2020 was the year that will live in infamy for eternity, as it was the year that COVID-19 came to town. Like everything else since 2020, your 2021 holiday party planning is going to again look different this year as well. But, just because we might not be able to have the pre-pandemic style of big holiday parties in person like we used to, that doesn’t mean we still all can’t celebrate together. For 2021, it's still important to celebrate, create memories and remember that many people are still having low morale, or are feeling disconnected from their friends & family.

DISCLAIMER: Before we get into the nitty-gritty of actual event planning a holiday party during covid, please do your research on the guidelines issued by your state, county, or city surrounding in-person gatherings. Paying special attention to the maximum headcount permitted mask-wearing requirements, locale restrictions, ie: exclusively outdoors, limited indoors, etc.

2021 Holiday Planning

How to Plan Your 2021 Holiday Party During COVID19

Smaller 2021 holiday party events are still best

Smaller parties allow for better social connections. Even with vaccinations, some people are still very concerned about being around larger groups of people during a holiday party outside of their immediate families or social circles, even if they claim that they've "been safe".

Select a smaller number of people for a spot on your guest list this 2021 holiday season. We find that parties with fewer than 24 people are where most guests can reach feel more comfortable about their attendance. The smaller the headcount, allows for everyone to be able to converse with one another at a normal volume, and to actually be able to hear each other, and be heard when speaking.

white event tent on green grass field

Wide open spaces with plenty of fresh air can provide comfort

Always provide an outdoor open space for guests to be able to utilize. Even as the holiday event season weather turns cold or wet, you can still utilize the outdoors to still add that extra layer of comfort for your guests. You can easily keep things warm and cozy by utilizing patio heaters, fire pits, or big fluffy blankets. If you don't happen to have an outdoor gazebo or large covered patio, contact your local party rentals agency or our concierge team about renting a heated event tent to keep you warm & dry during your holiday festivities.

Create positive memories, get festive with your decor!  

Kick the decor up a few notches! Since you aren't spending a ton of money on huge amounts of food and booze for your traditional huge holiday shindig, splurge a little bit more on the decor. For example, utilizing festively colored cloth napkins at your dinner table in lieu of paper, varied colors, quantities, and sizes of candles, custom lighting, etc. Always remember that not everyone who may be attending your event may celebrate the same holidays as you do.

Think non-holiday-specific color themes such as fall harvest colors, or a winter wonderland color scheme with lots of snowflakes whites, blues, and either gold or silver glitter can make everyone feel welcome and a part of your holiday party. To help make people feel more comfortable as some may wish to remain socially distanced, try utilizing individual bistro tables for guests that seat 2-4 people. Reach out to a local calligraphy artist about creating custom name tag place cards for the tables.

holiday catering appetizers on a white platter

Forget about platters & bowls on the buffet!

Discover a signature food & wine pairing experience. Even into late 2021, public health experts still strongly suggest that things like self-service open bars, passed appetizers, and self-service buffet or family-style shared platters of food, be avoided due to "multi-touch" potential for exposure to COVID19. Instead, simply turn to interactive seated "signature experiences" such as a food & wine pairing menu, or signature cocktail & appetizer, or small plates tapas pairing experience menus. These types of "special occasion" holiday party style concepts can still create positive memories, along with allowing people to feel safer, comfortable, and more relaxed, all while still remaining interactive, tasty, and fun.

One of the additional great benefits of having a smaller headcount during your event is that you may be able to afford more specialized, higher-quality ingredients or menu items. These dishes will elevate the elegance and help make your party stand out as highly memorable, special, and unique. Think something uniquely special and showstopping like adding a spectacular sustainable caviar and small producer champagne pairing course.

black Tsar Nicoulai caviar on cracker with salmon

Gifts and Swag Bags

Don't forget that people love a small gift. Let's face it, 2020 was the year from hell, and 2021 wasn't much better. Little gifts and swag bags can provide something fun and memorable. You can find really inexpensive clearance section 2020 themed gag gifts such as a dumpster fire candle, or a 2020 bad rating t-shirt. Don't forget to include items that your guests may want to use right away upon their arrival, such as hand sanitizer, or festive holiday-themed face covering if they feel more comfortable.

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Relax, have fun, and always leave it to the professionals! 

Be a guest at your own party! Have AWG Private Chefs handle all of the holiday party details for you. Our COVID-19 safety-trained event planners, chefs, and service staff can handle every last detail from all of the food & beverages, specialized decor, party rentals, event tents & heating, and even host/hostess gifts for you. The best part of it all, we handle all the cooking, service, and we even do the cleanup, allowing you to experience our signature stress-free "Easy, Effortless, Entertaining" services allowing you to be a guest at your own event and spend quality time this holiday season with your family and friends.

