With the Christmas party season just around the corner, Wandsworth-based caterer Forkful Food has the following tips for throwing a party – the stress-free way:
Get as much done in advance – use the week before the party to:
Clean and organise but if you’re pushed for time, prioritise decluttering over cleaning
Order your booze, soft drinks, glasses, ice and chiller bins and arrange for them to be delivered on the day
Rearrange furniture to make as much floor space as possible
“Walk through” the party – work out where to put guests’ coats, identify any belongings that risk getting broken or damaged and remove them, work out the best spot to set up the bar so that guests can access it easily
Make sure your loos and bathrooms are clean and sweet smelling. Stock them with loads of loo paper, soap, hand towels, feminine products etc. Scented candles are a good idea.
Music – if you’re using a wifi audio system, check that you have installed any software upgrades to ensure perfect performance on the night. If your wifi is wobbly, consider connecting directly to your router with an ethernet cable. Spend some time putting together a great playlist.
Test outdoor lights if you haven’t used them for a while – any damaged wiring or fittings can blow the electrics throughout your house which isn’t something you want to happen 30 minutes before your guests arrive! Ditto any additional load to your electrics (eg. Heaters, sound systems, lighting systems) and have a good emergency electrician’s number to hand.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of lighting at a party, but subtle lighting is as important as great food, drink, music and company. Harsh lighting is a real mood-killer and can make guests feel self-conscious and unattractive while good lighting will make your guests look and feel gorgeous, so turn off the overhead lights and aim to flatter your friends with lots of candles, lamps and fairy lights .
On the day:
Start setting up early. Set up your bar table and put glasses out; put out decorations and flower arrangements. Put new candles in candle holders and make sure you know where the matches are!
Prepare pre-mixed cocktails ahead and also slice lemons & limes for drinks
Be prepared for all the rubbish. Line bins with extra bin bags so no one has to scrabble around looking for spares, and have a clear plan for where and how to store empty bottles and other recyclables.
Give yourself enough time to get everything ready – estimate how long you think you need, then add 25% more time as it always takes longer than you think. Give yourself a deadline for set up – then go and have a relaxing bath or paint your nails before the guests arrive.
Food & Drinks & Staff:
If you’re doing the food yourself, keep it simple and plentiful. Offer 10-12 canapés per head and try to serve them within a 2-3 hour period so that your guests’ tums register that they’ve had food
Don’t try out new dishes, avoid anything that requires last minute faffing, and for every hot dish, serve at least two that are ready to serve.
Do your best to cater for special dietary needs, but be strict – focus on those with illness-inducing food allergies or religious observances over someone who doesn’t like cheese or mushrooms.
Make sure you have a suitable amount of vegetarian food – you can expect at least 10% of your guests to be non-meat eaters; it’s also good to have some gluten free options
It’s a great idea to put yummy things out for guests to pick at after the canapés have finished – a good cheeseboard or a single wheel of brie are irresistible, and bowls of sweets and chocolates are fun too.
Use our Party Booze Planner to work out how much drink to get – free to download from www.forkfulfood.com
For a drinks party, aim for one waiting staff per every 20-25 guests. Get staff to arrive up to one hour before the guests to set up the bar, chill down drinks, polish glasses, get acquainted with the food you are serving and generally get organised. Be clear on what you want the staff to do and give them a proper briefing.
Brief your staff on: Timings; what drinks you are serving; where extra bottles are stored; what to do with rubbish & recycling; where to put guests’ coats; what to do with any gifts that are brought for you; what food you are serving and give reheating instructions.
Teenagers! It can be a great idea to pay reliable teenagers to staff your party, but set clear rules and make sure they know what you expect of them. Impress upon them that they are there to work and pay them appropriately. Ideally use kids who are outside the party and won’t be slowed up by guests who want a chat, and finally… Absolutely no drinking on the job!