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How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Party: 10 Tips for Holiday Hosting

Festive family gatherings, divine dinner parties and humorous holiday get-togethers are some of the best parts of the holiday season. But if you’re hosting a holiday party, you may be more stressed than excited about the most wonderful time of the year.

Hosting for the holidays doesn’t have to break your holiday spirit. Take a seat, sip some peppermint hot cocoa and grab a sugar cookie—because we’ve created a list of tips to help you host an easy holiday party. (No exploding turkeys or breakfast spaghetti in sight!) In the spirit of the season, we’ve included a few Christmas movie references in this blog. Pay attention—there’s a poll at the end to see how many you got! 

1. Create a To-Do List

The first step in hosting a rockin’ holiday party is creating an outline of what you need to do. Making lists can externalize what you need to remember, generate new items and even lead to a sense of accomplishment. In order to prepare for your get-together, you’ll need to pick a theme, make a budget, send invites, clean, plan a menu and more. Don’t get overwhelmed—we’ll be touching on many of those items in this blog to offer you a step-by-step process for hosting an awesome holiday party.

The beginning planning stage of your holiday party is a good time to assess what you’re able to do and recruit help! Your get-together should be full of joy and cheer, so don’t take on too much. Accept family and friends’ offers to help, and work together to host your party.

2. Pick a Theme

Whether you’d like to have a traditional holiday party with wreaths, evergreens and bows or an eccentric vibe centered around your favorite Christmas movie (Elf or The Grinch perhaps?), picking a theme creates a sense of cohesion at your party. Décor, menus and music can then be used to represent your theme. Here is a list of some unique holiday themes.

3. How to Host a Holiday Party on a Budget

The idea of hosting an extravagant holiday bash like the Whos did in Whoville might have you stressed about your budget, the logistics and more. But you can throw an incredible get-together without breaking the bank! First, look at what you already have—from holiday décor to festive plates and serving dishes to pantry items. If you need to buy more decorations, fill empty space with garlands and wreaths or items that complement your theme. You don’t need to rack up a bill like Kevin did in New York, you can also DIY some decorations!

4. Send Invites

The most wonderful time of the year? More like the busiest time of the year. With holiday vacations, dinner parties, work Christmas parties, etc., your friends and family are sure to book up fast. So, make sure to send out your invites early.

Consider going paperless—create an email blast or Facebook event, or use an online invite service to save time and money. (Online invites are much more popular than sending an invitation in the mail, but either way is acceptable.)

How early should you send invites? A month in advance is generally enough notice. But, if you anticipate that your friends and family will be extremely busy, you can send out holiday party invites as early as 6-8 weeks before.

Whether you’re sending your guests snail mail invites or e-vites—this is a great opportunity to express your party theme. Spend the time to make thoughtful invitations to persuade guests to attend your holiday get-together!

Pro tip: As a host, you should remind guests to take a taxi, ride-sharing service or plan on spending the night in case there is limited parking at your holiday party. (Or just call Scott Calvin and get a sleigh ride home.)

5. Clean Up

Your home is about to be full of family and friends singing carols, eating cookies and spreading the holiday cheer. Before you welcome them into your home, be sure to tidy up! Declutter around the house and deep clean. If guests are spending the night, make sure the guest rooms and bathrooms are ready to go.

Pro tip: Check out our blog, 5 places to declutter before Christmas to get your home ready for holiday hosting.

6. Plan an Achievable Menu

One of the best tips for a holiday host is to only take on what you can handle in the kitchen. You don’t need a Dickensian menu. Plan a menu that you feel confident you can complete, and if you know of any guests who have allergies or specific diets, it’s a good idea to offer options they can enjoy as well. Remember, don’t try to tackle a dish you’ve never made before, unless you have a solid back up (like the Chop Suey Palace the Parker family visited). Here are a few ways to minimize the stress that comes along with cooking for a holiday party:

Make dishes ahead of time

Items that you can make well in advance, like stew, soup, desserts, and sides that freeze well are perfect for a holiday party. Cook ahead of time to avoid rushing to get things chilled or baked right before guests arrive. Here is an extensive list of recipes you can make in advance.

Ask for help

Don’t feel like you have to do all the cooking yourself! Either ask family or friends to help you cook for the event, or request that guests bring their favorite side dishes. Take a little pressure off yourself this season, and accept or ask for help. Or cross your fingers John McClane shows up to save Christmas.

