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7 Essential Items You Need To Start Entertaining At Home

'Tis the season for entertaining, people, and we think it's about time you follow through on your secret desire to host a winter-themed craft cocktail party for your friends.

It only takes a few items to prep your home (or apartment, or shoebox-sized studio) for a festive, easy dinner or cocktail party. Round up these seven items (or invest in the ones you're lacking), and prepare to become the holiday hostess with the mostest.

entertaining starter kit
Multipurpose drinking glasses
They'll instantly glam-ify wine, cocktails and even champagne. Get a set of standard glasses or tumblers and make sure to have extras on-hand in case of accidents.
Gold-rimmed drinking glasses by House of Presley, at One Kings Lane

A versatile serving tray
For cheese, veggies or hot appetizers, one standard serving tray will do the trick. If you're feeling extra-crafty (or extra-cheap), make your own from a cookie sheet.
Caramel faux pony tray by Lazy Susan, at Houzz

Cocktail napkins
Paper ones are more than fine -- just something colorful and/or patterned to majorly brighten your table. If you're in cocktail party mode, guests can rest their appetizers on napkins, so you won't have to provide plates. Try a cloth variety so you always have a stash for future parties.
Monogrammed linen cocktail napkins, Grandin Road

They're colorful, they're classy, they fill up all that empty space on your countertop spread... and who said they had to be real?
Faux roses in cube vase, One Kings Lane

A serving bowl and spoons
While mismatched dining plates give your dinner party an endearing effect, this morning's cereal bowl does not do justice as a serving vessel. Invest in a big bowl to set a fun, family-style vibe for your guests.
Acacia wood serving set, Pacific Merchants

A festive drink dispenser
You didn't sweat to make that sangria pretty for nothing. Show it off -- and add an elegant centerpiece to your kitchen display -- with a glass drink dispenser. The cute little spigot is both playful and classy.
Westbury Beverage Dispenser by Godinger, at Wayfair

Big, bold ones set an instantly cozy mood that's both sophisticated and sexy... and your space will smell great no matter how much bruschetta you burn. Want to play it super safe? Opt for the flameless variety.
Flameless votive candles, Crate & Barrel

Bonus: A killer playlist
The best things in life -- and in hostessing -- are free. Cue your favorite music, and let the magic happen.

Lighting Is Everything
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And we mean everything, because let's be real: lighting can make or break the mood of your party. The trick is to have just enough light for your guests to see each other's expressions and make their way around after dark.

Try going with mood-enhancing dim lights and don’t be afraid to get creative. Try draping these Lace Paper Lanterns from your trees or ceiling.
Cocktails First
This is a cocktail party, after all. Get your party started right with a couple of signature dranks (yep, dranks) to dish out to your guests as they arrive. And, please, don’t skimp on the garnish!

Try going with a mixed punch that you can prepare before the festivities begin so you don’t keep your thirsty friends waiting. Also, be sure to accommodate the non-cocktail drinkers of the bunch by providing your guests with diverse alcohol-free options as well.
Keep It Cozy
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When it comes to entertaining outdoors, comfort is key. While many of your guests may start out standing (read: classic mingling stance), be sure to provide comfortable seating for at least 30 percent or more of the crowd.

Try making them feel at home with lots of seating options and extra pillows. Take your outdoor decor to another level with fancy accents like this Petals Pillow. After all, these flowers are always in season.
Move Things Along With A Meal
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Let a well-planned multi-course meal set the pace for your party. Kick things off with light, colorful appetizers like fruits and vegetables and let a sweet desert signal the end of the soiree.

Try sprucing things up a bit by serving up your old favorites in new and creative waves. For finger foods, scrap the bowls and utensils and dish out your "appetizers" in these funky Stackable Goblets instead.
Serve Seasonal
As you plan your menu be sure to keep in mind what fruits and vegetables are in season at the time. Chances are, that’s exactly guests will be in the mood for.

Try hitting up your local food markets before your shindig for your freshest, tastiest and healthiest options.
Don't Forget The Vegetarians
If you're anything like us, you appreciate a barbecue-grilled burger (or two), but as a good host, take care not to alienate the vegetarians in your crew.

Try constructing your menu so that 20 to 30 percent is meatless. Not only will you make your veggie-loving friends happy, you’ll be making sure meat-lovers get their daily dose of fruits and veggies.
Please Don't Stop The Music
Seriously, don't. Music is another one of those seemingly obvious details that can really set the tone of a party. Avoid awkward silences and keep your guests on their feet by setting up a playlist of tunes beforehand.

Try letting your guests take turns being DJ for an eclectic mix of tunes that satisfy everyone's tastes.
Clean As You Go
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We all know that parties can get messy. While there’s no way to entirely avoid spills and slip-ups, you can avoid a post-party disaster zone by tidying up throughout the course of the event.

Try getting your guests in on the clean-up effort. Set up small stations where they can put used glasses and other utensils, and be sure to label the trash area with a sign or (for swankier folks) a decorative tray so no one is stuck holding an empty glass.
Remember, Games Aren't Just For Kids
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Who says a group of mature adults can't enjoy a good old-fashioned potato sack race?

Try to make the most of your outdoor space (and get some awesome photo ops) by encouraging them to participate in games and activities throughout the day. Our personal backyard fave? Two words: bocce ball.
But Party In Style
While it’s important to keep your guests comfortable, don’t forget this is a party, y'all! It may not be as extravagant as this unforgettable soiree a la Jay Gatsby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t party in style.

Try adding a little luxury to your backyard with posh accessories like this Fairies & Belles Windchime.

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