I recently set myself a very important Life Goal. I don't remember exactly where or when it happened (there may have been wine involved), but I turned to the friend I was with and announced "I've decided what I want my legacy to be. When I die, people are going to say that I threw great parties."
Not to toot my own horn, but I've made a pretty good start, having thrown myself increasingly-epic birthdays in London bars for the past few years, and hosting friends for dinners, lunches and even the odd breakfast party when the mood strikes. But I've yet to tackle that most difficult of gatherings: the daytime drop-in, which doesn't rely on your friends getting completely wasted or the promise of a three-course meal for its success.
But, with the urge to entertain and the absence of a free Saturday night between now and 2015, I was recently forced to set my annual holiday cocktail party on a Sunday afternoon this year. I figure that partying on a school night (that term still works in your 30s, right?) will keep the revellers under control somewhat, and that by having it start mid-afternoon, I'll be relaxing on the sofa in my tidy, empty flat in time for Homeland. Right?
I've sent out the Facebook invite, mocked up the canapé menu, and had an informal brainstorming session with the flatmate about décor (I believe she uttered the term "fake snow" at least once, so I know she's on board with my death-by-Christmas plan). I've also canvassed friends, the internet and our own Apartment Therapy archives for the best applicable party-planning advice. Here are a few tips I'm keeping in mind this season.
While some of the best gatherings are spontaneous in nature, it never hurts to plan early, especially at this time of year. From bulk-buying booze to save money to cooking-and-freezing food ahead of time to save time, a day of prep here and there will make the lead-up to your party much more manageable. Consider your playlist, decor, lighting and coat storage ahead of time, in addition to the obvious food-drink-guests triad.
Have a (loose) theme.
Maybe not strictly necessary, but come on— everybody loves a theme! You might decide to play mainly 90s music or serve only Mexican-themed drinks; a theme doesn't have to be prescriptive, and can add to the fun.
Because my party's on a Sunday, I decided to give it a "holiday brunch" vibe; from scones and strata on the menu to an apropos "sweatpants and sequins" suggested dress code, it'll artfully combine (or at least that's the hope) two of my favourite things: lazy Sundays and partying with friends.
Do a signature drink.
People will bring wine to your party, that's a given. Have some beer in the fridge for those who don't like wine. Sparkling water and sodas for kids and those who don't want to drink alcohol, of course. But the real draw to the drink station should be unique to your party: something festive and fun, that you can make in a pitcher or a punch bowl so you don't have to be playing bartender all night.
It's all in the details.
It's the little things that make people smile, and that they'll remember when the hangover wears off. Decorate one wall with a "photo booth" backdrop for festive selfies, hang some mistletoe over the mirror in the bathroom, place strategic bowls of chips or plates of cookies around your home. Lighting is a big one for me: the more candles strewn about, the better.
Remember, it's just a party.
The whole point of a party is to spend time with your guests in the spirit of celebration. If one of the dishes is burnt or if the prosecco runs out early, no one will care. Chances are, no one will notice. Pour yourself a drink, put on your favorite track and go chat up a friend. You deserve it!
So, what are your best party tips?
(Photo: A Thanksgiving Dinner Outdoors: The Feast! on The Kitchn)