I hope you've been having a wonderful Holiday season. As many of you know there have been so many changes to my life lately, including switching from working 9-5 to doing contract work and owning my own time and hours, which I'm incredibly excited about! (If you want to hear more about that I made a video about it on Patreon explaining exactly what happened, and you can watch it here.)
Even with all of the crazy changes, I couldn't let my first year living in #FancyCottage go by without hosting a few fabulous Holiday parties. And let me tell you all, it has simply been a dream. Being able to have my closest friends and family over and serve them food that I prepared in a home I've created. It's been such a treat!
While I still lived at home with my parents, I learned so much from my mom about hosting events, being a great host, and making sure that your guests leave happy and full. So in today's post, I want to impart some of the wisdom she gave me which helped me to have a very successful hosting season.
I have a video on hosting from last year over on Patreon, but again, having actually hosted my first event this year, I feel like this blog post will have a whole lot of information that I simply didn't know when I made that video.
But first, let's go through a little review of my first party and how I created my menu, guest list and overall experience.
For this event, I invited 3 couples. Two I know from high school and one from college. I wanted to keep it quite small as I knew #FancyCottage isn't the largest space, and I wanted to make sure everyone had room enough to roam, chat and nibble on little bites. The theme for this evening was simple elegance, I didn't want any crazy loud music, or too many people. So when it came to the menu, I scoured Pinterest for the easiest, but fanciest looking hors d'oeuvres I could find. I settled on these:
Deviled Eggs- An amazing and delicious finger food, deviled eggs are so festive and easy to create! I implemented some of my mom's and Cain's mom's secret ingredients to a standard deviled egg recipe and they were delicious. Not a single egg was left standing by the end of the night. Plus, a little fresh dill as decor added an extra holiday touch!
Air Fryer Chicken Wings- This is hands down the best chicken wing recipe you'll ever try. Granted, it's the only way I've ever made chicken wings before, but man oh man is it delicious. I honestly don't think there's any reason to try making them any other way because they come out so perfectly every time I make them in the air fryer. It's a great finger food that people are familiar with so it's not intimidating, but still not too casual depending on how you plate and present it.
Beef Tenderloin with Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini- I know this sounds incredibly fancy and difficult but they were SO easy to make and assemble. They were also everyone's favorite bite at the party. They disappeared one by one as the night went on.
Cucumber and Cream Cheese Salmon Bites- Another crowd favorite, these cucumber bites were the perfect refreshing element to include into the mix with everything else being served warm and being quite heavy. They were light, but so delicious and incredibly easy to put together.
Earlier that day, as I was picking up dessert from my favorite local Italian restaurant, I decided to pick up a couple orders of pasta just in case there wasn't enough food for everyone and I'm incredibly glad I did because it ended up coming in handy later in the evening when people started going in for their second round of treats.
My mom also made her famous arroz con frijoles which was devoured by all.
I may not be a huge drinker, but I know that my friends enjoy a good cocktail, so I wanted to be prepared, but make something simple and festive. I settled on two signature drinks that were served in festive glasses that sat in our dining room waiting for people to arrive.
Drink #1: Rumchata
Rumchata is a delicious, milky drink that is exactly what it says it is: rum and horchata. Horchata is such a festive drink, and since I don't know how to make it myself, I figured this was the next best option. I topped each glass of Rumchata with a little cinnamon and called it a day. It was definitely the preferred drink of the night.
Drink #2: Vodka Cranberry
In my younger years, vodka cranberry was my go to drink, so I already knew how to make it. I topped each glass with a candy cane and dropped a few festive ice cubes in each drink. In hindsight two things I would do differently is I'd wait for guests to arrive before adding the ice cubes. The drinks got a little watery by the time people started arriving. And I'd add some mint to keep with the red and green Christmas theme. But other than that, the drinks still went incredibly fast. Luckily, we had wine to take over when Rumchata and Vodka Cran's jobs were done.
DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links to some of my favorite products. If you buy something through one of these links, you won't pay more, but I'll make a small commission and be able to keep making content for you! Thanks loves!
Now let's talk hosting tips and tricks.
Preparedness is Key.
When you know well in advance that you're going to have an event, you can not leave planning until the last minute. I had started figuring out my menu about a month before the actual party, and I started buying party-specific groceries the week before the event.
I had a schedule of what day I planned to start working on what appetizer so that on the day of the party, I wouldn't be too stressed. If I had waited until that day or the day before to do my grocery shopping, I would have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off the day of the event. Being prepared is the only way you can do the cooking yourself AND still look put together and dressed when you open the door for your guests.
I remember my mom always having to run upstairs to change clothes as people were arriving to our house back when my parents threw holiday parties, so I wanted to make sure that I gave myself enough time to get ready and hand my guests a drink as they entered the door.
2. Curate Your Guest List Intentionally
It's really tempting to invite everyone you know to a party because you don't want anyone to feel left out, and if you have the space, by all means, invite everyone you want! But I do think it's important to be intentional about your guest list, so as to avoid awkward moments during the evening. And to make sure your guests will be able to talk to each other at any given moment that you're not there. For example, for my event, I invited friends who all had something in common with one another. Whether it was that their husbands went to the same university, or their parents were from the same country, everyone had someone to talk to throughout the night, which made the evening so fun and comfortable.
3. Make Your Dress Code Clear
In a time where people don't often get dressed up without being explicitly asked to, make sure to tell your guests ahead of time whether the attire is casual, semi-formal, or formal. Sometimes people can feel intimidated by the idea of having to get dressed up, so I phrased it by saying, "Dress to Impress in Your Holiday Best!" This way, it's implied that I wanted my guests to dress up, but left "Holiday Best" up to interpretation.
My dress is Sachin & Babi Aletta Dress linked here.
4. Set the Stage
Creating ambiance is one of the most fun parts about hosting a party! But it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. I found my dining tablecloth on Zara Home for $100, but it's actually a great investment, because I will use it for years to come. It has a timeless, traditional Holiday feel, and I know it'll become a part of my Holiday decor permanently. I scored my silver candelabras at the flea market for $35 for the pair (after I haggled the seller down from $50... a proud moment for me). And you can get single wick candles from the dollar store!
My guests were shocked to find out that almost every piece in my home is thrifted from a vintage store because I just love antiques so much more than buying furniture at Ikea. I plated all of the appetizers on my vintage plates, serving dishes and cutting boards and it created quite a lovely scene.
Wine glasses purchased in store, similar here.
My exact gold flatware linked here
5. Choose Your Music Wisely!
For my first event, the music varied between Holiday classics, reggaeton, and Pop 40s hits. I wanted the party to really feel like a Christmas party, so Christmas music was a must for the first few hours. As the evening went on and guests became more comfortable, the music shifted to something more upbeat, that people could tap their toes to. I didn't do this, but I would advise creating a party playlist so that you don't have to constantly run back to your device to switch the song if your guests aren't feeling it. I've also heard that it's better for music to be heard and not seen, so while a Google Home or Alexa is pretty popular in most households these days, you might want to put it in a bit more of an inconspicuous spot. And allow the music to magically permeate the space.
Well loves, that's that! What a fun hosting season this has been. I'm already so excited for next year. I wish you a happy and healthy rest of your holiday season, filled with love, laughter and lots of festive cheer!
Want more fancy content? Head to YouTube to watch my latest video. Click the link to watch here!