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The Newsroom: Articles

Hassle Free Holiday Parties

Party Professionals Dish Out Ways To Host Holiday Parties With Ease
by Susan Lorimor

November 1999
South Lake County Post-Tribune

'Tis the time for Holiday parties and whether you're a first-time host or a seasoned veteran, it's best to plan, plan ahead - if you don't want to be frazzled on the big day.

That means allowing yourself time to get everything done, and if you can afford it, enlisting the help of a party planner.

"You should have as good a time as the guests," said Denna Fyock of Affairs to Remember at Aberdeen Manor, a wedding and events hall in Valpariso.

Rick Sturgeon, who operates Party Pleasers, a party planning service, with his wife, said No. 1 mistake hosts and hostesses make, is not allowing themselves enough time to prepare for the party.

Wendy Moyle of Shindigz, an online party superstore, says she gets daily e-mails requesting her help in party planning - some of them from stressed-out people. Some of the questions are specific, and some general. One asked Moyle's help in planning a first-time host's Thanksgiving dinner party.

"Myself and a team respond to the questions everyday," Moyle said.

Moyle, who said she worked for 10 years as a party cataloguer before creating the Web site, believes a theme is necessary for any party - especially for first-time hosts.

"It gives you a plan," Moyle said. "A lot of times, first-timers don't know where to go."

When Moyle aids someone planning a party, she first asks them what their budget is, then helps them set a theme and choose decorations, which are available from her company.

You could choose an elegant theme with glitter or opt for snowflakes or Santa and his elves, Moyle said.

Sturgeon added that first you need to determine if the party will be a small gathering in a home, or a get-together in a restaurant.

"You need to physically look at the location if you haven't seen it," Sturgeon said.

Also, hosts and hostesses need to set a time for the party and determine how many guests to invite and how much time is needed to set up, Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon said how detailed a party is simply depends on how much of an effort you want to put forth.

"Every party is different because everyone has a different style," Sturgeon said.

Fyock said you should also remember the social aspect of the evening is of utmost importance, "although people will be impressed with the details."

The necessities for a formal party, such as china, wine glasses, chafing dishes and linens, can be rented from Crown Party Rentals in Crown Point and other party rental stores in the area.

But Moyle said you can get by with "bright colored paperware" if the party's just for 'friends from the neighborhood."

"If you have china, use it, because it's a celebration," Moyle said. "If you don't have it, you can use a colorful table ensemble."

If it's a cocktail party you're planning, and it will be held over the dinner hour, allow "10 to 14 bites per person," of appetizers, Fyock said.

"After dinner, you can go with 6 to 10 bites," she said.

But the party can be simple, and depending on your budget, you can get by on a couple bottles of wine and cheese and crackers.

"You can do it probably for about $50 to $60 with snacks and hors d'oeuvres or for thousands if you want a chef," Sturgeon said.

You also need to determine what drinks will be served. You could go with wassail, punch, a full bar or mimosa, Fyock said.

"It depends on your budget," Fyock said. "It's like a wedding - your only obligation is to give guests food and drink. There's no obligation to have a full bar."

Sturgeon said you should have a back-up plan should things go wrong at the party, and Fyock added that "if you're having a party for more than a few people, you need a behind-the-scenes person" who can do things such as pick up the dirty plates.

"You can hire someone or use a good friend," Fyock said. "It's well worth it to spend the extra money."

If you hire someone to straighten things up and collect dirty plates, "$8 to $10 an hour is adequate," Fyock said. If the help is expected to perform heavier duties, a little more money is expected.

"When you think about it, (hiring someone) for three to four hours is not much," Fyock said.

If you don't bring in a catering service or a chef, Sturgeon suggests you "order out and throw it in pots to make it look like you did it."

But if you wish to prepare your own food, Fyock said it's good to make things ahead of time.

"Cheese balls can be done way in advance, wrapped and refrigerated," she said. "There are lot of frozen hors d'oeuvres you can buy."

But long before the cheese balls are made and the linens rented, party invitations and RSVP cards should have been sent out. For a Christmas party, that should have happened in early November, Fyock said.

For a formal get-together, an RSVP card should be included in the invitation, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

A more casual gathering may simply have a "call if you're coming" note on the invitation, Fyock said.

Regardless, "there are always the people who say they'll come and don't" Fyock said.

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