If finances are tight, celebrate the season with a Christmas appetizer party. Fun without breaking the bank. It’s also the best way to get more friends together with a standing-room-only party.
Why have an appetizer party?
Not only is an appetizer party cheaper, but you can make it a standing-up party and invite more people than a dinner party.
A stand-up party encourages everyone to mingle and move around the room.
Another great thing is that it can be shorter, 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.
(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 and share the cost. They don’t mind – they’re just excited to get together.)
With a collection of nibbles and libations, its a party!
Even an appetizer party needs festive decorations.
It’s easy to set a festive mood. You’ve probably already got Christmas decorations set up. Just add some LED pillar candles, strings of lights around the room, and maybe some more evergreens. Holiday music will create a merry atmosphere at a nominal cost.
For an elegant tone, use china plates and wine glasses if you have enough, and are fine with the cleanup time.
Paper plates just don’t hold the weight of food well enough for a standing party.
This is where you can save money! If you don’t have enough plates, borrow some from a friend.
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.
Cocktail or appetizer picks makes it easier for guests to pick up layered canapes & adds a festive flair to your table.
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 paper napkins. One Christmas I used gorgeous burgundy napkins. My uncle was warm, wiped the sweat from his brow and ended up with a gorgeous burgundy streak across his forehead! Who knew some paper napkins aren’t colorfast?
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.
You Need Festive Trash Cans – Yes, You Do.
While we’re talking about soiled napkins, here’s an idea of how to encourage guests to clean up after themselves & make it easier on you. Put two trash cans side by side with festive voting signs on them. For example: above the cans put a sign “How were you this year?” and one can is labeled “naughty” and the other one “nice”. Everyone will get a kick out of “voting” by putting their trash in the correct bin. You’ll see!
Don’t forget to decorate the bathroom! (Add a string of twinkle lights and an LED candle and they won’t even have to turn on the light.) Every guest will likely visit at least once during the party, so keep it shiny clean and festive too.
I always make a festive sign for the bathroom door and the coat room door so everyone knows where to go.
How formal do you want your party to be?
Decide how formal you want your party to be. Ties and cocktail dresses? Casual wear and festive hats and glasses?
If you want everyone to wear festive partywear, it’s best to provide it yourself, or at least have a few on hand. (There are always those who think they don’t want to wear a holiday hat or forget to bring one. When they get to the party and everyone else has one it’s too late to change their mind.)
Cut fluffy tinsel garland into 6 foot boa lengths. Get festive hats, headbands and glasses. (The more festive guests look, the more they’ll post photos on social media & your party will go viral! *wink*)
Party City and Dollar Tree offer party wear and party ware at excellent prices so you can have fun with decor and costumes for less.
Make a room plan for mingling & movement.
Food stations encourage mingling. Set up one area with hot beverages, another for cold beverages. Have one table for all the food, or separate hot from cold. Have desserts separate from appetizers.
- Set up separate stations for food and beverages to keep traffic moving.
- If space allows, several small food stations around the room encourage people to 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 (either china or paper).
- You can have a separate table for hot & cold appetizers, desserts, hot beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, wine & cocktails
- Use end tables, coffee table, desks, dressers – heights can vary.
- Decorate with battery-operated lights if in center of room
- Make sure you have enough platters and serving utensils well in advance of the party.
Floor planning tips:
Have a few seats available for the cuties in their high heels to have a bit of break and for those who must sit down when they eat. (My hubby is one.) Cluster chairs in corners of the room or a couch along one wall.
Plan wide conversation areas around each food station because people automatically cluster there and you want enough room for nibblers to get through too.
Plan a nice-sized area for dancing around your sound system. You never know when dancing will break out. Or when break dancing happens – you want lots of room.
Lay an area rug:
- to define the dance space
- keep the noise to a minimum
- protect your floors
- prevent dancers from slipping.
An appetizer party is all about the appetizers!
If you asked family & friends to bring food, the buffet will grow as guests arrive but have a cheese board and vegetable platter ready to provide for the first guests. It takes no time to prep and they are always popular.
Include easy but filling finger foods 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 vegans and vegetarians in the group. My daughter is a vegan and we are surprised at how many restaurants and catered parties still don’t think of offering a vegan dish.
Plan how you’ll serve the beverages.
- Self-serve is at the center of an appetizer party, including beverages. Set up a wine bar and let guests serve themselves. Have several pitchers of one signature cocktail ready ahead of time so you can just put them out as needed.
- Provide sparkling water or punch as a refreshing non-alcoholic option. Have lemon slices on the side.
- Purchase extra bottles of wine and non-alcoholic drinks. (Even if friends are bringing beverages, you’ll need some to start the party off and to ensure there is enough to drink if guests forget.) Only open as needed so you can use unopened bottles as last-minute gifts or to take to a party.
- Calculate one bottle of wine for every 2 guests
Plan how you’ll serve hot food.
- Clear space on your kitchen counter for friends bringing food platters.
- 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 in the oven or crockpot 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.
How will you deal with dirty dishes?
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 while you’re doing your thing.)
Setting up a drop off table with a discreet sign works well. Keep it near the kitchen for easy clean up.
Or, conversely, have it in an odd area where it’s difficult to put a food station. It might be better out of the way, and does it matter if it’s a few extra steps to 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.)
As we already mentioned, make it fun by setting up 2 trash cans – one with “naughty” and one with “nice”. Have a big sign asking them how they were this year. They “admit” by dumping their garbage in one can or the other.
Hope these tips make it easy for you to plan your appetizer party. Enjoy!
Want more? See all our appetizer recipes.
Selection of appetizer recipes for a cocktail party, game day, or pre-dinner dining. Tips on how to create a cheese board.
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