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The PSR Guide to Hosting a Kick-Ass Holiday Party at Home

‘Tis the season for awesome holiday parties, which year after year prove to be quite the gauntlet. This also means it’s your opportunity to finally throw your hat in the race with a festive get-together that will leave all others in the dust… or snow since, ugh, that’s a thing this time of year too. To that end, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about the whole process and not sure where to even start, fret not. Help is on the way.

Here’s our guide to hosting a kick-ass holiday party at, where else… your home!

Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 9.35.35 AMSit-down dinner or cocktail party?

So what’s it going to be? Something formal or more casual? If you go the way of the former with a classy sit-down dinner, we think buffets are an intelligent choice. Low stress for you as the host, dishes get out quickly, the food stays warm, and your guests can help themselves. Or if you decide to do the latter and hold a swanky cocktail soirée instead, just be sure to prepare the hors d’oeuvres and stock the pantry with booze well in advance. It’ll save you the inevitable headache of running around to do everything on the day of your big shindig.

Themes are always fun

Secret Santa? Christmas carol karaoke? Tacky holiday sweaters? Après ski? ‘Chrismukkah’? Themes definitely aren’t mandatory, but a good one can spark a lot of interest right off the bat.

The guest list!

Your list of invites is crucial. Not just in regards to the engaging blend of people you ultimately plan to bring together, but in guest lsitgetting the word out in time. Calendars fill up pretty quickly around the Yuletide season, so we suggest reaching out three to four weeks ahead of time, if not sooner. Email is always effective, but who doesn’t love receiving a physical invite via post? As for who your guest list includes, that’s your call. You know your network better than we do. If you want an early night, definitely invite your friends with young kids. That will get them out the door by 10PM. Or if you desire something a bit more raucous, call on the drinkers. They’re never hard to find if an open bar is on the agenda. As for us, we advise a happy medium between the two.

What’s on the menu?

Once you know what kind of jam you’re throwing and who is coming, naturally the next step is figuring out what you’ll be serving. And while the drinks (we’ll get to those next) will be what give your guests the liquid courage to loosen up and mingle, the food is what they’ll be talking about the next day—assuming they are able to remember anything at all! If you find yourself stuck for inspiration, we love these holiday recipes from the Food Network. Or go ahead and hire a professional to do it, zero shame in that. There’s absolutely no shortage of amazing options in this city who will construct an accordingly festive menu, from traditional catering groups like Daniel et Daniel, à la Carte Kitchen, and Elle Cuisine, to hip restaurateurs-turned-caterers like Food Dudes and P&L.

Via @barcheftoronto Instagram.
Via @barcheftoronto Instagram.

Libations, libations libations

The alcoholic beverages may not be why your guests come—at least let’s hope not—but more often than not, it’s why they stay. Whether you like it or not! So be inventive. We love the idea of setting up an easy-to-make cocktail bar with recipes, appropriate glassware, infused spirits, lots of ice, and pre-cut garnishes. The smart thinking here is that not only can your guests freshen up their own drinks, but you won’t have to be the one running back and forth fixing them yourself. Bringing in a mixologist is always fun too. Bartendo hires out some of the best in Toronto. Or maybe splurge a bit and snag some talent from the renowned BarChef. They’ll create customized cocktails (any spirit, any flavour) to match the holiday theme. Will certainly will get your friends talking, that’s for sure!

Who doesn’t love decorations?Modern-Christmas-Decorated-Living-Rooms-12-1-Kindesign

Remember, as much as a holiday party is about bringing your friends together, it’s also in many respects about showing off your home. To what extent? We’ll let you be the judge of that. You can always think small. Consider low arrangements of blooms and small accents, such as gilded nuts, to fill empty spots. Or if it’s a ‘go big or go home’ approach you’d rather take, the options are limitless. Sure, a big inflatable Santa Claus isn’t the most understated decorating choice, but it’s going to draw attention. We think you should focus on fresh greens, colourful stems, and cheery, atmospheric lighting however.

Making a list (and checking it twice—because we couldn’t resist the pun)

No, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but itemizing a schedule of what needs to be done and when is crucial. If you’re cooking the food, what time does it need to go in the oven and for how long? If caterers are coming, how many hours in advance do they need to arrive there? When are the guests expected? How much time do you need to give yourself to get ready? Trust us, this list is your best bet for averting any last minute emergencies.

Have yourself some fun!

What’s that they say about ‘all work and no play’? Enjoy yourself! The hard part is over… well, until tomorrow morning’s clean up. But for now, it’s time to party. And if you’ve followed this guide, chances are it’s going to be one hell of a bash!

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Title image via Canadian Living.