To inquire about booking your holiday party, or any gathering or special event, contact the AWG Private Chefs client concierge team at 1-877-753-2727 or place your inquiry online.

Let's be honest, who doesn't love a fun, festive, holiday party full of great food, cheer, and smiles from your guests. We all do, but we don't need to bust our budgets and overspend to create something fun and memorable. Here are some of our tips on how to be merry, without the budget having to be scary!

How to Host A Budget Friendly Holiday Party :

guests at a holiday party smiling and looking festive at a budget friendly holiday party

Idea #1: Your guests don't need to walk out the door so stuffed that they don't want to eat for a week.

One of the most common mistakes many hosts make is ordering way too much food. You don't need 20 or more appetizers for a holiday cocktail party. For a "light appetizers with drinks" party that lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, we suggest no more than 4-5 appetizer selections. For a cocktail party lasting longer than 2.5 hours, we suggest 6-8 selections maximum. You don't need to go overboard on variety.

Idea #2: Focus on the fun!

Holiday party budgets can quickly get crazy if the host is buying gifts for each guest. Even small "welcome gifts" or a swag bag upon leaving aren't very budget friendly. A fun and interactive way to keep your guests having a blast is to do a White Elephant style gift exchange, where you ask your guests to bring a small inexpensive gift that is wrapped to the party in lieu of a host/hostess gift for you.

As people arrive, you have them pick up a slip of paper with a number on it, and place it in their pocket. After drinks and nibbles, you call everyone together, and the person with the 1st number draws a gift from the pile first.

Idea #3: Keep your guest list headcount manageable

We get it, you love to throw big bashes and invite the entire block, everyone from work, and their families... No... you really don't need to. A smaller intimate party of say 15-30 people will not only allow you to connect with your guests personally but will allow everyone to circulate and actually interact with each other. No more wallflowers, staring at their phones at your party! Lower headcounts are always more budget-friendly, and if you want to show off a little bit, you can make the food more upscale without sending your budget skywards.

mug of gourmet hot chocolate with caramel and chocolate drizzle on top of whipped cream

Idea #4: Designer hot chocolate instead of a full bar

Look, we’re not trying to be Mr. McScrooge about your holiday booze here, but the reality is, alcohol can be mondo expensive—especially when you’re buying it for a large group at a party. We still want to be fun and festive during a budget friendly holiday party while saving some major bucks, then forget the full bar service all night, the spiked eggnog, and 10 different types of wine, and offer a gourmet hot chocolate to your guests.

To make it a touch boozy without going budget blowout, think Irish Cream, Amaretto, or Peppermint Schnapps. Alternatively, if you want to 86 the booze altogether, do designer infused syrups such as gingerbread, peppermint, white chocolate, or even pumpkin spice hot chocolate.

Idea #5: Don't overdo the decorations!

We get it, you want to deck the halls in every nook and cranny of your home or office. Decorations and floral for the entire place costs a bundle, and let's be honest, will your guests really remember it? No, they won't. Focus on a few high impact decorations and strategically place them in high traffic areas. Your front door, the mantel, the buffet table, etc.

Idea #6: Hark those angels are singing!

Instead of hiring a solo musician, or a band for your event. Think more budget friendly for your holiday party! Everyone loves holiday tunes! It’s good for the soul and certainly sets the mood for the event. Set the merry and bright mood with your holiday favorites, there are great online playlists of hours of holiday music. You could even do a little Christmas karaoke. Just search for a Christmas karaoke playlist on YouTube, and let your friends belt out their own rendition of Jingle Bell Rock!

people singing at a budget friendly holiday party

Idea #7: Forget the fancy-schmancy custom invitations

We get it, you love to make it memorable. Your event will be memorable by the mood, atmosphere, food, and drinks that are served, not the expensive custom printed invitations you send out. Keep the invites basic, with clear-cut information of date, location, start time, and more importantly a stop time.

Many of our hosts forget to put the stop time, and there's always a number of friends who will linger far past when social cues tell them to go. Always include a stop time. Remember to secure your event date with us as early as possible. Then send out your holiday invites straight away to maximize the RSVPs. People's schedules during the holiday season can always get crazy.

Idea #8: Skip the service formalities

Don't bust the budget on bartenders and service staff. Let AWG Private Chefs create you a stunning food display, or multiple food display stations scattered around the event space to keep your guests moving, social, and engaged. Utilize paper napkins instead of china. Having a smaller number of menu items at each station will encourage guests to move about the party, talk to one another, and seek out other areas to move to in the event there's that one party guest who loves to monopolize the conversation. You know, we all have "that one person"...

