How To: Throw the Ultimate Holiday Party

It's the ultimate holiday gift (to yourself): Throw a killer soiree—and let someone else do all the work.

The holidays offer the perfect excuse to throw a fete anytime. Feel like drinking champagne and eating canapés on a Tuesday? Tell friends it’s a “holiday party,” and everyone comes. Show up for the big meeting in yesterday’s clothes, reeking of eggnog? “Holiday party” is all you have to say. Everyone understands.

But here’s the rub: Parties are a lot of work. There’s the cooking, the serving, the mixing of the drinks, the chasing-off of woozy malingerers once the booze runs out. Most of us can barely find 10 minutes for a quiet drink by ourselves, let alone pull together a sleek house party. Which is why calling in reinforcements—once looked on as sure proof of effete snobbery—is now not only acceptable, but in many cases the only way to remain sane.

The Setup: First, figure out what you need: Bartender? Plates, tables, glassware? Because no matter how lively the DJ or how potent the cocktails, guests aren’t going to have any fun if they have to stand three deep to grab a glass of pinot, or eat soup with their hands. Gala Cloths, with a showroom in Philadelphia, has you covered (get it?) in the tablecloth/napkin department. Party Rental Ltd., an interstate company with a storefront right on Locust Street, can handle everything from the plates and silver to the chairs, tables, barware, and even more esoteric items like velvet ropes, portable bars and cooking equipment. Need a hula dancer, an Elvis impersonator, a cellist? Gig Masters has a staggering roster of talent available, with prices that range from a couple hundred bucks for a balloon twister to $3,000 for a string quartet.

The Party: You need three things while a party is in full swing: food, booze, and someone to serve both. At the nationwide Chefs United, rates run about $100 per hour for a chef (including time for setup and breakdown), plus the cost of the food. If you want to keep it small and local, NoLibs chef Christina Dimacali runs Clean Your Plate and will come to your house to cook custom menus. Eatible Delights Catering is a local full-service caterer that does home parties—including buffets and butlered hors d’oeuvres, which is just classy. And the Philly branch of Big City Chefs specializes in high-end dinner parties and special events, and comes with a commensurate price tag. (The “Night in Bangkok” package for 20? That’s going to be at least $1,430, sans servers or booze.)

Finally, you can find bonded and insured servers (and captains, greeters, bartenders, bathroom attendants) locally through Five Star Staffing, which has a new arm specializing in home entertaining, Premier Residential Staff. It also offers services like equipment rentals and cleanup. Top Shelf bartender service is a nationwide placement service founded in Norristown 20 years ago; for a flat fee of $40 an hour (four-hour minimum), it provides uniformed bartenders for any size party, including themed ones. Want a luau or a martini bar? These are your guys.

With everything else handled by professionals, all that’s left now for you is to sit back, relax and enjoy yourself. So merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.