Go for apps and hors d’oeuvres

Instead of going the full-course meal route for your holiday party, consider just serving finger foods and hors d’oeuvres. If you’re not hosting a formal dinner party, this is the perfect way to fit food into your casual get-together. Make a variety of appetizers and starters and place them around your home so guests will be inclined to move around and socialize. If you choose to go this route, desserts that don’t require silverware are also a great idea.

Pro tip: Be sure to have classics like chicken nuggets, pizza rolls and more on hand in case there are kids (or finicky adults) attending who aren’t going to appreciate your Christmas Ham anyway. 

7. Get Plenty of Snacks and Drinks

Food is arguably one of the most important parts of a holiday party, so the last thing you want to do is run out of it. Overestimate buying food and drinks to avoid having to head to the store during your party. If you’re worried about having too many leftovers, let your guests take to-go boxes home, freeze the leftovers or donate food to a shelter or food bank. Be sure to call your local food banks and shelters to find out their hours and requirements before dropping anything off.

If you’ll be serving alcoholic beverages at your holiday party, consider a punch that can be made in advance (like Cousin Eddie’s eggnog), or create a bar area where guests can make their own cocktails and beverages. If your refrigerator is already full, have plenty of ice for your Yeti or Hydro Flask, or if you live in a chilly climate, a snowbank will do. Make sure to have a separate ice container for mixed drinks.

8. Press Play

If you don’t play music at your party, Buddy the Elf will start to sing. Be sure to create a playlist beforehand, or pick a holiday playlist on a streaming service for some festive background tunes. Keep the music playing quietly so guests can mingle and enjoy themselves without yelling over the music. Streaming services such as Spotify often curate their own holiday lists, such as “100 Greatest Christmas Songs Ever” or “Alternative Christmas Playlist.”

9. Create a Timeline

Even if you’re planning a casual gathering, it’s important to set a timeline for the day of the event. Include when important tasks need to be completed before the party starts, when guests will arrive, when dinner will be served and more. This will help ensure your party goes to plan. (Unless Hans Gruber makes a surprise visit!)

10. Don’t Forget Trash Cans

It may seem strange to talk about trash cans on a holiday blog—but they’re necessary for an easy cleanup. Provide a number of small trash cans around your space to ensure it stays tidy. Put extra liners at the bottom of the trash bins before putting the liner on to quickly empty and reline the bins during your party.

FAQs: Hosting a Holiday Party

We understand you still may have a few questions regarding hosting a holiday party, so we’ve answered some of the most common ones below!

Q: How do you host an outdoor holiday party?

A: You can follow some of the tips listed above to host an outdoor holiday party, but you should also hang extra lights, create gathering places around fire features, and have a buffet or self-service drink/food station on your patio. It may be cold outside, so it’s also a good idea to serve hot dishes and warm drinks.

Q: What do you need to do to prepare for guests?

A: If you have family coming from out of town or a friend that would like to stay the night after your holiday party, be sure to prepare your home for company. Declutter and deep clean, and provide additional items like a toothbrush/toothpaste, small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, hair ties and more.

Q: What do you serve at a holiday party?

A: We included a list of recipes above that you can make ahead of time for your holiday party, but you can serve whatever you’d like. Whether you want to do something simple like apps and desserts, or have a full-course meal, just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew in the kitchen!

Q: What do you give the host of a Christmas party?

A: It is considered proper guest etiquette to bring a gift for the host of the holiday party. Some good present ideas include an ornament, baked goods, bottle of liquor, potted plant or holiday decoration.

Q: How do you throw a holiday party?

A: To throw a festive holiday party, follow the tips above! Be sure to make a check list, pick a theme, create a budget, and send out invitations. Remember, even though you’re hosting, you should still enjoy the party! Don’t stretch yourself too thin, and be sure to ask for help.

Final Thoughts: Hosting a Holiday Party

Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with family and friends at your epic holiday party! Planning and hosting a holiday get-together may seem overwhelming, but hopefully this guide has proved it doesn’t have to be.

If you need more space this holiday season, check out Store Space. We offer affordable self-storage so you can make more space for the festivities. Use our storage location finder to find your nearest facility. Good luck hosting for the holidays!

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