Hosting a holiday gathering this year and feeling unprepared? Read these 5 tips to give you ease on the day of your party!

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For the past 9 years my husband and I have hosted friends and neighbors for a large holiday open house. I used to get so overwhelmed and be running around frantic the hours and minutes leading up to the party. Each year I’ve picked-up new tricks and tips that have helped me host this party with ease. It’s tomorrow and as I’ve been preparing this week I thought other mommas who are hosting a party over the holidays might find these tips helpful. Happy party planning!

#1 – Flow & Set-Up

The Tables: If you’re hosting a gathering where people will be mingling be sure to think about your set-up. Where do people enter, where will the tables will be placed, how much seating you have, etc. I like to have a mix of round dinner tables and high cocktail tables that people can stand around. If hosting a dinner party I still like to have a little reception area either in the kitchen or on the patio. There is nothing worse than standing around at a party without a place to sit or put your drink down while you eat. For this reason I love high cocktail tables! You can easily rent these from a local party supply store with linens included. This year I went ahead and purchased them on Amazon.

The Food & Bar: A lot of people use the kitchen island a buffet and this is a great option if you have a big kitchen. Otherwise, I suggest not putting the food out in the kitchen. Either use your dining room table and remove the chairs or I like to use an 8′ table. Place your table where it is easy to access and not too close to the dinner tables where people will have to squeeze in to get food. If you don’t have an existing bar then the easiest thing to do is use a 4′ table. Place it near, but not next to, the food. Don’t forget extra ice! We always keep a cooler with a few extra bags in the garage.

#2 – Inventory Serveware

Regardless if you are catering, making the food or hosting a potluck style event be sure you have enough serving dishes and that they will fit on your buffet table. One thing I always do is place all my serving dishes, platters, tired trays, etc. on the table a few days prior to ensure it will all fit. I also like to label the dishes with each menu item to be certain I have a dish for all of my items.

#3 – Plan Your Table Scape

First, if you plan to use a tablecloth on your buffet I suggest white. Why? Because the food is usually very colorful and a white tablecloth allows for fun table decor! One way I accent my buffet table is by using placemats under trays and dishes instead of a noisy tablecloth. Second, buffets look best with high and low pieces so try to mix it up. I like to use a combination of platters, tiered trays, baskets, etc. Don’t over do it on the decor, but a few accent pieces makes for a beautiful buffet. I just picked up this set of 3 wicker presents at Pier One last weekend and I’m obsessed!

Lastly, don’t forget the salt & pepper shakers! I always have at least 2 sets on my buffet, usually something festive. This is something I collect so I have oodles to choose from! I also season everything so nothing annoys me more than when I’m at a party and there is no S&P to be found.

#4 – Make Your Lists & Check Them Twice

This one is so important! Save yourself time and unwanted stress the day of your party by being organized.

The Guest List: Follow-up with guests who have not RSVP’d the week prior so you can get an accurate count. I always send a reminder a few days prior too.

The Menu: I like to map out my menu and prepare as much ahead of time as possible. Better yet just have it all catered! However, if you are making the majority of the food here are a few things to consider when planning your menu.

  • Be mindful of how long the food will be sitting out.  I try to prep my cold trays the morning of my party and have everything in the fridge ready to go. I set everything out at the last minute, especially the charcuterri board. Anything that needs to be baked or heated is ready 1-hour before the party so all I need to do is heat it up just before guests arrive. I leave all the extra food in my oven on warm so I can easily replenish.
  • Make things that serve a lot of people and won’t take too much prep the day of your party.
  • Cut corners with things you can get pre-made as a base to your recipes. For example I use the frozen Costco meatballs to make my cocktail meatballs, always a crowd pleaser!
  • Plan on a charcuterrie board for any occasion. Not only is it a beautiful display on your buffet but who doesn’t love meat and cheese?
  • Lastly, don’t forget the kiddos! Be sure you either have “kid friendly food” or your menu items will be enjoyed by all ages. One items that goes like hotcakes at our party is pigs in a blanket. Both kids and adults love these! PS… Costco sells them in a box of 25 pre-made.

#5 – The Little Touches

The Bathroom: In my house the guest bathroom is used by my husband in the mornings and is not always the cleanest room in the house. For parties I usually kick him out the day prior and do a deep clean! I always make sure the trash is emptied and the toilet seat is clean. If we are having a large gathering I like to use the disposable hand towels and be sure to have extra TP visible to your guests. I also like add little festive touches like scented soup, a candle and seasonal towels to the bathroom when we host parties. Here is what I did for our party this year!

The Trash: Have you ever thought about the trash before you host a party? I remember the first year we hosted our holiday party we had 30+ people and my husband was running trash out every hour. Now we use usually 3 pop-up trash cans so guests can easily throw away plates, bottles, etc. We place one near the bar, one near the buffet and one near the dinner tables.

The Kids: If you are hosting a party with kiddos think about what they will be doing. Is your party inside or outside? How old and how many kids do you expect. Our kiddos are 3- and 5-years old and we have a range of 30-40 kiddos at our holiday party so I always try to plan a few activities. We have a bounce at house at almost every party and I also like to have some sort of craft or interactive activity for the kids. This year I’m doing mini gingerbread houses!

Cheers to you momma and happy party planning!

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