‘Tis the season for holiday parties. To make yours jolly and bright, try
these 10 tips from the University of Delaware’s own Erica Cohen
Finamore. A 2011 graduate with an honors degree in communication and a minor in journalism, now an editor for "Food Network Magazine," she has
countless tips and tricks, culled from years of magazine-editing magic.
Accommodate dietary restrictions
The most important part of making an event fun is making guests
comfortable, which is nearly impossible to do if they can’t eat the
food. Remember to ask about restrictions in advance and provide options
for everyone, from vegan and vegetarian dishes to gluten-free
alternatives. It takes a little extra effort, but the thoughtfulness
won’t be overlooked.
When guests arrive, there are a few things they’ll usually
appreciate: water, a place to hang their coat and a phone charger. Give
someone the job of taking coats, leave large pitchers of water out for
people to help themselves and set up a phone charging station outside of
Eat your apps
Just like no one wants to take the last piece of cake, no one wants
to be the first person to crack into the appetizers. If you cut into
your cheese board or take a scoop of your dip first, then it will feel
less intimidating for guests to do the same.
Create mingling zones
Use food to create different areas around your home so that guests
can spread out and talk in smaller groups. Whether you place the crudité
in the den or leave the hot appetizers on the kitchen island,
separating dishes gives everyone easier access to snacks and a chance to
walk around and talk to new people without crowding one spot in your
Labeling helps you two-fold: First, you won’t have to explain new or
unfamiliar dishes, and second, guests will feel more comfortable with
foods they may not recognize. This is especially handy if you’re serving
something from a particular region or country. People like learning
about other cultures, so why not help them out a bit?
Wrapping paper rules
I began using wrapping paper as tablecloth a few years ago and
absolutely love it. Not only does it come in a variety of chic
and holiday-appropriate patterns, it makes cleanup a breeze. Just roll
the paper the down the length of your table or buffet and you now have
an instantly eye-catching tabletop. For kids, try using Kraft paper and
crayons for easy entertainment.
Room-temperature dishes rock
Skip dishes that require a lot of last-minute preparation or garnish —
the stress isn’t worth it. Think instead about things that can be
prepped before people arrive and left out as long as needed. Crudité,
cheese plates, (most) bruschetta, grain salads and green beans all fit
Make one memorable moment
Thanks to Pinterest, so many of us feel like every little detail has
to be crafted to perfection and every meal cooked from scratch. But just
pick one thing that people will talk about and focus on nailing the
execution. Whether it’s making a signature cocktail, painting your own
place cards or using a mixture of mismatching China, you want to create
something that your guests will remember long after the party ends.
Paper for dessert
Not literally! But do serve on it. By this point in the night, all of
your dishes are dirty, your dishwasher is full and you can’t fit
another fork in the sink. Make late night clean-up a bit easier with
disposable paper plates. There are so many fun and festive options.
Search online for inspiration (Meri Meri, Harlow & Grey and Caspari
are some of my favorites).
Don’t start cleaning…yet
Have you ever been to a party where the hosts are anxiously cleaning
up at the end of the night? I was once at a holiday party where someone
started vacuuming around my feet. There will be plenty of time to put
the house back in order after everyone’s gone, so relax, enjoy yourself
and let your guests do the same.
About the expert
For Erica Cohen Finamore, the fulfillment of a dream began
right here at UD. During an internship with the University’s public relations
office, she captured readers’ attention
with her story on Taylor Swift’s dad and fellow Blue Hen Scott Swift,
BE74. Soon after, she caught a lucky break when Esther Crain, CAS92, who graduated from UD with a major in English and a concentration in journalism, plucked her résumé from thousands in the pile
at Cosmopolitan. After graduation, Finamore went on to serve as an
editor for InStyle, HGTV Magazine and, most recently, Food Network
Magazine. “I love the kind of deep-dive storytelling magazines allow,”
she says. “It’s a constant learning experience.” She currently lives in
New York City with her husband, fellow Blue Hen Jon Marc Finamore, CAS11, who earned his degree in neuroscience.
Article by Erica Cohen Finamore; photo by iStock