Whether you’re throwing a tacky Christmas sweater bash, hosting Thanksgiving at your house for the very first time, or just planning a casual get-together, party planning can seem like a daunting task. Don’t stress! Follow my top 10 holiday party planning tips so you can go in with a game plan. Now you can actually spend your time enjoying your party, instead of sweating off your makeup over a hot stove and ignoring your guests!
1. Before anything else, consider your space. Determine how many guests can comfortably fit in your home, and if your invites list is bigger than that, consider renting a space somewhere else or asking a friend with bigger digs to co-host with you.
2. Create a timeline of events a few weeks before the party, detailing when to send out invites, the cut-off date for RSVPs, rental deadlines, and so on. Be sure to create a breakdown of the day’s events as well so you have a rough idea of when guests arrive and food should be ready to go. And don’t forget to make time for yourself! There’s nothing worse than scrambling to fix your hair right as your guests are arriving.
3. Skip the casual Facebook invite and send out festive (and free!) e-vites. If you want to up the ante, go old-school with real, live paper invitations. These don’t have to be expensive either– there are tons of sellers on Etsy that can create unique and fun invitation templates which you can then print at home. It’s a little more work than shooting off an email, but how exciting would it be for your guests to receive something in the mail that isn’t a bill!? 😀
4. Many of us live in small apartments, making seating somewhat limited. If you don’t have enough chairs, ask your friends, family or even neighbors to borrow a chair or two. If you’re having a cocktail party where you expect everyone to mix and mingle, you don’t need to worry about having the exact number of seats for every person.
5. Along the same lines, it’s doubtful that you’ll have a plethora of serving platters or fancy tablecloths to draw from. If you can’t borrow, try a rental company! You can rent things like tables, serving dishes, and decorative accents, which is great if you have a specific theme you’re going for. Even better, you don’t have to find a place to store it all after the party’s over!
6. No matter the occasion, people will expect food. This doesn’t have to break the bank either; it’s perfectly okay to pick up a platter from the supermarket or frozen treats from Trader Joe’s, so you can make this about conversations and having fun (the hostess, you, included!) rather than cooking and cleaning. To avoid spending all your time in the kitchen plating food, serve things family style or buffet style.
As for dietary restrictions, keep special preferences in mind, but don’t stress about being able to cater to everyone–and this means you don’t have to prepare a separate course for each dietary restriction. Speaking as someone who has a husband with a nut allergy, a sister-in-law with celiac’s, a grandfather with diabetes and a friend with PKU, it would be nearly impossible to please everyone! Instead, consider throwing a potluck and make sure you have at least one thing there that everyone can enjoy.
7. Alcohol is another expense that can easily balloon if you let it. Try serving up a sparkly champagne punch instead of individual bottles. The fruit juice stretches the alcohol further, and it discourages people from over-indulging due to its sweetness. Another great option for the holidays is warm mulled wine–serving the spiced wine from its pot only adds to the feeling of coziness and family. 🙂
8. Pinterest with caution! Don’t get me wrong, I love scrolling through Pinterest looking for ideas or inspiration. But remember, 90% of the over-the-top, extravagant parties you’ll find aren’t real– they’re sponsored photo shoots designed to show off what vendors can do. Don’t stress out about trying to reach that level of photo-perfection and focus on enjoying *your* event.
9. Save yourself a headache and get everything assembled, prepped and ready to go the night before. Right before people start arriving, all you have to do is pop the food in the oven and it still be warm when it’s time to eat!
10. Give favors! Some good ideas for favors are things like Christmas poppers, fun toys from the dollar store, or even mini bottles of booze! No matter how extravagant or silly, favors make your party memorable and make your guests feel extra special.
Dumplings, what are your foolproof tips for party planning this holiday season?
Some more party planning tips: How to Work Any Room + Tips for Social Anxiety
Party recipes! Gluten Free Vegan Jalapeno Poppers
Photo credit: Nana B Agyei via Flickr; Toni Blay via Flickr