Is the house clean? Are the halls decked? Is the wine chilled? Are the gifts wrapped? Is the table set? Is the house filled with scents of freshly baked sweets?
Calm down and chill out. It’s just a Christmas party.
When you’re hosting a holiday party (or two or 12), it can feel like there are a million things to do and not enough time to get it all done.
Trust me, I’ve been there. These last few weeks, in fact, as I prepared for an onslaught of relatives, housecleaning and an online Christmas home tour all at the same time.
Last week, I was a jangle of nerves and anxiety — and a little bit paralyzed by the thought of all I had still left to do before our guests arrived.
But then I remembered my own advice from last year, when I hosted a Google+ hangout about stress-free holiday parties.
I’m revisiting that advice today with my 10 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Parties.
If you follow my plan, I guaratee all your holiday gatherings will go off without a hitch.
- Have Fun. Remember the reason for your Christmas parties and New Year’s bash and all the shindigs in between. It’s to spend time with family, friends and those you love. Don’t lose sight of that in the chaos of planning a get-together. Throughout the planning, keep the focus on your guests and making sure they have fun and that you have fun, too. Nothing else really matters.
- Communicate with your guests. Let your guests know well in advance all the pertinent party details. This includes the time, place and menu. Be sure to include maps and directions. If your party is a potluck, make sure guests know what you’d like them to bring.
- Delegate. Give others jobs to do. Upon receiving an invitation, people will often ask, “How can I help?” Instead of saying you have it all taken care of, take your guests up on their kindness and ask them to help wherever you need it. Be sure to enlist the help of others in your household, kids included. And don’t be afraid to hire help, too, if you can’t get it all done alone. Don’t be fooled by the perfect you see on Pinterest or in magazines. Even Martha Stewart has help with her parties.
- Have a menu. Decide early on what you’ll be serving at your party so you’ll have time to gather all your ingredients and supplies. Make things easy on yourself and stick with tried-and-true recipes. Stick with dishes that you’ve made before and that you know will turn out fabulously. Chances are, your guests will be expecting you to serve your signature dishes. (Like my world-famous fried wontons.)
- Have a plan. This is not the time to fly by the seat of your pants. Spend some time making a list of all you need to get done before your party. Then, create a timeline based on that list. When making the timeline, it helps to work backwards. For example, If your party starts at 6 p.m. and your main dish takes three hours to cook, you need to have it in the oven by 3 p.m. and probably earlier. Be sure to build in break time for yourself so you’re not completely frazzled and exhausted when guests arrive.
- Start with a clean slate. Certainly, you should make sure your house is clean for your party. But you also want a clean slate in the kitchen: clear countertops, an empty dishwasher, a clean sink and a clean refrigerator. This will make your last-minute party prep go smoothly.
- Set up ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute to put out your centerpieces, candlesticks, decorations and serving pieces. Set them out ahead of time. I like to use sticky notes to label my serving dishes so anyone who is helping me in the kitchen knows where food should go when it comes out of the oven. I also like to set up a drinks station ahead of time, outside the kitchen and out of the main prep thoroughfare. You know how people like to congregate in the kitchen.
- Designate a place. Decide ahead of time where you’ll put guests’ coats and purses, plus any hostess gifts and food offerings they bring.
- Have extras. Make sure every bathroom in the house is stocked with toilet paper, soap and other necessities. Have extra paper towels and dish towels in the kitchen. Put extra hangers in the coat closet.
- Relax. Have a good time. It’s a party. When you get overwhelmed during the planning phase, find a way to calm yourself down. Drink a glass of wine or a cocktail, like my red-hot cinnamon apple martini. Read a few pages from a good book (or your favorite blog). Meditate. Pray. Veg out in front of HGTV. Take a walk. Drink a cup of coffee. Do a few yoga poses. Take a few deep breaths. Listen to some music.
Feel better now?
What are you tips for stress-free holiday parties? What do you do to make sure things run smoothly and worry free?