Welcome to Uncle Mat’s How to Entertain and Be a Holiday Winner Series, part two. Today we are discussing how to throw a holiday party on a budget. It’s a little late for a Christmas do (unless your friends are also procrastinators with few family obligations, in which case, get busy) but there is still New Year’s Eve, and Arbor Day is just around the corner. This is not a party-planning bible, but rather a novice’s guide to avoiding pitfalls.
Pool your resources: Co-host your celebration with a few friends. This can be a collaboration of all the guests, like having a big potluck, or just teaming up with a few friends to split the hosting duties and expenses. There are always too many holiday parties to attend, so hosting as a team cuts down on the calendar gridlock as well as taking everyone’s dollar a bit further. You can take New Year’s, Betty has Canada Day, and I’ll host next Christmas at my pad. It’s best to split up the duties in advance so there aren’t any fights or confusion, resulting in a buffet of only vodka and tortilla chips (I threw this party when I was 19 and have attended it at least three times in my life.)
Did you stock a bar? `See “How to ...,” part one, December 9.` Great! If not, I can’t think of the last time I went to a holiday party without a bottle of something in tow anyways. Make it a BYOB event and just pick up the mixers and nonalcoholic beverages. You could also make a nice cider, punch, or eggnog as a signature beverage. It’s a subtle way to emphasize any holiday or theme while trimming the budget by making a bulk batch beverage. Do run a test batch if it’s a new recipe. And on that note, if you are going to have a full bar, be sure at least one of the hosts has the knowledge and is willing to help make drinks. Nothing worse than a well-intended host serving a vodka tonic when I wanted a gin and soda. Having a bar book on hand, as recommended in the previous “How To,” is also a good idea. Don’t be afraid to read in front of your guests: Smart people read; dumb people make crappy drinks.
While we are talking drinks, be prepared for drunk guests. Know which are designated drivers who might be willing to share the spirit and drop off an extra delinquent on their way home. Have your guest bed made up if you have one, and definitely keep the number to a cab company in your pocket.
Keep your theme simple and decide where to splurge and where to cut the fat. If you try to do everything on the cheap, you will simply have a lot of cheap stuff. Decorate or don’t. You don’t have to dress your home up like a $50 whore in a thousand lights to have a Christmas party or celebrate the Fourth of July. Simply cleaning your home and placing some fresh flowers in each room is enough. I can’t say enough about the importance of fresh flowers. Travis Wholesale on Josephine Street is my favorite place. In addition to flowers and greenery, you can also pick up simple, yet attractive vases for next to nothing, and entire boxes of candles. They also have all kinds of pro holiday and wedding décor on hand if you are going for the over-the-top Jesus in all of his star-spangled glory and Santa and Frosty, too, all exploding in a firebomb of true patriotism and the civil unity of Labor Day tattooed on the New Year babe’s butt look.
Keep your food balanced. Themed or not, just make sure it is universally palatable on some level. Not everyone likes Ethiopian-influenced vegan food or the endangered-but-now-farm-raised-beast buffet. I know chips are easy and anyone will eat them, but use a little imagination. Great, simple, innovative food is another way to dress up your shindig without lights and flags. The internet is like the world’s biggest cook book, so there really aren’t any excuses.
The rest is up to a good guest list and your natural ability to entertain. You need at least one or the other and hopefully have both. If not, maybe someone will invite you to their party. Know your strengths.
Much love and a good time (oh, get your mind outta the gutter),
Your Uncle Mat
Next week’s question: Dear Uncle Mat: How do club-averse VHI women avoid first-date faux pas?
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