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Holiday Party Planning: 7 Tips to Make It Stress-Free


Holiday party planning can evoke a mixed bag of emotions. You’re probably looking forward to impressing your guests and enjoying a festive occasion. But whether you’re planning an open house for a hundred or an intimate gathering for a few friends or family, chances are you’re stressing over getting everything perfect.

Successful holiday party planning is all about managing the most important aspects of your gathering: the people, the setting, and of course, the food and drink. Today we’re sharing a collection of tips that can help to remove some of the stress from holiday party planning, by helping you avoid common pitfalls in each of these areas.

Holiday party planning tips: YOUR GUESTS

1. Go with online invites
Sure, a beautiful printed invitation can make a statement. However, they can easily get lost in the barrage of holiday cards and junk mail. Also, when you go with old-school invites, you have to rely on people remembering to call or email to RSVP.

Nothing is more stressful than not knowing how many people are going to show up for your holiday gathering! For this reason alone, we’re providing this holiday party planning tip: it’s worth sending online invitations using sites like Evite, Pingg or Punchbowl.

Using these sites not only makes it easy for people to RSVP (which means they are more likely to do so!) but makes it simple for you to keep track of your guest list and manage communication.

2. To gift or not to gift?
This can be one of the more stressful aspects of holiday party planning, especially if you’re hosting a large gathering. Who is going to show up with a gift? And what if you don’t have a gift for them? Do you have to buy gifts for everyone you’re inviting?

Not necessarily. The trick is to have a stash of crowd-pleaser gifts that you can grab in the event that a guest arrives with an unexpected gift in hand. Consumables are great for this purpose: bottles of wine, specialty coffee or tea, or (best of all) home-baked holiday treats.

Holiday party planning tips: YOUR SETTING

3. Choose a theme
One tip that can make your holiday party planning simpler in so many ways is to choose a theme for your holiday gathering. That’s because, once you do so, all the other decisions get easier. For example, let’s say you decide on a “Silver and Gold” theme. That theme will then drive your decisions about décor (obvious! The more glitter the better!), your invite design, what food and drinks to serve, and even about what to wear.

Speaking of what to wear: be sure to alert your guests about your party’s theme. People are often unsure how to dress for holiday gatherings: will they look overdressed if they go for a glamorous look? Or is it better to go casual and comfortable? Your theme can guide people to the desired dress code.

4. Set the mood
To set the tone for a festive gathering, your holiday party planning must include attention to a comfortable setting. That means the lighting, music, and even the temperature in your space.

Lighting: Dim the bright overheads and use warm mood lighting like candles (in safe votive holders) and holiday string lights.

Music: Obviously your choice of music depends on the guest list. However, often you’ll have a mixed crowd and you might be unsure which playlist will work best. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Keep the volume at background level. People want to be able to carry on a conversation without shouting.
  • Consider a mix of holiday music combined with other favorites. Especially for a party late in the season, people have been inundated with Christmas music for at least a month already. Chances are they will be relieved to hear something else!

Room comfort conditions: Did you think an HVAC company could write a blog about holiday party planning and not mention the temperature?? In our defense, it’s a common problem: people often fail to consider the fact that the oven has been running all day and your home has many, many more occupants than usual. Turn down the thermostat, and you may even need to turn on the AC.

Here’s some additional holiday party planning advice related to comfort conditions:

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Holiday party planning tips: YOUR MENU

5. Prep ahead
There’s one sure thing when it comes to holiday party planning: everything will take longer than you expect it to! That’s why you can’t leave much until the last minute. Do as much food prep as possible in advance. Also, don’t be afraid to outsource: get party platters from local restaurants, caterers, and even food markets. And when guests offer to bring something, have a list of suggestions handy.

6. Do the math
Here are some tips that take the guess work out of holiday party planning, at least when it comes to how much food and drink to plan for.

  • Appetizers: Expect guests to consume about 5 bit-size appetizers during the first hours of the party, and about 3 per hour thereafter
  • Cocktails: Plan for one alcoholic drink per guest per hour
  • Ice: About a pound of ice per person
  • Wine: One bottle for every 2-3 guests
  • Bottled water: Two 16 ounce bottles per person

7. Serve safely
This holiday party planning tip is critically important: the last thing you want to do is make guests sick by serving food at unsafe temperatures. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • When serving a cold dip containing dairy, serve it in a frozen bread bowl to keep it cold during the party. Simply carve out the inside of a round loaf and freeze wrapped in a freezer bag. On party day, the frozen bread bowl will keep your dip cold and safe to consume for to 6 hours.
  • For appetizers that need to be kept warm (such as meatballs), serve in a crock pot or warming tray. Be careful to keep cords out of reach of small party guests!

We hope these holiday party planning ideas help to take the stress out of your holiday gathering!