Nine Secrets to Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party

It’s your turn to host the annual family get together or office gift exchange. Instead of freaking out about all those people in your house and all the work that must precede them, break down your hosting duties into a manageable game plan.  Below are nine suggestions of how to prepare for a memorable holiday event — even if you’re the host!balls-791124_960_720

Start With a List

Or, several if you want to separate tasks such as a grocery list or a cleaning supplies list. Research has shown that folks who physically write things down, have a better chance at remembering what they wrote. So, go list-happy. Plan your day-by-day countdown to getting everything done; for example, your cooking schedule if you’re providing food. Don’t hesitate to delegate. That person who asks, “what can I do?” Tell them.

Stock Your Supplies

This is where your list-making comes in handy. Know what you need to supply a fresh, well-tended bar (include a few non-alcoholic choices). Remember practical things such as paper napkins and stain remover. This also is where bulk buying pays off — pounds of cereal, nuts and seasonings for those addictive snack mixes.

Cook When You Can

Who cares if it’s two weeks out? Enough meatballs to feed 40 will sit happily in your freezer until Big Party Day arrives, making that recipe one less last-minute stressor. Bonus points: build your menu on make-aheads. That chocolate dip in a crockpot is a winner.

Decorate When You Can

Do you like your regular holiday decorations? Why go overboard for a party? If you are itching for a new holiday look, or your event is themed, test-drive it all as far in advance as you can. But, don’t discount simplicity. Evocative, evergreen-scented candles inside and twinkling lights on ornamental boxwoods outside your front door can be as striking as a megawatt laser show.

More bonus points: if you’re sending guests home with tokens or gifts, wrap everything in the same colored and patterned paper, bows and name tags. Stop the unnecessary-decision-making madness. Plus, it just looks cool.

Minimize Housecleaning

Yes, we said it. If you truly need the epic vacuuming session, do it. If a quick dust mop suffices, do it instead. Stuff junk you need to deal with later, in drawers and closets. No one needs to know where your dust bunnies and clutter reside.

Prioritize Comfort

Don’t cram everyone around a dining table if it’s not big enough to seat them. Buffet it. Especially if you have additional seating on a porch, lanai or courtyard (it’s Florida in winter). Allow folks to congregate comfortably.

Provide a Soundtrack

It’s not mandatory. And it doesn’t have to be Christmas music. But some fun jazz or contemporary instrumental adds a nice background flavor, especially selections without lyrics.
Notice we said background. Don’t blast it like all those restaurants that give you headaches. You want to foster guests’ conversations, not squelch them.

Be Prepared For Unexpected Giving

You know someone will arrive with a gift even if your invitation said “no gifts, please.”  Ward off the reciprocal awkwardness with pre-wrapped — in that same paper, bow and name tag, of course — bottles of wine, cocoa mix or gourmet tins of nuts.  Stash them somewhere handy. Dispense them discreetly.

Party Your Way

Not in the mood for a dinner party? Try a drop-in event or open house. Guests can visit when it’s convenient and stay as long as they like. It also reduces the stage management on your part. Munchies, drinks and some decorating and tidying are low-stress preparations. Enjoy holiday hospitality in the manner you like, not in the manner you think you must.

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