Holiday season is around the corner. We look forward to the holiday season as a chance to host parties and gatherings with family and friends. The food and décor, the drinks and music – it all makes hosting a holiday party the highlight of the end of every year.
If you are traditionally a guest, you have an easy role to play by bringing flowers, dessert, or a bottle of wine. But if you are the host, the holiday celebration can become hectic and stressful.
Even though planning a whole evening of fun can be overwhelming, my list of 8 things to do before your guests arrive should help you host a perfect holiday party.
1. Create a master to-do list.
I like to start all my holiday parties’ preparations by creating a master to-do list. After years of hosting parties, I have learned that staying organized and planning ahead of time works best for me. Creating a to-do list means being prepared rather than being overwhelmed.
Here is how I start my to-do list:
- What is the best day and time to have a party?
- Who is on my guest list and how to invite them?
- What kind of food to serve? Do I want to ask guests to bring a dish or dessert?
- How to decorate the house? What kind of centerpiece for the table?
- What is my budget?
2. Figure out how much you can spend on a holiday party.
With the big holidays approaching it is hard to control our spending because we want to make everything perfectly beautiful and festive. November and December are the last two months of the year which are big on festivities. From my past years, I know how easy I would blow through the budget and then feel stressed about how to pay for it in January when the bills come in.
With the food prices on the rise, throwing a holiday party can be expensive. That is why your budget should dictate how much celebrating you can do.
The first thing you need to do is decide if you want to host any of the big traditional holiday meals such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. Perhaps, you rather have a quiet party just for friends and coworkers.
The next thing is to decide who will be on your guest list this year. With a never-ending pandemic, I believe this year gatherings will be smaller.
Who are your guests? Make a list and send them an invitation three weeks before the party.
These days digital invitation is the most popular way to invite your guests. I personally do not remember the last time I mailed off an envelope with an invitation card.
I often use Canva because it is an amazingly simple design program to create your own invitation. Also, Canva offers a wide selection of printable invitation templates you can use and personalize to fit your event style.
Canva.com – a free graphic design tool
By doing it online, you will be saving money by not using envelopes, cards, and stamps as much as it was popular in the past.
After deciding on the party theme and guest list, start figuring out what you need for the party (food, beverages, decorations, gifts, and so on). Before buying anything take an inventory of what you already have in your storage boxes, closets, and kitchen pantry.
The main thing to remember is that you don’t need to blow your budget by throwing a stylish holiday party because the best parties are not necessarily the most expensive ones. Stick to your budget and create a plan for a less costly but still festive gathering.
Here are some ideas on how to stick to your budget:
If you want to maximize your holiday spending and get paid for every purchase, the right cash back credit card can be a very useful tool.
3. Create your holiday party menu.
When it comes to the holiday party good food is key!
The best advice is to plan your menu in advance, so you will have a clear idea of what you will be serving to avoid the stress of last-minute cooking. If you are hosting a casual gathering with friends, ask your guests to bring a dish or appetizer to share so you will spend less time in the kitchen cooking for your guests.
But if it is a traditional sit-down dinner you will need to do more food planning.
Don’t go overboard with appetizers. I like to keep the list of appetizers simple. Instead of making a bunch of different appetizers, I prefer to make only three of four. My favorite appetizers are nuts and olives, cheese and fruit board, or charcuterie board because it does not take a long time to put all ingredients together. In addition to that, it is easy to make a beautiful presentation on a board so your guests will be impressed by it. Sometimes I add to my list a spinach dip because everybody loves it.
Choose entrees and sides. Nobody wants to get stuck in the kitchen while your guests are sitting down for dinner. The best advice is to choose dishes that can be made ahead of time and then reheated in the oven.
I recommend preparing all side dishes like stuffing, sauce, casseroles, and veggies on the day before your party. On the day of the party, it can be easily reheated or finished off. The main dish like turkey, ham, or a roast of lamb is easy to cook on the day of the party because it has to sit in the oven for a long time.
