Arts & Entertainment

The Art & Science of Managing a Holiday Event

The Art & Science of Managing a Holiday Event

By Laura Urban

Your guests for your holiday party are about to arrive and there will be 40-60 of them at any given time! Are you ready? Do you have enough food? How will the flow of people through your home happen? There are so many details to having a party or open house for a large group.

Early in my career and as an Army officer’s spouse, my husband and I began entertaining small and large groups for special events or holiday celebrations. In our early years of entertaining, my husband and I learned to be both frugal and efficient. Today we still do much of the work and food preparation for the 70 to 80 people we invite to our “Christmas in the Country” open house we host every December.

When planning for a large event at our home, I first think of whom will be coming and approximately how many. Then I decide on what kinds of food, appetizers, beverages and desserts I will have. Usually for groups over 20 I look at what I can make in two to four crock pots, what kinds of appetizers are quick and easy, and if I will need a deli tray to supplement the foods I make.

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, my sister and I do a ton of holiday baking knowing that I will serve quite a few holiday goodies at the Christmas event my husband and I host. As for what I have in the crock pots, it is usually different kinds of easy to make soups or barbecue beef. My husband’s task is to obtain the beverages, usually an assortment of beer, wine and sodas, along with the ice on the day of the event.

Usually the week before the event, I will make and freeze what I can so I am not doing a lot of cooking the day of the event. A few days before the event, I start to visualize and actually lay out serving dishes and plates on my tables, breakfast bar and kitchen counters. I use Post It notes so I remember how I laid everything out. I decide where the coolers for beverages will go along with large boxes for trash, always keeping in mind the layout of my house and the flow of guests. I try to eliminate potential bottlenecks when many guests are all arriving at the same time.

Another task I do a week or so before is print signs that tell guests where they can put coats, or where the rest rooms are, and what boxes are for recyclables and trash. By being this organized prior to the event, this allows me to keep an eye on refilling food or beverages when needed and to still have time to talk with guests. Although large parties and open houses are a lot of work, careful planning and preparation keep costs down and things running smoothly!

Laura Urban has been president of Alexandria Technical and Community College since July 2014 when she and her husband moved from Independence, KY. She is originally from Hayward, WI and enjoys skeet and trap shooting with her husband, baking and reading.

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