A special thank you to Applejack Wine & Spirits for partnering with me on my party.
Kick off the Holiday season with an Ugly Sweater Cookie Decorating party! What is that? Everyone dresses in their most festive ugly sweaters and decorates a sweater-shaped cutout cookie. Oh and did I mention, prizes are involved!
We hosted our 5th annual party last week and it continues to be the hit of the year. This year we were lucky enough to have Applejack Wine & Spirits sponsor our bar to keep the libations flowing.
Below are some of my tips for hosting a successful cookie decorating party - and some tips can be used for any party.
Hosting a party requires an invitation whether its via text, a digital invitation (i.e., Evite, Paperless Post, Facebook), or a paper invite. Decide if you will allow plus one's or kids before sending the invite out. Whatever you choose, make sure it is clear in your invite.
Wording sample for adult-only parties: Please note this will be an adults-only celebration.
Although we love your little ones, this is an adult only affair.
All guests must be 21 or older.
This is an adult occasion (21+). Infants under 12 months welcome.
This party will include adult beverages and language. We strongly discourage underage attendees.
My recommendation is to send your invitation out at least six weeks in advance and avoid text invites when possible. Six weeks might seem far away from the party date but with the holidays, you need to add a buffer. I also recommend requiring RSVP's to be in within 5 days of the event. Sending reminders is always acceptable.
Other optional details to include on your invite is a timeline: party begins at 6 p.m. and decorating contest begins promptly at 7 p.m.; if dinner or apps will be served: light apps will be provided; and if there is any other details: BYOB, dress code, parking recommendations, etc.
Since this is the 5th annual ugly sweater cookie party, we have a lot of the preparation streamlined. We have a specific Rubbermaid filled with the decorations, serving platters, and cookie decorating supplies. Since we supply the frosting, sprinkles, and icing each year, I shop the clearance section after each holiday for a few of these items and store them for the annual party.
Cookie Prep: To keep this cookie decorating contest fair, we supply the blank sweater cut out. We purchase all the supplies for the cookie cut outs a few days in advance. Most recipes call for room temperature ingredients so we leave items such as the butter out 24 hours before the baking day. We prep the dough the night before or morning of our baking day. Baking day takes place at least one day before the party. *Cookie dough needs to be kept cold at least 4 hours or more before rolling and using cut outs.
Party Prep: With the cookies baked and ready for the party in advance, this gives you a time to focus on the food for the party. Easy staples are: Cookies (always a cheap alternative to bake them yourself and can be made in advance), charcuterie board (with cheese, meats, grapes, nuts, crackers, dried fruit), crudité (veggies, hummus or dip), mini finger sandwiches (we cut corners by ordering Jimmy John's party size sandwiches and cut them before the party starts so that the bread doesn't dry out), and items that can stay warm in a crock pot (meatballs, little smokies, queso dip, mac and cheese).
Music: Before anyone arrives, make sure there is music to set the ambiance! While very few of my friends are early to any party, it is good to have music on just in case anyone does. It's awkward to walk into a party and it's silent or you hear the host prepping last minute things.
Cocktail/Bar: Always have the bar ready next (and before guests arrive). Most guests will gather around the beverages and engage in small talk until the party takes off. The bar is the most important part of our party. We make sure there is beer, wine, liquor, mixers, and non-alcoholic options on display. We even supply pre-cut fruit and a bar tool kit in case someone wants to make an Old Fashioned or Margarita.
At all my parties except this one, I supply a pre-batched welcome drink. As guests come in, they can easily be handed a beverage and start to mingle versus getting to the bar and trying to concoct a tasty beverage. Not everyone is a mixologist or knows how to make their favorite cocktail. I don't serve a pre-batched drink at this specific party because I'm busy introducing people to each other and making sure all the decorating supplies are out.
Toast: What's a party without thanking your guests for joining and sharing a toast to the holiday season. We typically do a toast about 5-10 minutes before cookie decorating. We know that most of our guests will have arrived by then, everyone will have a drink in hand and it's an opportunity to go over any cookie decorating rules. *The most important part of a toast is to thank your guests for coming and any shout outs to friends who helped set up.
Cookie Decorating Contest: Usually we have 4-5 judges pick their favorite cookies but this year we decided on categories: Ugliest Sweater (Cookie), Naughty or Sexy, Most Creative, Most Artistic. Most of our guests talk about their cookie design planning as soon as we send them an invite so providing categories the day of the party threw some for a loop. Do we regret it, not at all.
Cookie Display: As your guests are wrapping up their cookie design, make a designated location to place all cookies. This puts everyone on display and one spot for the judges to view all the cookies.