Tasks You Can Complete Now to Prepare for a Season of Holiday Entertaining
Once Halloween has come and gone, you know the holidays will be here in a flash (we're sure you're already seeing holiday displays pop up in retail stores!). This time of year, it's never too early to start preparing for a season of holiday entertaining. "Some of our clients begin the process right after Halloween; some plan it just a couple of weeks prior to their holiday party. It's an individual decision—whenever the mood is right," says Sunny Ravanbach, founder of event planning company White Lilac. One thing is guaranteed, though: The earlier you start, though, the less you'll have to do at the very last minute. Plus, getting tasks out of the way early means you'll also probably be able to enjoy the holiday season much more. Instead of feeling rushed to organize, clean, cook, and decorate the house from top to bottom, you can spend time with family and friends.
Another bonus of early planning? The sooner you begin, the more time you'll have to think about every last detail and create the holiday party you've always envisioned. "We like to incorporate tradition, but in a very unconventional and whimsical way," Ravanbach explains. "We love holiday décor that has a little unexpected twist. It can serve as a conversation piece to the guests who are pleasantly surprised."
From a chic, inviting aesthetic to delicious food, festive drinks, and fun entertainment, there are a variety of elements that can help you pull together your very best holiday party (and you can begin working on them up to a month, or more, ahead of time). Here, Ravanbach shares the things you can start doing now to prepare for seasonal parties that go off without a hitch, regardless of your hostessing experience.
Set a Date
Whether you plan on hosting one holiday party or several throughout the season, looking at your calendar to set a date (or dates!) will give you a better picture of how long you have to prepare. That's why this step should always come first.
Plan Your Guest List
After you settle on the number of people you want to invite (or the number of people your space can actually hold), you can move onto other tasks. After all, the invite list will dictate much of what comes next, from food quantity to table headcounts.
Create a Budget
Once you have an approximation of how big your party will be, you can set a realistic budget; this often involves plotting out how much food (nearly always the bulk of your overall expenditure) you'll need, and adjusting décor and additional categories (like favors and flowers) as necessary.
Now for the fun part: It's time to create an aesthetic for your party. "Scroll through Instagram and [flip through] magazines," Ravanbach advises. "You may also find inspiration in everyday things when you're out and about. Landscapes, architecture, and artwork might even inspire you. Keep your eyes open to [those] unexpected sources."
Send Out Invitations
Ravanbach suggests sending out holiday invitations about six to eight weeks prior to your holiday party. Set an RSVP date about three weeks prior to the main event.
Look at What You Already Have
"Start going through some of your old holiday decorations and weed out items that may no longer be cohesive with your current design aesthetic," Ravanbach says. "This will give you a better understanding of the items you may need to replace."
Fill in Décor Gaps
Now that you can better visualize the décor pieces missing from your holiday repertoire, start shopping! Online, in store, holiday pop-up shops—wherever the inspiration strikes. More of a crafter? Set yourself up with the tools you'll need and begin executing larger projects.
Plan Your Menu
If you're having your party catered, now's the time to start looking for vendors. If you're handling the food yourself, go through cookbooks and recipes to plot your menu—and get testing. "Try them out now so you can feel confident and ease the stress of having to prepare the dinner for the first time," Ravanbach says.
Consider Party Favors
"If you host a holiday party every year, we love the idea of incorporating tradition in fun and new ways," Ravanbach says. "For example, you can create customizable ornaments with your guests' names on them that they can take home and hang on their trees. Each year can have a different font, color, theme, and can act as a keepsake."
Prepare for the Unexpected
Having a few things on hand at all times means you'll be ready to handle any and every surprise—including unexpected drop-in guests—the holiday season throws your way. After all, sometimes those impromptu get-togethers are the most fun (but they're even better when you're prepared to entertain accordingly). "Get festive ingredients to make holiday-inspired cocktails and sweet treats," Ravanbach says. "There's something about the smell of warm cookies baking in the oven while you're sipping on spirits and sitting around your tree that just gives you all of the holiday feels!"