9 tips for hosting the perfect holiday gathering

Parties, get-togethers, and gatherings abound this time of year. While it's always fun to go out, sometimes you have to play the host and bring the party to you. Here are 9 tips that will make sure your holiday gathering goes off without a hitch.

1. Decide on the kind of party you're throwing

Having a holiday party doesn’t mean it has to be a formal affair. You have many options! A cocktail party, sit-down dinner, or even brunch. Also, try hosting a holiday open house. Set a range of 4-6 hours so guests can come by when they're available. This allows for flexibility during the busy holiday season.

2. Start planning early

Get out a notepad and start with some lists! Menu ideas, grocery lists and what to do around the house to get your space party ready. Plan food items that can be prepared in advance or frozen.

3. Don't be afraid to accept help

When someone says, “Can I bring anything? Do you need any help?” Say yes! Ask a friend or family member to come over early to help with final preparations or assign someone drinks or appetizers to bring.

4. Get creative with DIY projects

It can be easy to get caught up in holiday accessories and Pinterest-worthy décor, but don’t be afraid to try your hand at a few DIY projects to decorate your home. Some greenery and thin branches can transform into a centerpiece, or place some extra Christmas tree decorations into a large vase or jar for display.

5. Make impressive, delicious, but simple food

Now is NOT the time to try out new and complicated recipes. If you want to try something new, give it a trial run a few weeks earlier. Use good quality, simple ingredients to make a stunning charcuterie board, cheese plate, or similar easy-to-serve dishes.

6. Set the mood

Prepare a festive and fun playlist ahead of time to set the tone for your party and provide some background music. If you are having a traditional sit-down dinner, pick instrumental music so it does not overpower the conversation. Also, take advantage of music streaming services for pre-made, curated playlists.

7. Don't break the bank

Keep an eye on your budget. It can be easy to go overboard when planning a party so set a budget and stick to it. Shop food items when on sale or buy in bulk to save money.

8. Divide and conquer

You cannot do everything for a holiday party in one day! Divide you tasks over the weeks/days leading up to the event. Create shopping and to-do lists two weeks in advance. Shop for groceries and supplies one week out of the event. 1-2 days before the event, start food preparation for make-ahead dishes, clean around the house, and decorate. On the day of the party, set the table, cook/heat party food and let the fun begin!

9. Enjoy yourself

This final tip can be the hardest for the party host and something I struggle with when hosting a crowd. Make food that doesn’t require a lot of babysitting and use items like a crock-pot or a low-temperature oven to keep food warm. Remember to enjoy yourself too and not spend all your time in the kitchen or cleaning up after people. Take a deep breath and get ready to party!