Whether you’re planning a fancy multi-course meal or just a small get-together with friends, it takes time and effort to throw a party. Take a deep breath: You’ve got this!
No task is too small… and no guest list is too large. Whatever the size of your shindig, here are 10 tips to help with your holiday gathering. (Want more must-read advice? Don’t miss our guide to hazard-free holidays.)
10 Essential Tips for Holiday Hosting
- Set a date – then work backwards. According to The Emily Post Institute, it’s good etiquette to give guests at least three weeks notice before an event. If it’s an annual event – say, you’re hosting Christmas dinner or you always have a holiday party the first weekend in December – it’s still recommended that you give guests notice and a start time, or time when you’d like dinner to begin.
- Plan the menu. If you plan on having others bring a dish to share, ask around the time you invite them. That way your guests have plenty of notice to shop and cook. As for your grocery list: Do an initial shop two weeks out, and save one last trip for fresh items (like produce or cheese) a few days prior.
From traditional to potluck, you’ll want to make sure you have enough food and beverages for your holiday guests. Pro tip: An online calculator like The Guest-Imator on SaveTheFood.com can help you figure out how much food to buy, based on your number of guests and – of course – their appetites. If you’re serving alcoholic beverages, keep in mind your host liquor liability.
- Schedule your oven. It’s a good idea to have your temperature and cooking/baking times handy, so you don’t have to look up recipes at the last minute. As you get busy, make sure to keep a watchful eye on your stove and oven. November and December are two of the most common months for home fires. Find out the common causes of kitchen fires (and how to prevent them).
- Don’t be shy to delegate. If someone offers to help prepare a side dish or an appetizer for your party… take them up on it! Likewise, if you know your aunt makes an awesome dessert or your friend has a snack everyone loves, ask them in advance to bring it. Hosting doesn’t mean that you have to do it all.
- Consider the kids. If you know kids are coming, it’s good to have a few activities or age-appropriate toys to keep them busy. You might even want to queue up a family-friendly movie.
- Space out your cleaning tasks. Instead of rushing around an hour before guests arrive, do a little bit each day on the week leading up to your event. Maybe it’s dusting on Monday, clearing the clutter Tuesday, bathrooms Wednesday, changing towels and setting up the drink station on Thursday and doing a final sweep on the Friday before your party.
- Give a warm welcome. It might be obvious, but make sure to greet your guests as close to the time of their arrival as possible. Sometimes you might not be at the door when they walk in, but make sure you welcome them – especially if they are new guests to your home. Also, it’s polite to share where a close bathroom is so they don’t need to ask.
- Provide a coat check. Designate an area for coats and/or purses. You could clear out space in your closet or designate a guest bedroom to place coats.
- Don’t forget the finishing touches. Lighting candles, turning on your party playlist and making sure the ice bucket is filled are all things that can be done right before guests arrive. Also, make sure there is enough toilet paper in the bathroom and the hand soap and towels are freshly stocked.
Related: The 10 Commandments of Candle Safety
- Enjoy the company. This is the best part! All of your planning and hard work has come to fruition. Now it’s time to eat, drink and be merry! Enjoy your family and friends as you gather to celebrate during this festive time of year.