How to Host an Easy Holiday Party
One of the things people look forward to most as the holiday season approaches? The set of holiday parties that come along with it: It's a wonderful time to celebrate with friends and family. However, there's no denying that hosting a holiday party, should that responsibility land on your shoulders, is generally associated with some level of stress. As the host, you may feel all sorts of pressure—financial, social, and beyond. Before you know it, the well-meant invitation you extended to those you love becomes one you come to regret.
While there's a lot that goes into hosting loved ones during this festive season, it is possible to host an easy holiday party—one that doesn't make you feel overwhelmed and out of the control (two details that aren't compatible with the spirit of the season). To do so, it's important to give yourself enough time in advance of the celebration to plan out as many details as you can, so you don't feel overworked on the day of, notes Mindy Weiss, a celebrity event planner based in Los Angeles and New York City. She suggests prepping little by little each day so you're not making last-minute décor adjustments or just-in-case side dishes with just minutes to spare before your guests arrive. "You want to enjoy it just as much as they will!" she adds.
Of course, there's more to executing a seamless holiday celebration than simply preparing the food or your home's decorations ahead of schedule. Ahead, experts share even more of their best-kept secrets for pulling off an easy and enjoyable fête.
Send Invites Early
You might not start thinking about the holidays until Halloween has come and gone, but your friends and family's seasonal calendars will fill up fast, especially on the precious few Saturday nights in December. "Inviting them with advance notice ensures the guests you really want there are available," says Allison Pieter, a Los Angeles-based event producer. She recommends sending invites via an online invitation service, which is faster, easier, and cheaper than sending invitations by mail.
Choose a Theme—and Stick with It
Whether it's a color scheme, a seasonal fruit, or even a holiday song, choosing one design element to lead the rest will create cohesion throughout your event, explains Kristine Cooke, owner, event planner, and designer at Simply Charming Socials. "For example, if cranberry is your common thread, choose floating cranberries and candles on your tablescape, a cranberry spritzer cocktail upon guest arrival, and a goat cheese and cranberry tartlet for dessert," she says. "Nothing has to be too matchy-matchy, but if you have two or three nods to your theme, it will look so thoughtful to your guests."
Utilize What You Already Have in Your House
Before you spend hundreds on groceries and party supplies, take a look at what you might already have in your pantry, cabinets, and storage spaces. "Whether it's the fancy plates you received from your wedding or the stack of holiday cards on the table, make it easier on yourself and use what you have on hand for décor," says Weiss. If you do have to purchase new décor, don't go overboard. Weiss recommends taking advantage of empty wall space and displaying garlands on the wall using removable clips.
Always Overestimate When Buying Food and Beverages
The last thing you need to worry about in the midst of entertaining is running out of food or drinks, leaving your guests hungry and thirsty. Sure, you may wind up with a heaping pile of leftovers, but Weiss suggests sending your guests home with them in take-out boxes or donating remaining meals to the nearest shelter (that's certainly one way to give back this season).
Don't Stretch Yourself Too Thin in the Kitchen
Even if you love to cook, attempting to make everything for your party from scratch is a recipe for disaster. Whip up a couple of signature dishes, but make your life easier and buy the rest. The same goes for cocktails. "You can prepare a wonderful holiday punch in advance, which also makes for a great visual, but all your other bar elements can be placed on a table for guests to help themselves or make their own cocktails," says Joe Moller, owner of Joe Moller Events. "This should free up some time that can be reinvested in decorating your holiday table and bar."
Arrange the Party Wisely
"Just as wild animals gather at the watering hole, your guests will always gather around food," says Katie Benson, owner of #TableSettingIsMyLife. She suggests putting your food stations where you want your guests to socialize. "If you put the food in the kitchen, people will stay in the kitchen," she says. "For the best flow, place appetizers in different locations, forcing people to move around and mingle."
Ask for Help
Once friends and family hear that you're hosting a holiday party, chances are they'll shortly begin asking how they can help. Accept your aunt's gracious offer to bring her best cookies and your best friend's suggestion that she arrive early to help you set up. You could also consider hiring outside help, such as a cleaning crew. Being open to an extra pair of hands will help you relax and enjoy the party (and its aftermath) much more, explains Cooke.
Stick to a Timeline
Even if you're not the type to follow a schedule, it's smart to incorporate some kind of plan for the day (or night) of the event. This will help make the party feel seamless, notes Weiss. "From the time that guests arrive to when dessert will be served, you'll feel calmer if you plan ahead and stick to your schedule," she says. "While we can't always plan for the unexpected, you can tack on a few minutes for any interruptions that might occur."
Don't Forget the Music
There's no reason to hire a DJ for your holiday party, but you also don't want to forget about music completely. If you're looking for holiday-themed songs, you can use an app like Spotify or Pandora to play a fitting playlist. That way, you don't have to think about what to play—and you'll always have melodies in the background to enhance the festive mood.
Provide Plenty of Trash Cans
Make cleaning up that much easier by strategically placing small waste cans throughout the party area—one by the buffet, one by the bar, and one in the restroom, suggests Moller. "Place extra liners in the bottom of the waste cans before you secure the liner to be used over them so you can easily remove the top bag, take one of the extras from the bottom, put it in place, and move on," he says. "A clean party space is important and easy to manage with this system."