To avoid the stress of last-minute cooking, I usually look at the dinner recipes from the previous years and cook one dish that everyone enjoyed eating. That way I will have peace of mind knowing that at least one dish will be a success.
Dessert. We all know that no matter how big a holiday dinner was, there is always room for dessert. I would recommend preparing the hard stuff like pie crusts and pie fillings a couple of days before your party and store them in the freezer. Before your guests arrive, take them out, assemble, and place on the serving dish next to the dessert plates and teacups.
Wine, cocktails, liquor. I am not an expert on wine, beer, or cocktails but we stock our bar with typical vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, tonic, fresh lime, and a bucket of ice for every holiday party.
We usually serve one specialty drink with appetizers. A cape cod cocktail looks very festive and easy to make by mixing vodka with cranberry juice and garnish with a lime wedge.
With the main course we like to serve red and white wine.
But finding the perfect drink for a dessert course can be a little tricky because desserts tend to be full of reach flavors. Its recommended to pair light desserts with wines like Riesling and Moscato or Port and Sherry if you will be serving a dark chocolate cake.
Ingredients list. After you figure out the party menu, write down the ingredients you will need to prepare each dish. Keep it handy when going grocery shopping. Without a thoughtful food plan, you might end up buying too much or running out of the important ingredient when there are no shops open. It happened to me several times!
4. Decide on your holiday party color theme.
I believe that everyone wants to host a stylish event. From décor to dessert – there are many tips on how to create an unforgettable experience for your guests.
When it comes to deciding on a color theme, I usually prefer to use seasonal colors. To create a beautiful table setting for Thanksgiving dinner I like to use traditional colors like reds, oranges, and yellows. All my tablecloths and napkins are coordinated with autumn colors.
But there is nothing wrong to mix and match other colors for your table. Put together classic fall décor in reds and pair them with deep greens and blues to get a more modern look. You might want to use cooper and gray which works for any season. Whatever colors you choose, make sure it is coordinated with your dining table centerpiece.
5. Set up the mood.
My favorite part of hosting a party is setting up the table. I pull out our fancy china, silverware, crystal wine glasses, and candleholders. This is the time of the year to use them because it makes the table look elegant.
When I host a big party, I like to add a few special touches like placing the table cards with the guest’s name. You can write your friend’s name on a decorative card. In addition to that, you can attach a pretty ornament to the card so your guests can take it home after the party. Placing cards always make an evening more memorable.
A beautiful centerpiece from a local florist can make the table look super festive. But it will cost a lot of money and might last only for a few weeks. To save money on table décor, I recommend buying a few bunches of flowers from the grocery store and arranging them in bud vases. Do not forget to pick flowers based on your party color palette so this homemade centerpiece will look unique.
Bundles of fresh herbs arranged around candles can make another beautiful detail for setting up the holiday mood. It is a seasonal touch that smells so good.
Music is a must because it puts everyone in a festive mood. This is true, especially during the Christmas party. Make a playlist of your favorite songs ahead of time. But make sure not to play it too loud. Just keep it at a comfortable volume so that your guests can socialize and enjoy the party.
6. When your guests arrive, gave them a warm welcome. It might be obvious, but make sure that you or your husband greet them at the door when the guests walk in. Sometimes you are busy in the kitchen or getting ready but make sure that you welcome your guests.
7. Prepare the coat closet. I always make sure that we clear out the space in our coat closet for guests’ coats, scarves, hats, and handbags. If you don’t have enough room in your coat closet, designate a bedroom or side room to place coats. Just make sure that the area is organized and cleaned.
8. Do not forget the final touches. In my experience, the last 15 or 30 minutes before the guests arrived could be very stressful. I wanted to make sure that I follow my last-minute tasks and do not forget to light the candles, start the music, and adjust the lighting. Also, I make sure that the drinks area is all set up and snacks and appetizers are ready. That way I can offer guests something while they are waiting until everyone else arrives.
This is the best part – enjoy your party! All your planning and preparation has come to a perfect holiday party. Now it is time to eat, drink and have fun. Enjoy your friends and family time as you get together to celebrate this festive time of the year.
What are your best holiday party tips?
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