Keep your winter celebration running smoothly by preventing three common mistakes.
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friends and family dancing outdoors during party winter time
Credit: Aja Koska / Getty Images

Hosting a winter party comes with some obvious musts: Of course, you'll want to serve a menu that's heavy on the comfort food and remember to shovel your front walkway, but the smaller, often-overlooked details can still have a major effect on your guests' experience, says Bluebird Productions' Virginia Frischkorn. Anticipate and avoid these three common mishaps and put on a party your guests will remember for all the right reasons.

Setting a too-strict timeline.

When the weather outside is frightful, a cozy, formal dinner feels like the perfect way to avoid the elements, but designing an event that relies on to-the-minute scheduling increases the potential for a major party faux-pas. "Timing will be nearly impossible to keep as planned: Last-minute cancellations will occur, people will be late," says Frischkorn. "Getting out of the house when it's cold takes longer, and the drive may be longer with poor road conditions. Timing for cold-weather winter events is always an issue and the belief that these gatherings will run on time is a hard one to maintain." Rework your party plans to keep the agenda flexible by forgoing fussy dishes that need to be served at a specific time and skipping the assigned seating. "Plan for cold weather gatherings to be on a flow and with a more fluid timeframe," says Frischkorn. "Heavy cocktail parties or stationed gatherings allow for guests to come and go—and for those running late to have less of a negative impact on your soufflé!"

Losing your guests' favorite gloves or coat.

Your foyer closet may be able to handle the occasional extra blazer or umbrella, but hosting a bevy of guests who come wearing parkas, puffers, and overcoats requires a little extra consideration; otherwise, you run the risk of sending guests home with the wrong outwear and accessories. "Winter and cold weather means more gear to keep track of, and there will likely be mixed up coats and lost gear!" says Frischkorn. "If you have the space, set up a bedroom or closet to receive the gear that comes with guests—hats, jackets, gloves, scarves. Bonus points for having a basket or reusable grocery bag for them to put their smaller items in so they don't dig around looking for them after your fabulous fête."

Serving drinks that are too warm—or not warm enough.

During the rest of the year, stocking a party-ready bar is fairly intuitive: frozen drinks in the summer, lemonade and mimosas at brunch, boozy coffees at the holidays. But creating a cocktail menu for a winter party presents two challenges: Running out of ice for shaking festive, frosty cocktails and neglecting to provide a warm-up beverage for guests coming in from the cold. "When it's cold outside, it's common to forget to get ice for drinks—set a reminder and make sure you're not left without ice cubes for your cocktails," recommends Frischkorn. And complete your bar menu with cold-weather classics you can heat in advance: "People like hot toddies, spiked cider, and other warm drinks on a cold gathering," says Frischkorn. "While this seems obvious, it requires a touch more prep in advance and often is forgotten. Don't forget that a little prep will go a long way when making your guests comfortable."

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