Thursday, November 3, 2016

Budget Friendly Holiday Parties: The Other Stuff. The Landmines.

Years ago, I hosted a holiday party that changed all future parties for me. The party was a success, however, for me it was a disaster for so many reasons. Over the years, through trial and error, I've fine tuned my process of hosting a party so it's budget friendly, less stressful, and frees up a lot of my time so I can relax and enjoy the company of our guests. In doing so, I discovered ways to save money on food and drinks and to eliminate a lot of the extra costs. Although saving money and time takes a huge chunk out of the stress factor, there's one other area I had to work on.

The other stuff, or as I like to call 'em, the landmines.

People laugh when I refer to "the other stuff" as landmines. Truth is, with any party, large or small, there's always "the other stuff" we need to think about and contend with. Often times, taking precautionary measures can mean the difference between make or break.

1. Food allergies, special diets, and food preferences. This is one area I've only had to deal with a few times. Thankfully, it didn't involve sensitive food allergies. I've had guests ask if I was making anything gluten free, vegan, or fat free. In these instances, I replied with a list of what I was serving and the ingredients. Of course, this didn't include what other guests were bringing. I ended the reply with, "Please feel free to bring foods that are to your liking and caters to your food preferences. I won't be offended."

2. Fur-Kids. Lisa and I are very fortunate. Our handful of dear friends are all pet parents. They don't care about the fur on the sofa or paws on the table. Sophie and Lobo roam free, beg, put their paws on the table, and enjoy nibbles of pet friendly fare. Coco, who does not like crowded rooms or loud noises, is very happy and content in the bedroom for a few hours with his bones, blankets, and snacks. The best way to conquer issues with fur-kids and guests is to find a balance. Each situation is different. You certainly don't want to lock your fur-kids in a room for hours on end, but you also don't want them knocking guests down.

3. Taking photos. Decades ago, this wasn't a problem, but now, with social media and living in the digital age, people are very cautious about their photo being taken, posted, and tagged. I fall into this bucket. If the host of a party, or guests, are taking photos, I make it known I do not want my photo plastered online. On the other end of the stick, when I host a party, most times I take a few photos of the food, snap a photo or two of photo happy guests, and that's it. Personally, I'd rather enjoy my guests "in the moment" rather than behind the lens. If and when I snap a photo of a guest, I always ask for their permission before posting on Facebook or other social media stream.

4. Lighten up the conversation. Religion, politics, abortion, and any other sensitive topics, should not be brought up at holiday parties. Nothing irritates me more than tiny debates surfacing during a party that causes riffraff. I've witnessed this quite a bit and, to say the very least, it sucks. Not only does it create a black cloud, it sucks the festive spirit right out of the room. Things can spiral downward very quickly. It's like the in-person version of hijacking a thread in the virtual world. On occasion, when I sense it starting at any gathering I host, I try to redirect the conversation. Lighten it up. Crack a joke or two. If that fails, I put a stop to it immediately.

5. You're not going to please everyone. This holds true more so with larger parties especially when family is involved. Been there. Done that. No matter how much effort you put into the food, drinks, festivities, and everything between, someone is going to make a snarky comment or curl their lip. It's a given. Even if you paid for the best caterers in the world and had appetizers served on gold platters, they'd still have something to complain about. Pour a glass of wine, make yourself a strong drink, and let it roll down your back.

6. Not everything is going to happen as planned. Ever. This is why I tell people to let go of striving for perfection. If you're aiming for perfect, stop. There's no such thing.  In fact, I encourage people to embrace the imperfections. You know, those imperfect moments people talk about for years to come. What doesn't go as planned often leads to the most memorable moments.

7. Your house. Your rules. Don't like it? Tough. I'll admit, this sounds tough. It's meant to. I've had to take this stance a few times. Four years ago we had a party here at the house. A relative attended. This relative had given us a bunch of hand-me-down holiday items months prior. We had most of these items displayed. During the party, a guest mentioned to our relative that he liked this and that. The items he liked were part of the collection of hand-me-downs. Our relative said, "You can have them. Take them home when you leave." I caught wind of this. I made it VERY known that NOTHING was leaving our home. Our relative disputed this. So did Lisa and I. We had to stand firm. We were not going to tolerate our relative giving our stuff away. That was the first and last party they attended at our home.

8. Don't sweat the small stuff. Seriously. Don't. It's not worth the stress. Your guests are there because they want to spend time with you and celebrate the holidays. They're not expecting a Martha Stewart table setting or fancy, high-end fare. Simple is beautiful. Simple is delicious. Remember that.

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