It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you’re worried about squeezing 25 people into your 500 square foot apartment and then having to feed and entertain them. Pace’s Special Events department, responsible for University events that include everything from intimate presidential lunches to large-scale events like Commencement, are here to make that winter party a winner.
Preparation Is Key
Before you get down to grocery and decoration shopping, University Director of Special Events Allison Sokaris has three key words for you: “Envision your event.”
“Each event has a unique personality and should be treated that way,” Sokaris says. “But before you can embark on the party, you need to ask yourself if you can afford it.” Plus, Sokaris emphasizes, you want to be able to enjoy the event you’ve planned so carefully—so doing everything in advance is critical.
To Theme or Not to Theme?
While some love the idea of a themed party, others worry it’s too reminiscent of bridal showers and Tupperware parties. But since what’s really important is what you like, here are some tips for those who are theme inclined.
A cookie exchange party is a perennial favorite, and easy as (whoopie) pie. Mail out invitations (along with a blank recipe card) asking guests to bake a batch of their favorite cookies and bring the recipe to share. Then sit back and get ready to enjoy the fruits of their labor—though you’ll probably want to provide a few nibbles of your own.
Just moved into a new place? A tree-trimming party will give you great insight into decorating the tree and some new ornaments and memories that accompany them.
Other themes can include a “winter wonderland”—deck your halls in whites, greys, and blues and ask guests to dress for northern exposure; a white elephant gift exchange/Yankee Swap/Parcel Pass grab bag game; a potluck; or even an ugly holiday sweater party.
The People Make the Party
“What will bring it all together is the people you invite,” Sokaris says. “It’s a big component of a special evening.” So develop a guest list, then send out invites. What you send is up to your budget and your preference (Evite, Paperless Post, or regular mail) but invitations are a crucial step. Try to give at least three weeks notice and make sure to plan in the event of a winter storm with an alternate date.
Food for Thought
The menu is a very personal thing, Sokaris says. So instead of telling you what to make, she offers a few suggestions: People worry about packing on the pounds over the holidays, so keeping it on the healthy side (or some healthy options) makes for less severe New Year’s resolutions; try to factor in people’s dietary restrictions; and a one-pot-meal like lasagna keeps you with your guests and out of the kitchen. Additionally set up a table with soft drinks, bottles of wine, and one prepared signature drink (like a candy cane martini or spiked cider) to keep things simple.
Design with Details
One aspect that Sokaris stresses is flowers, and she wants you to know that you don’t have to pay $100 at a florist for a couple of nice arrangements. “People think you need to spend a lot of money on flowers, but you don’t,” she said. “And flowers really make a party pop.”
Sokaris adds that you can go to your grocery store or local bodega and get tulips for $5 or red and white roses for less than $20. You can even pick up some holly and pine branches for that special holiday smell. If you’re lucky enough to have a tree in your backyard, you won’t even need to spend the money.
Small details will stick in the minds of your guests: fill martini glasses with nuts; float tea lights in red and green water with some food coloring; if you’ve got a nonworking fireplace, add pillar candles to create a statement.
Know Your Home
Before your guests arrive, make sure you have a plan. Find a good place for food so people don’t bump into things and keep the coasters handy!
Tight on space? Fret not. Sokaris recalls an event, where the hosts put their large and fragile items into the bathtub to create space and keep things safe. Moving furniture to the side or against the wall can also help create the illusion of space.
Put down the snowflake plates and step away from the paper aisle. The EPA estimates that Americans generate about 25 percent more trash than usual during the holidays. So why not rent? Renting supplies is green and economical, and it can make your job easier, as many companies offer delivery and pickup and only require a quick plate rinse!
A Special Thank You