Idea #9: Timing is everything

We all know that people's holiday schedules fill up rapidly, with Friday and Saturday almost always consumed first. Instead of trying to cram your event onto someone's busy holiday schedule, think about hosting an evening cocktail party from 630-830pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Or perhaps a Sunday holiday brunch from 10-12.

Keep the parties shorter and scheduled on the non-prime days. This can often not only save you money on the entire event, but you may end up with more RSVPs and less of the dreaded "Sorry, I'm already booked then" responses from your guests.

Idea #10: Be a guest at your own event!

With AWG Private Chefs, experience our signature "Easy, Effortless Entertaining" service. Our team of Certified Master Chefs, Event Planners, Mixologists, Sommeliers, and seasoned Service staff can handle all of the details for you. Allowing you to maximize your time with your guests at your next budget friendly holiday party. So relax, and enjoy knowing that the event, food, service and above all the cleanup is handled for you!

Best wishes & best dishes to you all this holiday season!

To inquire about holiday party menus, or to secure your event date, visit our Contact Us Page or call our concierge hotline at 1-877-753-2727 today.

There's nothing more daunting than the last few minutes prior to your guest arrival. Running around the house making sure everything looks "perfect". The lighting, decor, mood, the food, and the sheer terror of ... OH MY GOSH, I FORGOT TO CHILL THE WINE! and your guests will be here in 20 minutes! No worries, here's how to chill your wine in a hurry!

Panic no more friends! The entertaining experts of AWG Private Chefs have absolutely got you covered! Here are some helpful hints on what you'll need to have that wine or bubbly chilled to the perfect serving temperature in just twenty minutes or less!

Wine chilling vessels.  Clear lexan ice bucket, tall stock pot, copper champagne bucket.

Step 1: Grab your favorite tall wine chilling vessel

To quickly chill wine, grab any tall bucket-looking item you may have laying around the house that will hold ice and water. Heck, even your trusty dusty favorite spaghetti pot can work in a pinch. Ideally, you want a vessel tall enough to chill the entire bottle of wine up to the neck.

Step 2: Place the wine in the bucket and add ice and water

Now that you've found that perfect chilling vessel. Grab your favorite bottle of wine or bubbly and place it in the center of the vessel. Fill the bucket up with ice halfway to the top. Fill the remainder of the vessel with cold tap water. Leave about an inch or two from the top of the vessel to prevent spilling.

Step 3: Add the secret weapon! SALT!

large ice bucket, filled with ice and a bottle of wine.  Sprinkling salt over the ice to accelerate chilling.

You're already well on your way to that perfectly chilled bottle of wine however, the secret weapon that will make things happen even faster is salt. Ideally use rock salt, but if you don't happen to have rock salt laying around your kitchen, no worries! Use either kosher salt or even regular table salt as a last resort. Sprinkle 4-5 generous tablespoons of whatever type of salt you happen to have available on top of the ice & water mixture. Then bounce your bottle up and down a few times to mix the water into a brine solution. But why salt? science! Salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water, allowing for faster chilling power.

Step 4: Stir the bottle around every 5 minutes for 20 minutes

Now that you've got your bottle "chilling out" in the ice and salt solution, stop, breathe, check your hair and makeup... You've totally got this. When you're done checking on your hair & makeup, simply stir the bottle around in the salt solution every 5 minutes for 20 minutes. Don't forget to go light the candles!

Step 5: Pop that cork and enjoy!

Just as the doorbell rings, give yourself one final deep breath, and be prepared to be the host(ess) with the most(ess). Your wine is now perfectly chilled and ready to be served. Don't forget when you pull the bottle out of its salty plunge, that you wipe the bottle dry with a clean towel to avoid any saltwater drips into your glass. No one wants a salty flavored glass of Dom Perignon!

using a sous vide machine to chill wine.

Now that Sous Vide cooking is all the rage, we found one of our favorite non-cooking uses for our Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker chilling wine in a hurry!

In lieu of bouncing that bottle up and down every 5 minutes while running all over the house tending to your last-minute details... Simply clamp on your Sous Vide machine to your chilling vessel, dial up the desired serving temperature of your wine, click start, and walk away! Your sous vide circulator will utilize its digitally controlled technology to allow the water and ice mixture to circulate around your bottle ensuring the absolute perfect service temperature... every time!

Do you need a great way to feed a bunch of people affordably, by adding a dazzling eye-popping "wow factor" without being boring or having "the same old, same old" at your event? Well, think no further than a grazing table, or fully edible tablescape.

