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Bringing out a new cupcake platter at Sylvia's opening night party.

Greetings, merry makers! I’m Antoinette Williams, front of house manager for Seattle Rep. Part of my job is helping plan the theater’s opening night parties, so I’m here to give helpful hints on how to make your holiday party a success. Here are a few easy steps you can take to show your guests a good time—while giving you time to enjoy your party with them!

Pick a theme:

Of course the overall theme for a holiday party will be the holiday itself, but it’s always fun to pick a more specific theme for your gathering. This will allow you to be more whimsical with your food and décor. Working for a theater gives me the advantage of a built-in theme since the parties I throw are usually related to a show. Most recently I hosted an opening night party for Sylvia, a show about empty nesters who get a dog. This party was lots of fun to plan because I was challenged with the unique task of tying a dog theme in with the holidays.

I served Peppermint Bark (pun intended) cupcakes from Cupcake Royale and dog-bone shaped shortbread in a crystal dog bowl from Celestial Bakers to keep people in the spirit of the show. Both of those companies can provide great sweet treats! For your party consider using a recognizable holiday phrase as your theme like “Silver Bells” or “Winter Wonderland.” You can use silver bells or snowflakes in your décor to play up your theme. You can even encourage guests to get into the spirit by asking them to dress in theme. The more ambitious party planner could even create a contest surrounding their theme offering guests kitschy (and inexpensive) prizes.

Those aren't dog treats, just tasty shortbread cookies!

Signature drink:

An easy aspect of your party to have fun with is a signature drink. It can be a cocktail or a non-alcoholic drink (or  a version of each), but a special beverage is always a crowd pleaser. When deciding on a signature drink note who will be attending your party, how well the drink will hold up over the length of the party, and what the overall cost for ingredients will be. A little goes a long way, so don’t feel as if you need twelve ingredients to make it delicious. Our signature cocktail for Sylvia, “Hair of the Dog,” has only four ingredients and it tastes fantastic! If you have a favorite holiday drink, go ahead and use it. There’s nothing wrong with taking an existing recipe and calling it something new. Just remember to make an extra batch or two for refills. Need inspiration? here’s a great list of holiday drinks from the Food Network.

Prep now, party later:

Whenever I am giving a party I’m always concerned with making sure every aspect of the party runs smoothly. Is the music at the right volume? Are we running low on crackers? Does the bathroom have enough toilet paper? As a host, worrying about these things is inevitable, but a little pre-planning will keep your stress level down and the party spirit up!

  • Prepare multiple platters of food before the party starts. By making identical platters of one dish you can easily swap out near empty plates for full ones so that you don’t spend the entire night in the kitchen.
  • Decide at what level you want your music before guests arrive and then stick with it. If the music fades into the background, so be it. Loud party talking is a sign you’ve got a fabulous shindig going on.
  • Keep emergency TP available to guests. Find a way to set out extra paper that  looks nice and organized but is easily in reach should a guest find themselves in need. Even theater restrooms run out of TP sometimes so we always keep extra close by.

Keep it simple:

Everyone wants to give the perfect party but don’t overextend yourself doing it. Make sure your food, decorative scheme, and guest list is manageable. Take on too much and you’ll end up with anarchy on your hands (not to mention a huge post-party mess). Remember, you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

The wonderful front of house staff who helped make the party a success.

Get volunteers to help:

Whether it is your spouse, friend or co-worker, it’s always better to have extra hands to help you out. You never know when you might need a willing and able body to make a store run or warm the emergency mini quiches you just knew you would need. Make sure your helpers know exactly what they are getting into and never ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. With the right help, you and your volunteers will be able to enjoy your party. I am so fortunate to have an amazing staff here at Seattle Rep helping me with every event I host.

That’s it! You’re on your way to giving a holiday party your friends and family will be talking about all year long. Good luck, and don’t forget my invitation!

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