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5 Keys to Holiday Party Planning

Photo: Donald Cook/freeimages.com

Keep these things in mind as you plan holiday parties this year. With some advance planning, you can pull off a great party and still have time to enjoy it yourself!

1. Keep things simple.

Often when we plan a party, we want to offer a bit of everything — tons of great food, a wide selection of beverages, and a music playlist that encompasses everyone’s tastes. But this leads to a lot of extra work for you as the host. Instead, design a menu with a few key foods to limit how much cooking you will need to do. Keep your drink menu simple as well. You don’t want to miss your own party because you end up tending the bar all night. Establishing a theme can help narrow your options. Maybe all of your food is southwestern or Italian. Or perhaps the main dish is soup or chili with accompanying condiments. Yes, it seems simple, but simple can be elegant.

2. Set the right tone.

Music, lighting and seating arrangements can establish the vibe of the party as guests arrive. Do you want a subdued evening of enjoyable conversation among a close-knit group or friends, or are you expecting a large crowd who will want to mill around from room to room or challenge others to a dance-off as the night goes on? For larger crowds, create several areas for people to gather throughout your space so they don’t all pile into one place. Low lights and soft music can create a nice ambiance as the party begins.

3. Do your prep work ahead of time.

Plan to finish all of your preparations an hour before the first guest arrives. You don’t want to be rushed or stressed over last-minute details. Do as much as you can in the week leading up to the party. This includes getting the house cleaned and decorated as well as making any food that you can in advance. Choose recipes with ingredients that can be chopped and assembled the night before the party, or even cooked ahead of time and reheated.

4. Plan an activity.

Your party may take on a life of its own effortlessly with people talking and laughing all night. But in case it doesn’t, make a plan to help people engage. Maybe you offer board games, interactive party games (Charades, anyone?) or conduct a gag gift exchange. Give people the option to just watch if they are not comfortable participating. Watching can be just as entertaining for them.

5. Know your limits.

Holidays are a busy and stressful time of year. Between shopping, arranging family gatherings and coordinating travel plans, adding another event to the calendar can be overwhelming. Consider this as you make a guest list and plan your party. You don’t want to take on too much. Perhaps a dinner party for your closest friends is more reasonable than an open house for your entire neighborhood. Focus on the things you know you can do well given the busy time of year. People will still be impressed with your party planning know-how — and you’ll enjoy it more yourself!