Tips and "safeguards" for an enjoyable get-together:
Start making your list and checking it twice. Actually, you probably need lots of lists: guest list, menu list, grocery list, phone list to place orders, etc. Set your menu and don't deviate from that; changing it creates twice as much work.
If you are using a caterer, schedule early. This is the busiest time of the year for caterers and you may need to be flexible with your date. Give them your budget and your ideas for your party. Caterers want to create the kind of event you want. Ask for a written proposal with details outlined including time, place, number of guests, kind of event and the food and beverage you would like served. This will insure your receiving an accurate proposal. Be sure to compare apples to apples. Not all caterers are created equal. And, call the day before your party, just to check in and verify the final details.
If you are catering your own party, here are some tips on what to do…
Homemade is always so much better than the grocery store frozen or take out items
so take the time to prepare some specialty items that are your favorites and repeat
these year after year. They will become your signature that your guests will always
Always have a few things on hand for quick hors d'oeuvres when unexpected guests
drop in -- e.g., cheese, frozen pita bread, crackers and cream cheese that can be
quickly created into a multitude of hors d’oeuvres.
Be vigilant about food safety. Don't leave meats or other perishable foods out all
day; two hours is the maximum out of refrigeration rule. Use smaller trays and
don’t over crowd the food on the trays. This will then give you the opportunity to
rotate with fresh food more frequently. Keep items on ice that are highly perishable
such as seafood.
Pull your serving trays, bowls, pitchers, etc., and decide what each will be used for.
Mark them as such with sticky notes so that you're not running around at the last
minute looking for serving dishes.
Be a gracious host but do monitor the alcohol consumption of your guests and make
sure they don't drive if they have over indulged. We recommend bar service be
curtailed one hour before the party ends, Send guests home on a cold night with a
“to go” cup of hot nonalcoholic beverage.
Another sobering option: Serve an alcohol free espresso martini or a warm as the evening's finale. Dip the rims of martini glasses in raw sugar and fill the glasses with iced coffee. Famous Espresso Martinis" usually include vodka and creme de cocoa in the iced coffee. This can also be served hot and you certainly can eliminate the alcohol.
Board pets -- or at least isolate them. Some people would say that about children,
too. You don't want any distractions and you want to enjoy your own party.