Throwing a party of any kind can nerve-wracking, so don’t sweat the small stuff with these great party planning tips for holiday stress-free entertaining.
Planning Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of party planning, preparation and set-up in order to properly pamper your guests. So how can you do it all and still be the perfect host?
Take charge of your next party and not allow the party to take over you.
That’s not to say you won’t experience a few butterflies before the big event, but you can eliminate most of the “what-ifs” and stress with a bit of pre-party planning.
Here are 12 holiday party tips to help you be less stressful when entertaining family and friends:
1. Make Time for Guests and Visiting
Have you ever been to a party where the host seems to be darting here and there and not able to slow down long enough to visit with her guests? Don’t let that happen to you.
Good hosts make time for their guests for the entire event. Sure sometimes small emergencies occur and you might have to attend to these behind the scenes. But for the most part, alleviate any potential problems beforehand, or if one should occur, deal with it calmly then return back to your guests. It’s all in a day’s work for a successful host.
“The holidays are not about perfection. They are about connection!” @LizaUtter, LizaAmericasHost.com
2. Create a Party Timetable
There is something to be said for hosts and hostesses getting the timing right for preparation of the food, setting up the party, getting the food out on time and and still allowing time to visit with one’s guests. Sounds overwhelming? It shouldn’t be. The trick is keeping your time well-managed.
First, create a timetable. Break down the different layers of activity and preparation into smaller more manageable chunks like: “one month before the party,” “one week before the party,” “several days before the party,” “day before the party,” and “day of the party,” etc. You will find that you are able to handle your gathering with ease and less stress.
3. Prepare Food in Advance
Wherever, whenever possible shop for your supplies, do any cutting, dicing, chopping your veggies and any raw ingredients ahead of schedule. Store these items easily in ziplock bags. You’ll find that when you are ready to assemble everything together for your recipe you will be ready.
The same goes for creating any pre-made drinks like Sangria or even homemade lemonade.
4. Use Prepackaged Foods Whenever Possible
It’s easy to get caught up with every minute detail of preparation, but sometimes to just ease back on your stress, you may want to go the prepackaged route. There are many delicious alternative food and snack options in your freezer or refrigerator case at your local grocery.
I’ve also found out that sometimes if you scale back on quantity and go for quality, you may even be able to stop by a specialty shop and purchase an appetizer that is totally decadent. It’s always nice to offer something like this on your table anyway, especially during the holidays.
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5. Keep Your Refrigerator at It’s Best
Because you’ll be bringing a lot of foodstuff into your home, it’s best to clean your fridge prior to doing your party shopping. That way, you’ll be assured of the space to properly store your food.
6. Delegate Whenever Possible
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, one of my acquaintances enlists the help of her friends when she needs to host a party. She does this so that she can focus on entertaining her guests properly. It starts with the day before the gathering, when her friends come over to help assemble and set up the party.
Then on the day of the party, these same friends don aprons and serve the guests, thus allowing my acquaintance to spend one-on-one time with her visitors. She reciprocates this kind gesture, when her other friends have their own parties.
This idea is fantastic on many levels. First, because the hostess isn’t worn out by the time her guests arrives; rather she is ready to greet them and give them her full attention. Second, her friends who have agreed to help also like the arrangement, because no one wants to be “stuck” doing everything. A little help certainly goes a long way.
But why if you don’t have a network of friends to help out? Perhaps you could enlist the help of your children (if they are old enough), as well as your significant other to help you set up, prep or even serve. The idea here is not to “fly solo” but to engage help wherever it can be found.
7. Go For Colors That Will Last All Year Long
Go with the timeless red and green, silver and gold, or even jeweled tones and you will be able to utilize these at your different party functions throughout the year. The idea is to offer “bling” but not so far out that you can only use your table settings or cloths just at the holidays.
For example, if you purchase a beautiful plain red tablecloth, you can use this when hosting outdoor parties, or even add a touch of white and blue candles and you are ready for the Fourth of July. Good hostesses know that items that can be multi-tasked are better serving than just for one event.
8. Mix and Match
No one said you have to have a complete perfect table setting for each and every guest. Sometimes mixing and matching makes for stress free entertaining.
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That being said, you will need to keep to the basics like ample dinner and snack plates (for appetizers and/or desserts), silverware (or plasticware if an option) and glasses (for wine, beer, cocktails, soda, water), cups or mugs (for coffee, tea, glog, wassail, or hot spiced apple cider).
9. Don’t Go Overboard with Tabletop Centerpieces
Keep centerpieces small enough so that it doesn’t overpower your table or take up too much food “real estate.” All too often hostesses will over-crowd the table with decorations and leave very little space for food. This gets to be problematic, especially if you are hosting a sit down dinner.
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Don’t fall into that trap. Instead make sure that all centerpieces take minimal space on your table, so as to leave room where guests can lay their plates down and have enough arm space to sit without feeling scrunched together.
10. Simplify Your Food and Drinks
Choose simple meals and easy buffets that won’t tax your time or budget. It is easier setting up a cheese and sausage station, than a seven-course meal.
Buffets and Cheese and Charcuterie Boards can be set up quickly and easily if you create “stations” for each course you’ll be offering. By “blocking” out these spots ahead of time, you will have greater control over managing “crowd control” and more centralized, should you find that you are running low on some foods or drinks.
Sometimes it’s nice to place the dessert or fruit and nut area nearest to where your guests will be sitting at the end of the meal. Maybe set a table in your great room close to your roomy chairs for guests for easy noshing.
Questions about serving size or amounts to purchase can be addressed by the produce staff or meat counter at your local grocery store. Try going to your local deli and ask them for ideas on what to serve for different gatherings.
And, if you are short on lateral space (e.g. table or counter space) think vertical (see examples below). Use tiered servers, trays or even stacked cake stands to give you more room for your food and crudités.
11. Set Up Early
Plan to set up your party a day or so early. It goes without saying that it is easier to adjust platters and hot plates, Nescos, crockpots, coffee pots, etc., before the “big” day rather than on the day-of.
This may also come in handy for finding out if your layout doesn’t “flow” right. If you are worried about leaving your place settings and bowls uncovered to gather dust, use a clean sheet and gently lay it over your table. It’s as simple as that!
12. Think Up
Maximize your table and counter space with elevated trays. Not only can you layer on more foodstuff but using these serving trays also gives an illusion of more space on an otherwise crowded table.
Check out these examples:
For more entertaining tips and ideas, be sure to visit my Pinterest Board: Entertaining Ideas from Wisconsin Homemaker.