Grazing Tables & Fully Edible Tablescapes:

Grazing tables can be as casual or as formal as you'd like them to be. Offering a variety of tasty morsels for your guests to enjoy, that can easily sit out over time without worry of failure of ingredient quality.

Grazing table featuring charcuterie, fruit, cheese, meats, and other delicious nibbles.

AWG Private Chefs always offer a variety of both proteins, vegan, and gluten-free options for your guests, make sure that the gluten-containing items are separate from everything else, (as pictured, use vessels, vases, etc)

In lieu of, or in addition to a select number of passed gourmet appetizers of your choosing can be a wonderful alternative to a sit-down meal, where guests can mix and mingle, enjoy wine or craft cocktail pairings, and eat enough to be satisfied, all while you the host doesn't incur the big expense of a sit-down meal.

Grazing tables are wonderful for space-constrained venues such as the office conference room, smaller homes, or even on the boat!

Why not add a grazing table or fully edible tablescape to your next event?

There’s truly no better way to start your day than surrounded by a group of your favorite people, eating a variety of delicious breakfast foods, and sipping on that perfect bloody mary, Aperol spritz, cup of 100% pure organic Weaver's Coffee, or a mimosa or two. Brunch parties are hugely trending in the food world these days, and it's one of our favorite meals!

Throwing a brunch party can be way less daunting than you think. One of the big benefits of hosting a brunch, is that your afternoon & evening are freed up for you & your guests to attend other events, or simply relax at home. Another big benefit, is that a brunch party can often cost much less than hosting a dinner event. Perfect for a celebration on a budget!

Being able to enjoy a selection of different delicious food items, brunch is one of those meals that is casually elegant... Meaning that the menu served very much sets the mood for the event. Whatever menu you choose!

Let's talk popular brunch food shall we?

Avocado toast for brunch consisting of toasted whole grain bread, organic avocado, fresh baby spinach, and chili flakes

Gourmet Avocado Toast

Avocado toast is one of the most requested AWG Private Chefs brunch menu items for the last few years. Comprised of locally fresh baked artisanal whole grain bread, toasted perfectly, hand mashed organic ripe avocado, a just a spritz of citrus juice (I love key lime instead of lemon on my avocado toasts!), a fried egg, and just a sprinkling of sea salt & red chili flake. Yummmmm...

Add a dallop of caviar for that extra pop of salinity and style!

Mini belgian waffles with bottoms dipped in chocolate, accompanied by berries.

Mini Belgian waffles anyone?

Our double malted mini Belgian waffles are a great way to indulge in a huge flavor-packed bite, without having to eat a full-sized portion. Complete your waffle with your favorite toppings. Organic farm fresh berries picked right at the perfect moment, and a drizzle of our Bourbon whiskey cinnamon-infused pure maple syrup does my tastebuds just fine!

Ramekin containing crab, bacon, and bread pudding melange, topped with hollandaise sauce and a poached egg.

Crab and Bacon Benedict Savory Bread Pudding

Our twist on the brunch classic, Bacon & Crab savory bread pudding benedicts! Comprised of rich custard-soaked locally baked San Francisco sourdough bread, organic chives, sweet onion, and red bell pepper, locally sourced Dungeness Crab, and of course, applewood smoked bacon. Top it off with a farm-fresh poached egg, Hollandaise sauce, and a sprinkle of smoked pimenton. A great addition to your brunch buffet menu when served in an individual ramekin.

Bloody mary cocktail served with bacon, green olives, and a dungeness crab claw.

The Bacon Bloody Mary

Drinks Anyone? Whenever you're hosting a brunch event, you always want to have a selection of both alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverages available to your guests.

On the boozy front, we always suggest something bubbly! Champagne or Prosecco is a must! After all, it's the foundation for that perfect mimosa right? Plus bubbly can refresh a palate and enhance appetite.

Bacon Bloody Marys are the quintessential brunch beverage, that perfect blend of tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, a touch of creamed horseradish, pimento stuffed green olives, farm fresh stalk of celery (always leave the leaves on!) and of course your favorite vodka! Topped with a crack of black pepper, and a piece of bacon!

For our guests that wish not to imbibe, we suggest both coffee and tea from Weaver's Coffee and Tea. Also a selection of premium juices (for mixing into those mimosas as well!), fresh squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, and white grape juice are always crowd pleasers. Also don't forget to have plain sparkling water available as well for guests who may wish to enjoy a non-alcoholic spritzer!

Remember that brunch is all about having a menu wide variety of delicious food items, great beverages, and an event that should last just a few hours, to allow people to get on with their day!

Enjoy!

© Copyright 2021 AWG Private Chefs. ® Easy, Effortless Entertaining is a registered trademark/service mark of AWG Private Chefs. All Rights Reserved
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