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Stress-Free Holiday Hosting: Tips and Tricks
Hosting holiday gatherings can be a joyful experience, but it can also be stressful. However, with careful planning and a positive mindset, you can make it a stress-free and enjoyable time for yourself and your guests. In this blog, we’ll review some tips and tricks for stress-free holiday hosting.
Create a Guest List
Knowing the number of guests helps you plan for the right amount of food, seating, and other logistics. When finalizing your guest list, consider the dynamics between different groups of people. Strive for a mix of personalities to create an engaging and lively atmosphere. Be sure to consider the size of your space when finalizing the list.
Send Invitations Early
Sending invitations in advance ensures that guests can mark their calendars and plan accordingly. Consider using digital invitations to make RSVPs more convenient, especially if you’re hosting a large group. Utilize online tools and platforms for sending digital invitations. Websites like Evite or Paperless Post make RSVP management more convenient and provide a digital platform for guests to communicate and coordinate.
Consider Dietary Restrictions
Check with your guests about dietary preferences and restrictions early on so you can plan a menu that accommodates everyone. When you send out invitations, ask your guests if they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, fructose-free, etc. It’s always best to plan ahead for these instances rather than trying to throw something together on the spot for a guest with dietary restrictions.
Plan a diverse menu with a mix of dishes that can be prepared beforehand. Consider any dietary restrictions your guests may have and provide alternative options. Consider making your menu a potluck-style feast, where each guest brings a dish so you don’t have to cook everything yourself. It’s always awkward when three people show up with the same dish, so if you take the potluck route, create a list or spreadsheet of what everyone plans to bring to ensure a wide variety of menu items.
Set up a Self-Serve Drink Station
Rather than making drinks for your guests, you can set up a self-serve drink station for guests to make their own drinks. You can include various liquors, mixers, garnishes, glasses, and an ice bucket so guests have everything they need to make their favorite drinks. Similarly, you can serve pre-mixed cocktails, wine, beer, and soda for guests to choose from.
Create a Schedule
Having a detailed timeline for the days leading up to the event and the day of will help you stay organized and reduce last-minute stress. Once you have your menu planned, get all of the non-perishable ingredients right away to ensure you have nearly everything you need ahead of time.
Prep in Advance
Do as much preparation as possible in the days leading up to the event. Create a designated area in your kitchen for prepped ingredients. Label containers and organize them to make the final cooking process smooth and efficient. Chop vegetables, marinate meats, and decorate in advance so all you have to do on the day of your holiday party is put food in the oven and wait for your guests to arrive.
Set the Table Early
Setting the table the night before not only saves time on the day of the event but also allows you to spot any missing items or make adjustments. Setting the table is a tedious task, especially for large parties, so getting this step out of the way will save you time on the day of your party. If you have children attending, set up a separate table with festive activities and decorations to keep them engaged. This eases your hosting responsibilities and ensures a delightful experience for the younger guests and their parents.
Prepare for Guests
Create a designated space for coats and bags. Ensure there are enough comfortable seating areas, and consider adding some festive touches to make guests feel welcome, such as snack or candy bowls, candles, and blankets.
Remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. If things don't go according to plan, it's okay. More likely than not, you’ll be the only one to know that something went wrong. Try your best to stay calm and enjoy the moment. Develop a mantra or positive affirmation to repeat to yourself during moments of stress. Having a mental anchor can quickly shift your mindset and help you regain focus on the joy of the occasion. Practice mindfulness techniques in the days leading up to the event. Whether meditation, deep breathing exercises, or a short daily walk, these activities can contribute to a calm and centered state of mind.
There’s no good reason to take on the responsibility of hosting a holiday party all by yourself. Don't hesitate to ask for help and accept help when it’s offered. Whether setting the table, preparing a side dish, or helping with decorations, delegating tasks can reduce your workload.
Keep Decor Simple
Elaborate decorations can be time-consuming and stressful. Opt for DIY decorations that involve minimal effort but have a significant visual impact. For example, a string of twinkling fairy lights or handmade garlands can transform your space without requiring extensive time or resources. Consider repurposing existing decor items in creative ways. This adds a personal touch to your decorations and reduces the need for additional purchases. Focus on a few key decorations that create a warm, inviting, and festive atmosphere.
If you have a few appetizers sitting out for guests to snack on, you won’t have to worry about your guests getting hungry and impatient if the meal isn’t ready exactly on time. You could serve a veggie or fruit tray, a meat and cheese board, or chips and dip to tide your guests over until dinner is served.
Make sure to take a few short breaks for yourself throughout the day to recharge. Schedule breaks strategically during moments when tasks are underway but don't require your immediate attention. Use this time to step outside for a breath of fresh air or engage in a quick, energizing activity. Taking breaks can help you stay energized and present for your guests. After all, the party is for you, too, so you should leave time to enjoy it.
Don’t Worry About the Dishes
While it may be tempting to spend an hour doing the dishes after dinner, it’s not as important as spending time with your loved ones. Set up a designated area for dirty dishes and encourage guests to place their used items there to reduce the visual clutter during the event and speed up the post-party cleanup process. If you have close friends or family attending, consider turning the post-dinner cleanup into a collaborative effort. This shared activity lightens your workload and provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations.
Providing activities or games can keep guests entertained and create a festive atmosphere. Consider activities suitable for all age groups. You could put on a sports game to watch or set out card or board games for guests to play. Many families play white elephant as a fun, interactive holiday game. If it’s warm enough where you live, you could also set up yard games or start a bonfire to sit around!
Create a Playlist
Music sets the tone for the gathering. Prepare a playlist in advance with a mix of holiday classics and personal favorites. Ask friends or family members to help create a collaborative playlist. This shared effort ensures a diverse selection of songs that cater to different musical tastes. Click here to learn about great streaming services to find and create free curated holiday playlists!
Ensure you get enough sleep in the days leading up to the event. Being well-rested will help you handle any unexpected situations more effectively.
Enjoy the Moment
Amidst the hosting responsibilities, don't forget to enjoy the gathering. Spend quality time with your guests and capture mental snapshots of the laughter, conversations, and joyous moments shared among your guests.
Send Leftovers With Your Guests
Prepare for leftovers by providing containers for guests to take home. This not only minimizes food waste but also ensures your guests can enjoy the delicious food later.
Take a moment to express your gratitude to your guests for attending. A simple thank-you goes a long way.
After the event, reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Use this feedback to enhance future gatherings.
By planning ahead, staying organized, and focusing on the season's joy, you can create a stress-free holiday hosting experience for both yourself and your guests.