If finances are tight this year, celebrate the holidays by hosting an appetizer party where everyone can get together to have fun without breaking the bank.
If your party is for a group of good friends, you can ask each guest to bring an appetizer and a bottle of wine or non-alcoholic drink. They don’t mind – they’re just excited to get together.
The great thing about an appetizer party is that it can be short, about 2 hours in duration, so you can mix different groups of people together for a festive evening that you wouldn’t dream of doing for a sit-down dinner. Everyone can mingle and move around the room.
With a collection of nibbles and libations, you’re ready to party.
For an elegant tone, use china plates and wine glasses if you have them. Small plates are trendy because people love to sample little bites and taste a variety of dishes. They are also easier to balance as you walk around the room and chat with other guests.
Don’t forget to decorate the bathroom! Every guest will likely visit at least once during the party, so keep it shiny clean and festive too.
Food Stations Encourage Mingling
- Set up separate stations for food and wine to keep traffic moving.
- Several small food stations to encourage people to move around the room and mingle.
- Each food station can have a separate Christmas theme so you can mix and match patterns to use up old napkins and mismatched plates.
- Have extra platters and serving utensils available in case someone forgets to bring them.
- Clear off kitchen counters so guests can prep their dishes.
- Instead of an open bar consider offering a selection of wines that will appeal to different tastes. Set up a wine bar and let guests serve themselves. Provide sparkling water or punch as a refreshing non-alcoholic option. Have lemon slices on the side.
- Purchase a few extra bottles of wine and non-alcoholic drinks to start the party off and to ensure there is enough to drink if guests forget. Only open as needed, an use unopened bottles to take to your next party.
- Calculate that you will need one bottle of wine for every 2 guests
- Have a few seats available for the cuties in their high heels to have a bit of break, but scatter them in corners of the room with the food and drink tables more in the center to encourage mingling.
- Plan your station for hot food to be right next to the kitchen, and consider how you’re going to keep these items hot. You may need access to several electrical outlets for warmers, crockpots, etc. so make sure you have an extension cord accessible before the party begins. You don’t want to be digging through drawers and closets to find one!
- Another alternative for serving hot foods is to keep them in the kitchen and put them out on small platters in “doses”. The drawback is that you have to keep your eye on how quickly they disappear or get cold.
- Plan what you want your guests to do with the dirty dishes and used glasses. Do you really want them all going into the kitchen? (Because if they do you’ll have a crowd talking in there too while you’re dealing with food.) Setting up a drop off table with a discreet sign works well. Keep it near the kitchen for easy clean up.
- Have a trash can near the drop off table to encourage people to clean off their plates themselves. (I hate that part the most! If I can get them to clean up themselves, I’m a happy girl.)
- Cocktail napkins are the perfect size for an appetizer party, but make sure there are enough. No one likes to carry around a soiled napkin! Plan on providing 5 napkins per guest.
- White cloth napkins are more elegant, easy to wash and more economical if you have many parties. They also signal that you’re eco-friendly.
- Be careful when using colored napkins. One Christmas I used gorgeous burgundy paper napkins. My uncle was warm, wiped the sweat from his brow and ended up with a gorgeous burgundy streak across his forehead! Who’d a thunk paper napkins aren’t colorfast?
The buffet will grow as guests arrive, but to provide for the first guests, have a cheese board and vegetable platter ready. It takes no time to prep and they are always popular.
Include easy but filling finger foods as well such as bread sticks, nuts and a pickle dish.
Plan the appetizers to include both hot and cold foods and foods with different flavors. Not everyone likes or can digest spicy food, others adore it. (You get the picture.)
If you are including seafood, make one separate food station just for seafood so those who have allergies can steer clear and feel comfortable.
Don’t forget to supply some appetizers for the vegetarians in the group. My daughter is a vegetarian and we are surprised at how many restaurants and catered parties still don’t think of offering a vegetarian dish.
Serve some Christmas cookies or small desserts to serve at the end. It allows the guest to leave with sweetness on their taste buds and also signals that the party is ending soon.