How to get your party started
The best parties don't just happen - a bit of pre-planning can make sure that every bash is a success, writes Leslie Ann Horgan
Set the scene If you want to put people in the party mood, you need to create the right atmosphere. This may mean moving back furniture to make space for mingling - and, perhaps, dancing - or adding extra chairs for elderly relatives at a family gathering. Clear as many flat surfaces as you can: not only will your house look better with less clutter, but your guests will have somewhere to put down their drinks. Keep the overhead lighting muted and give candles and fairy lights a chance to shine. At Christmas, chances are you have your house already decorated, but at other times of the year you can get inventive with paper pom-poms, bunting and garlands, which are available very cheaply at the likes of Penneys and Dealz. If you have an outdoor space where people are likely to congregate, consider providing some throws to keep them snug.
While you can't be expected to cater for every niche taste, a good party will have a bar stocked with a broad range of drinks options. A plastic basin filled with ice in the back garden is great for keeping beer and bubbly cold. Attach a bottle opener to the basin with a string (so it won't get lost) and leave a towel for wiping down wet bottles, so your guests can help themselves. Make sure you have mixers, tonic water and something appealing for non-drinkers on offer. You'll need to have plenty of clean glasses and a couple of corkscrews to hand. Add toilet roll and handsoap to your pre-party shopping list - and get some festive napkins, too.
Take People's coats
When you greet your guests, whisk their coats off to a bedroom or designated area. The only thing worse than standing awkwardly with your coat in your hand at a party is having someone else spill a drink all over it when it's thrown on the couch.
Be the host that keeps on giving
I have seen so many people who splash out on a party spread only to be disappointed when none of it gets eaten. Irish people can be backward about coming forward, so the best way to make sure they're partaking is to circulate through the party with platters and offer each person a bite… Then offer them again! You'll need to do this a few times with your different foods - the person who refused a sandwich might be dying for a mince pie. It's crucial to give them something to eat off, so have those napkins or paper plates and any cutlery needed on hand. The same applies to making sure that anyone who wants a drink has one. Take away empties, offer top-ups and, later in the evening, direct people to where they can help themselves.
Turn up the volume
No matter what your taste in tunes, a party without music is one that will struggle to get going. Music is essential for masking that quiet phase at the beginning of every party when only a handful of guests have arrived, and can set the tempo for when you want to liven things up later on. Who doesn't have fond memories of a bash that ended in a dance-off or sing-song? Christmas makes it easy to pick a soundtrack that will appeal to all tastes - or, at least, offend everyone equally. Get a wireless speaker, choose a playlist of festive songs on your phone, and the whole room will be doing a group rendition of Fairytale of New York in no time.