Planning a party? Be mindful and keep it small
* This article appears in our Holiday edition of the Home Improver digital magazine
Throwing a party during a pandemic has its limitations. Even though it is the season to be merry Covid doesn’t stop for the holidays, so this year it’s all about being mindful and keeping it small.
Offer sanitiser at the door and do temperature checks. An outdoor dinner is probably safer. Remember social distancing. We don’t want to be party poopers, and heavens knows we all need some thing to celebrate, but it’s not worth the anxiety that would follow. Because times are tough no one expects the host to do everything.
Make it more about a shared experience where everyone can do a special something. This can be an item to add to the menu or maybe some flowers. And because budgets are tight get people to bring their own drinks.
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Genevieve Farry of international company Vicky Crease Catering + Events and International party planner Francois van Tonder have some advice for parties. First figure out your budget. Tot up everything, then decide what has to go and where you can ask for assistance.
Guests: Remember it’s not what’s on the plate, but who’s in the chair that counts. Keep it small and invite only those you absolutely treasure.
Decor: Your decor should never fight with nor obstruct what is on the menu. Scented candles and heavily scented flowers on the table, for instance, influence how you taste your food and are a no-no.
Try this: Get children to make the crackers for the table – it could be a fun thing them to do leading up to the evening or to do pre-dinner with some adults joining in. Never have a seating plan. Let people decide where and with whom they want to sit.
People eat with their eyes, so set the table beautifully and use the best of what you have – this is the special occasion you’ve saved things for. Use a tablecloth unless you have a great marble or wooden table. Van Tonder likes beautiful linen napkins and cutlery and items from all over the world.
Cook local: Ingredients should be local, seasonal and organic. This year, more than ever, it’s about old traditions mixing with new ways. Celebrate heritage with the food you make and the little extras you add – make it an event full of honouring, love and celebration.
Try this: Cook according to a family favourite recipe passed down through the generations, or make a modern twist on an old favourite. This is also a wonderful time to get the family involved in making treats and food together.
Always have a good bread on the table and the highest quality olive oil, and nothing with preservatives. Introduce your culture and traditions on to the plate so people taste something different. Find out about your guests’ food preferences and dietary requests and ask whether anyone is kosher or halaal. Try some vegan or vegetarian dishes.
Flowers in jelly: Every child from six to 60 loves jelly, so this summer we’re wobbling it in feminine fashion. How about cranberry and champagneflavoured jelly made in cute jars with edible flowers lurking in the sublime surprise?
• Pineapples as vases: Elegantly hollowed pineapples bursting with bright summer blooms are a perfect and fun spin on a vase.
• Paw-paw boats: We are seriously crushing over our pawpaw boats packed with fresh summer fruit, says Farry. Good fun – and healthy. Did I mention they are totally Instagram-worthy?
• Dress code: Always indicate the dress code upfront. There can be nothing worse for a guest than to arrive dressed casually while everyone else is dolled-up.
• How the night can progress: It is all about prep, so do most of it the night before. Always ensure you have enough ice and ice buckets and lots of mixers and non-alcoholic drinks.
• Play background music to help put people in the mood. It’s been a tough year and the more cheer you can bring in, the better.
• Allow an hour for pre-drinks – it might help accommodate late arrivals. And then ensure if anyone has been drinking they get a ride home. Don’t forget, as it stands now, midnight is pumpkin time.
• But, most of all, don’t stress. It’s been a difficult time and if you’re lucky enough to be able to get together with loved ones, mismatched crockery and not-perfect food, will easily be overlooked because, ultimately, we have discovered it’s all about love.