Make a Holiday Splash. Throw a Party!

Giving a large holiday party requires organization and a sense of fun.

By FamilyTime


If you are considering throwing a big party, the holidays are the perfect time to do so. Everyone is in a festive mood, the stores are filled with goodies, and your house will be decked out in its best finery.

At FamilyTime, we consider a large party one with 50 or more guests. For this kind of party, you are able to invite people you don't see often enough, those you would like to know better, and those you "owe" for past invitations.

The most logical kind of party for this many people is a traditional cocktail party. If this sounds like a throw-back to the 1950s, don't worry. You don't have to serve "cocktails" but the template for this sort of party is a good one to follow.

Guests and Invitations
Write your guest list as soon as you can. Make the list one day and then go back over it another. Once you start thinking of people, you will likely come up with others you want to invite.

Keep the number manageable. You may find more than 100 names on your list! Pare it down to a number that can comfortably fit in your house.

Send invitations rather than calling people. Make sure they get out about three weeks before the party - earlier is better since the holidays are busy. If your friends are computer savvy, send invitations via e-mail - but make them pretty and special if you can.

Be sure to include directions to your home on the invitations and indicate the kind of party. Include the time the party starts and don't forget to add your telephone number. If parking is tight, let your guests know where to leave their cars.

Indicate if you want "regrets only" or a response to the invitation whether they are coming or not. (And if you are a guest, be sure to respond to invitations. Nothing is more thoughtless than leaving your host in doubt about how much food to prepare.)

Preparing the House
At large parties, most guests stand as they talk, drink, and eat. Arrange your furniture to encourage easy flow.

Unless you live in a very spacious house, push furniture against the wall, roll up small rugs to prevent tripping, and, if you move the dining table, tie the chandelier up to prevent guests from bumping their heads.

Designate a bedroom for coats. If you have room, you might consider renting a coat rack.

Put guest towels and soap in the bathrooms. Leave extra rolls of toilet paper in discreet but plain sight.

Be sure the driveway, path, and steps are shoveled if there's snow.

Replace any burned out exterior and porch lights.

Party Supplies
Have fun choosing pretty napkins and, if appropriate, paper plates. If you don't have enough glasses, rent them or buy quality plastic ones. Buy enough napkins to average three per guest. Have enough glasses for two per guest.

Stock up on extra garbage bags and paper towels. Clean out the refrigerator so you will room for the party food.

If you plan to serve mixed drinks, figure on 50 pounds of ice for 50 to 60 people. Store it outdoors until you need it.

You will be able to pour 15 to 18 drinks from a fifth of liquor. A bottle of wine will pour six or seven glasses. A generous host plans for three drinks per guest in a two or three hour period.

If you want to serve punch, keep it manageable and fizzy by making it in gallon batches as you need them. Keep the ingredients for the punch cold and ready.

Party Food
For 50 people, figure on serving five or six appetizers if the party will last only two or three hours. Each recipe should yield 50 to 80 pieces or canapés. If you're making dips or spreads, make at least three cups.

Consider hiring a local teenager, college student, or waiter to replenish hors d'oeuvre trays, ice buckets, and punch bowls and to help with clean up. Don't forget to tip for a job well done!

If you want your guests to linger, serve a spiral-cut ham or roast turkey, small rolls, mustard, and mayonnaise. They will make sandwiches and stay well into the evening to help you celebrate the holidays.

And don't forget some holiday cookies and an urn of coffee to end the party.