The idea of planning a holiday party can be stressful enough, without needing to worry about leaving a great impression As this season's festivities go into full effect, here are some tips on how to be a great host during the holidays. Whether it’s hosting a get together with friends or a family reunion, this holiday season you can become the hostess with the mostest with these helpful party planning tips!
1. Answer the 5W1H
Before planning any party, ask yourself the 5W1H; the 5 What's and 1 How. Following this checklist will help you determine the basis for planning your party and it will give you more direction.
What day will your party be?
What location will the party be held at?
What is the budget?
What will be the theme or is there no theme?
What type of music or entertainment will there be?
How many guests will be attending?
2. Clean and Condense Clutter
Do not feel obligated to hire a housekeeper or engage in an intense cleaning session. Skim your home and look for any areas that need to be cleared of dust or spots. Wipe down counters, mirrors, and surfaces that need a quick shine, and don’t forget to vacuum! Tidy up one restroom and make this restroom strictly for guests. If there is any clutter behind couches, under tables, on counter tops, get rid of it and put it where it belongs or in a closet. To prevent floors from getting dirtier, ask your guests to take off their shoes before entering your home.
3. Décor & Setting Up
Presentation is key and you want to impress your guests as soon as they arrive. Make sure your décor isn’t too distracting, but gets to the point of the theme. Lights are always a good idea because they draw attention, but are still minimal. Same with tea light candles. Floral arrangements are ideal as they spruce up any table. Keep in mind; when choosing flowers think of the season and the vase you’ll be placing them in. Table presentation should be highlighted by the centerpiece item and accentuated with food being served. Remember to avoid over decorating as it can cause too much clutter for the table. When serving food and drinks, bring out your best kitchenware and glassware.
4. Guest List Variety
When it's time to create your guest list, send out invites to friends that come from different backgrounds and professions that also have different interests and hobbies. This will ensure that there are plenty of interesting topics to discuss. At family get togethers, invite significant others or friends who cannot make it home for the holidays. This always adds more spark to the conversation! Another option is to invite all your old high school friends that you don't see that often and mix it up by inviting all your current friends.
Tip: If the conversation goes in the direction of politics, try to intervene by saying something simple like, “Let's take a break from all of that political talk and just enjoy the party. It will be there tomorrow.” People talking about their political beliefs can turn a great party into a disaster and have guests running for the door.
5. Prepare Easy Foods
Always stick to food that are easy to prepare, cook, and present. You do not want to be caught up hours before the party trying to create a 5-layer lasagna. Stick to finger foods such as cheese board displays, homemade salsa and chips, and finger sandwiches; essentially food that doesn’t require heating up. Another tip is to create a main dish and have side dishes that go with it. Always note that if you do have a theme, make sure your food follows that theme. Provide food to accommodate any allergies and dietary restrictions.
6. Serve Refreshments
Offer your guests a choice of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. If you’re serving cocktails make sure you have the basics for making them; gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, and tequila, along with some mixers. It is ideal to offer cocktails pertaining to the season or theme, but this is all up to you. Mocktails are also great! If you’re on a budget, encourage guests to bring an alcohol of their choosing to share with everyone. You can also stock up at stores like Costco or BevMo! which sell alcohol at club prices. If all else fails, stick to the traditional beer and wine. If no alcohol will be served, offer options such as tea, cider, sparkling beverages, or a hot chocolate and espresso bar.
7. Make Each Guest Feel Welcomed and Entertained
Make it a priority to converse with each one of your guests and encourage them to socialize with others. Guests should be entertained and engaged to avoid them asking you for the Wifi password. Create a list of entertaining things you and your guests can do before everyone arrives. Here’s a few of our favorites:
Depending on the type of party you’re throwing, having different games available can add to the fun and really get the conversation flowing. Of course, ask your guests beforehand if they’re up for playing. Some great options are Table Topics, Scattergories, and Outset Media Urban Myth Party Game. Just make sure whatever games you choose, they’re appropriate for the type of guests that will be attending. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to play Suddenly Drunk with your in laws or your co workers.
You will want to capture the memories, and what better way to do that than with an instant camera and holiday photo props? They add a special something and you’re guests can take home a photo of themselves wearing an elf hat. You can also create a hashtag and encourage guests to share their photos on social media.
If you’re having a smaller get together, encourage your guests to bring a small gift (Under $25 is usually a good price point) and do a Secret Santa. Once everyone arrives have them put their name into a dish and whoevers name they pull will receive a gift. If you choose to do this, make sure it’s known ahead of time and that it’s optional (so guests don’t feel obligated). Also specify if the gift should be unisex, for women, all ages, etc.
8. Create a Playlist
There is no party without a great playlist! Music is a great way to avoid any awkward silence. Choose a playlist that is not too overbearing and disruptive. If this is a more relaxed get together, play music softly in the background. If the direction of your party is more energetic, play music at a medium noise setting. It is better to prepare your playlist ahead of time as it saves you from frantically searching for a song in your music library. If making playlists is not your thing, Pandora and Spotify are great options!
9. Don't Worry About The Mess
Having numerous people in your home can be a little overwhelming and it can (and probably will) become messy. No matter how much you want to clean up every dirty dish, don’t--it’s rude! This will take you away from devoting your full attention to your guests. You’re going to have to clean up after the party so save it all for once your guests have left.
10. Always Serve Dessert
Everyone enjoys sweets, and serving dessert adds a nice touch after the main dish or snacking, as it creates excitement! Try to offer a variety of options such as baked cookies, brownies, sorbet, ice cream, or pie.
11. Don’t Let Guests Leave Empty Handed
It’s always good to give guests a little something when they’re leaving. You can give a token of appreciation like mini wine or champagne bottles, a personalized candle with the date of your celebration, or a small sparkly holiday frame to put their party photo in. Another great idea is to have some festive to go bags available and encourage guests to fill them up with the leftovers.
12. Don't Rush Guests to Leave
Some guests may overstay their welcome, but NEVER make a guest feel pressured to leave. Specify the end time, but don’t complain about guests that overstay their welcome. Instead you can offer subtle hints like, “Oh, it’s getting so late...this party was so much fun I hardly realized what time it is!”
By following these simple, yet effective tips and tricks you can be the hostess with the mostest, and host a party that people will look forward to attending next year. You can also check out our gifts for the entertainer guide to stock up on holiday hosting essentials.
What are you favorite holiday party planning tips?