Sharpen up your hosting skills with a little help from Mrs Middleton
Planning a Christmas soiree and want to get it just right? We asked Party Pieces founder Carole Middleton for a few pointers…
What three things make a great party?
‘Start by choosing a theme or colour scheme that’s easy to stick to and then everything else will fall into place. Great company and delicious food are key, too.’
Best decorating tip?
‘Creating an inviting atmosphere with soft, low lighting. This is easily achieved with fairy lights and lots of candles. Then keep things simple yet elegant with clusters of foiled hanging decorations and seasonal floral arrangements.’
Your canapé of choice?
‘It’s best to choose seasonal ingredients and something that’s sophisticated yet simple to create. Sticky baked prunes wrapped in prosciutto are always popular as a festive canapé. Or, as a vegetarian option, caramelised figs with crumbled feta cheese.’
What about something more substantial?
‘Think warming dishes with lots of flavour, like venison stroganoff, coq au vin and lamb tagine. All can be served in bowls if you’re not doing a sit-down dinner and you want guests to be able to mingle easily.’
‘Some sort of bubbles are a must to serve when guests arrive. A good alcohol-free alternative is sparkling elderflower with a dash of pomegranate. For cocktails, try a punch with a festive twist like mulled pear cider with cranberry and warming spices.’
How do you ensure everyone feels at home?
‘If there’s a guest who doesn’t know anyone, be there when they arrive with a welcoming drink, then introduce them to people with similar interests. But don’t go overboard – the more relaxed you are, the more they will be. If it’s a sit-down dinner, I try to seat guests next to people they don’t know very well. It gets everyone chatting and creates a more social atmosphere.’
What makes a party fall flat?
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‘A badly planned playlist. Music has such an effect on the ambience of the party. Spend time creating a playlist that can last well into the small hours.’
Do you have a favourite playlist?
‘Music has to suit a party theme, but in general something easy-going is good for early on. Later, I always throw in a few upbeat favourites which are guaranteed to get everyone up and dancing!’
Carole Middleton is the founder of Partypieces.co.uk