Tis the season to be jolly. And Singapore, otherwise known as Party Central, is in full swing this festive season as hosts and hostesses cook, concoct drinks and clean homes for Christmas dos, New Year's Eve bashes and get-togethers.
But while a party may seem fun and games, all the behind-the-scenes planning is hardly comfort and joy.
'I've thrown a lot of Christmas parties over the years but frankly, it's a lot of work and it can get quite tiring,' says Tham Wan Pei, 28, a project manager. 'I'm usually running around town picking up things for the party at the last minute. It's pretty stressful.'
However, here are some glad tidings: Professionals who do party-planning for a living share 10 cool Yule rules.
For simple chic, wrap crushed stainless steel crushed wire around a moss ball and insert a glass tube inside as a water source. Pick flowers such as Glorisa Lily, Vanda or Phalaenopsis which come in unusual shapes and last up to six days.
Bundle of wire, $3, from Boenga; box of moss balls, $25, from Candy Greenhouse, 567 Thomson Road, tel: 6256-6788; glass tube, $1, from Boenga; Glorisa Lily, $14 for five stalks, Vanda, $13 for 20 stalks, Phalaenopsis, $15 for one pot, all from Far East Flora, 555 Thomson Road, tel: 6251-5151
Add a little drama to your table by combining decorative items such as a mask, lace, beads and sprinkle colourful flowers such as Malus (miniature apples) which will last for two weeks - long after your guests have left.
Mask, $9, lace, from $6, beads, complimentary, all from Boenga, 40C Harding Road, tel: 6423-1400; Malus, $5.50 per stalk, from Candy Greenhouse
Want a grand impact? Combine exotic flowers such as Holland tulips, New Zealand hydrangea, viburnum snowball and Equador roses with crystal candelabrums (ornamental branch holders). Napkins wrapped with flowers and beads complete the table. Centerpiece lasts for four to six days.
Holland tulips, $15.50 for 10 stalks, New Zealand hydrangea, $10 per stalk, viburnum snowball, $50 for five stalks, Equador roses, $21.40 for 10 stalks, all from Far East Flora; candelabrum, $75 to rent, from Boenga
1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
For those who are compulsive list-makers, this is a gift; for the less organised, it's a chore. But it can make the difference between fiesta and fiasco.
So take some time out from trimming the tree or buying baubles to make detailed checklists that include everything from the colour of your napkins to your guest list.
2. GET THE THEME RIGHT
Think of a great concept and stick to it when planning every aspect of your party, from food to drinks to creating the right ambience.
'The different aspects of the party should come together seamlessly. Pick a theme so that the food and drinks served are in sync with your decorations,' says Roger Kao, director of events company Comcepts.
3. BE ORIGINAL
Re-hashing successful menus, collections of music and venues is fine, but be sure to add a dash of your own style. It's this attention to detail that can make all the difference.
Play your favourite song to close the party or create a special drink that matches the party's theme.
'The idea is that your guests should feel that something's been planned exclusively and specially for them,' says Kao.
4. HAVE THE RIGHT MIX OF PEOPLE
It sounds basic, but do ensure your guests will get along. Party animals may not go down well with teetotallers. Witty talkers will be out of step with dance-lovers.
So that means finding out beforehand as much about your guests as you can. What are their likes and dislikes, what makes them tick, what irks them? Ask about unusual eating preferences, including allergies.
'If you invite too many different types of people, no one is going to have fun,' notes Akanksha Goel, director of the Foreign Youth Club, which throws parties for expatriates in Singapore and India.
'Make sure that the people you're inviting have similar expectations. That way they'll be more likely to click.'
5. MAP IT OUT
'It's about the location, location, location,' says Colin Braberry, director of events company Ivox.
'Before deciding on a venue, ask yourself why it'll work. Is it easy to get to and how welcome will your guests feel?'
If it is at your home, make sure your pad is big enough to hold all the guests.
6. BE GENEROUS
A hungry and thirsty crowd makes for a turkey of a party.
Guests will always remember a party by the quality of the food and drinks served.
Ying Ong, director of Novus Restaurant And Bar at the National Museum, says: 'I never throw a party without making sure I have more than enough food and drinks for guests.'
Audrey Yeong, a consultant with events planning company Access Communications, advises: 'Stock up on chips and salads so that you'll always have something for guests to munch on.'
7. GO WITH THE FLOW
While a plan and plenty of lists are essential ingredients of a successful party, remember that anything can happen.
'When you're serving dinner, it's often difficult to start on time because guests often arrive separately and some often get caught in traffic,' says Ong.
'The important thing is to be flexible and act quickly.'
As well as having a Plan B up your sleeve, have a first-aid kit in your bathroom cabinet, in case a tipsy reveller trips over your tree, or worse, mistakes it for a dancing partner.
As Goel says: 'Be prepared for the unexpected. So what if nothing goes according to plan? Just make sure your friends and you end up having a grand time.'
8. DON'T BUST YOUR BUDGET
Shop around for caterers and materials to decorate your venue with. The extra legwork will save precious dollars.
'It's very easy to go overboard. But always keep track of how much you've spent and weigh your expenditure against what you'll be getting for the party,' says Goel.
9. MINGLE, MINGLE, MINGLE
As the host, you can help break the ice and get people in the party mood.
Make it a point to chat to everyone at your party.
Also, listen to what they have to say. If the feedback's negative, be gracious. Figure out what you can do differently next time.
10. ENJOY YOURSELF
It's your party and you can cry if you want to. Or you can be the life and soul of a very merry knees-up. Your infectious sense of fun ensures a good time is had by all. By night's end, everyone is singing Jingle Bells - and your praises.
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