11 Tips for a Holiday Gathering Even the Host Can Enjoy

friends holding sparklers at a holiday party

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and hosting a group of friends or family can be a wonderful way to create lasting memories. But if you haven’t hosted in a while, the whole idea can seem daunting. We’ve got you covered with 11 tips for hosting a stress-free holiday event.

1. Make your lists (and, yes, check them twice)

Lists can be your biggest sanity saver, and when it comes to lists, the more the merrier. Here are the lists that will help make your celebration a piece of cake:

  • Guest list, with room to track RSVPs
  • Recipe list, divided into dishes that can be prepped in advance and those that need day-of-event attention
  • Shopping lists with a separate entry for each store, such as grocery, specialty, liquor, party wares, etc.
  • “Borrow” or “rental” list if you need to acquire extra chairs, tables, serving pieces, etc. A party rental place can be a goldmine for affordable dishes and linens — much cheaper than buying yourself and more eco-friendly and elegant than paper
  • Playlist for festive background music — you can even ask guests to share song suggestions when they RSVP
  • Task list that details shopping, cleaning, and decorating needs
  • Any other list that will make you feel successful when you check it off!

2. Develop a timeline

Consider this your master list, which you develop from the other lists. Working backward from the big day, make a list of all the tasks that have to be done and when they can be done to avoid a last-minute crunch or drama; for example, calling the rental place early ensures you can choose your ideal color of tablecloths. By seeing all the needs and dates together, you can determine if your timeline is feasible or what you might need to outsource or delegate.

Think creatively about what tasks you can do ahead; for example handling cleaning chores that don’t need to be done at the last minute and buying shelf-stable staples and paper goods way in advance. Prioritize freezer-friendly foods like soups, stews, cookies, and other baked items you can check off your list. Even traditional holiday favorites like latkes or stuffing can be frozen for your convenience.

Send your invitations early as people’s holiday calendars can fill up fast.

3. Go easy on yourself menu-wise

If you’re having a big group, don’t make yourself crazy creating individual soufflés or any labor- or ingredient-intensive dish. The point of the get-together is to “get together,” so choose crowd-pleasers that are easy to make—and easy to eat. One strategy is to focus on bite-size appetizers that don’t require extra plates and cutlery and/or a buffet which makes serving and seating easier.

4. Deck your halls with care

The holidays can be the ideal time to host a party because you’re probably decorating your home anyway. Think about your decoration placement so walkways aren’t obstructed, and put breakables up high so guests don’t inadvertently knock against them. Use the same strategy with ornaments if you have a holiday tree. Rather than traditional candles, which can be a fire hazard, illuminate your space with flameless tea lights and tapers.

5. Be thoughtful about your beverages

Many guests might want a glass of wine or a cocktail, but as the host you have a responsibility to keep a watchful eye on drinking. Many states have “social hosting” laws, which means you could be liable if someone drinks in your home and later causes a drunk driving accident. One way to help monitor consumption is to hire a bartender and encourage a light hand, rather than having guests make their own drinks. The peace of mind can be well worth the expenses.

Purchase a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks and package them appealingly; for example, you could make your “signature cocktail” a non-alcoholic concoction.

6. Hire help

Besides a bartender, think about inviting a local teen to help stow coats and bags, replenish food trays, do dishes, and whisk away napkins and other trash. An extra set (or more!) of hands will allow you to concentrate on enjoying your guests.

7. Make the bathrooms sparkle

Let’s be honest — no one will be able to tell if your floors are clean. In fact, you might even want to delay your most intensive cleaning for the day after. The one exception is any bathrooms guests will be using. Stock with ample toilet paper, air freshener, and even hairspray. One nicety to add during the germ season is single-use towels rather than having everyone wipe their hands on the same towel.

8. Create an inviting guest room if anyone will be staying over.

Make your visitors feel right at home by anticipating little amenities that will make them feel more comfortable, such earplugs and an eye mask, magazines, plentiful lighting, a phone charger — and don’t forget the WiFi code. Ditto with the bathroom to ensure it’s stocked with supplies like toiletries and, of course, toilet paper. Make sure they have access to extra blankets and towels.

9. Prepare the outside of your home

Yes, make sure to turn on your holiday lights, but getting ready for guests takes more than that. Tape down cords to holiday lights or decorations and remove potential tripping hazards from your lawn. If it has snowed, shovel your sidewalks, walkways, and driveway. Take special care against black ice by using a de-icer such as sand or salt.

10. Make sure you’re protected

This is a good time to check your homeowners insurance to ensure you’re adequately insured. As mentioned above, remove obvious hazards and keep a watchful eye on guests’ drinking. It’s also smart to stash valuables — you don’t want an unfortunate situation with a crowd of people in your home. Of course, no matter how careful you are, anything can happen. That’s why an umbrella policy is a smart idea to shield you.

11. Enjoy the party

Five minutes before the first guest is set to arrive, take a few minutes to breathe deeply, cue up your music, and get ready to have fun. After all that’s what entertaining is all about.

With all the lists you have to create, take one item off by comparing insurance policies at Matic. It’s easy to compare quotes and coverage to find the policy that’s right for you.

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