-out for the meal. Remember, the goal is to get together and have fun.

Use a restaurant: Invite people to your favorite neighborhood restaurant, letting them know that appetizers and the first couple of drinks are on you. If you want, arrange a private room or reserve a preferred table. Choose a weekday so your group can stay as long as they like.

Semi-cater: Warehouse club stores and many grocery stores offer frozen appetizers and pre-prepared or customized party trays. Make your selection, balancing sweet and savory, indulgent and healthful, so there is something for everyone’s taste.

Ask friends to help: See if a couple of your close friends will come early to help you prep and set everything up for the party. They can also watch for empty cookie trays or veggie dips that need a refill. This gives you some time to enjoy your guests as well as managing the party itself.

Choose a theme: Focus the food on a couple of things such as wine and cheese or holiday cookies. Plan a project such as decorating the tree or going caroling. Build a gathering around a favorite holiday movie or television special and provide food that fits the movie’s approach. Keep it simple and it will be fun.

Above all, remember that the holidays are about coming together to enjoy each other’s company. Don’t worry about “getting it right.” Instead, plan a party that you will enjoy, and chances are your friends will enjoy it too.

Planning a Special Party for your Friends

11791624_MLAnyone who throws a party wants it to be special and memorable. In those few minutes before the guests arrive, most people worry about a party’s potential for success. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure that everyone, including the host and/or hostess, has a good time.

Mix it up: Don’t hesitate to invite a mix of different people to your party. Friends from work, neighbors, single, married, young and old can all find enough in common to enjoy each other during a party. Inviting a variety of people helps create interesting conversations and keep your party lively.

Plan for groupings: Use small tables, appetizers, chairs and lighting to create different spaces for people to congregate. Some may feel comfortable chatting with one or two people while others gather in a group of six to eight or more. If your seating arrangements are versatile, people will develop their own conversational groups.

Watch for wallflowers: If someone is feeling shy, it’s up to you to bring them into the group. Start with a one-on-one conversation then introduce them to someone else who is friendly and approachable.

Time the appetizers: If everything is out at the start of the party, some things will run out quickly while others may get inappropriately cold or hot. On the other hand, if you find yourself spending the entire party in the kitchen with last-minute food prep, you won’t be able to enjoy your own party. Plan and prep all the appetizers before the guests arrive, but pace the food so that it comes out fresh throughout the party. If there is a special event such as a birthday, plan the cake and singing for the middle of the evening when the most people will be there.

Let people help: Some people would rather hang in the kitchen fixing drinks or food rather than mingle with the others. Plan some simple jobs for people who want to pitch in.

Remember that everyone comes to a party planning to have a good time. Your job is to set the stage and let your guests relax and enjoy themselves. And make sure you have fun too!

Planning a Special Party for your Tween

18898512_MIt can be difficult planning parties for children who are too old for children’s games – or think they are – but are still too young to attend or host a typical teen party. Try these suggestions:

Separate boys and girls: During the pre-teen years, maturity level and interests are noticeably different between the sexes. With some exceptions, most children will prefer to socialize with those of their own sex at this age. If you want a coed party, choose a structured activity such as bowling or Laser tag to allow them to interact with less awkwardness.

Involve your child in the planning: Children at this age are starting to be aware of what activities, music or other party elements their friends will think are “cool” or “lame.” By planning the party in the company with your child and possibly a friend or two, you can avoid embarrassing your child more than you’re starting to do just by existing.

3239601_SPlan a single strong activity to make the party special: For girls, you could hire a photographer and provide dress up clothes such as boas, hats and jewelry for “glamour” shots. Boys and girls would appreciate a chance to practice skills at favorite sports with a local coach who knows how to work well with tweens. Or you could schedule a contest using a WII or some similar game console with prizes for good performance at the various games.

Keep snacks simple: Food takes second place to doing things, but the guests will get hungry. Pizza, hot dogs, and a combination of easy snacks such as nuts or chips will work well. Be sure to include one or two more healthful options as a good example at least.

This is a great age for socializing. They’re starting to want to act like adults but they will still relax and have fun if you find things that engage them. Create the right party environment, and they will have a great time!