Top 10 Holiday Party Planning Tips

by Alli

Tis’ the season for non-stop holiday parties!  It seems as if it’s a never-ending celebration from Halloween to New Year’s Day!  Are you hosting any events this season?  Here’s my tips on how to make it through the party season with your sanity intact!

Holiday Party Planning Tips

 Top 10 Holiday Planning Tips

1.  Plan ahead

It’s vital to plan ahead by choosing your party date and mailing or emailing Save the Date cards.   Remember, the closer the date of the party is to the actual holiday, the more likely it is that your invited guests will already have plans.

I like to schedule Christmas parties for the beginning of December.  It helps get me and my guests in the mood for Christmas.  Plus, once it’s over, you can breathe a sigh of relief at how awesome it was and that it’s, well, over.

Helpful Hint:  Thanksgiving invites should be sent out at least 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and up to six weeks beforehand.

Christmas party invitations should be mailed at least a month in advance.  Calendars fill up fast in December.

What About the RSVP?

When throwing a party, an enclosed RSVP card (formal) or a phone number/email (informal) is vital!   RSVP, the abbreviation for the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait,” means please respond. When you send an invitation with an RSVP enclosed, the invited guest should let you know whether or not they will be attending the party.

My biggest pet peeve when planning a party is for invited guests to be rude and not RSVP!  Yes, it’s plain rude not to do so.  If your event is catered, you will probably be paying per person so you need to know how many people will be attending.

There should be no hard feelings if the invited guest has other plans and sends his or her regrets.  But if they RSVP that they will be there and are a no-show (without a valid excuse), that’s just not cool.

2.  Decide on a theme, just don’t go overboard!

There is such a thing as too matchy matchy and too themy!  Always remember, less is usually more!

I’ve done several variations of Christmas parties including A Carolina Coastal Christmas Party, a Gingerbread House Decorating Party for Kids that was featured in an online magazine and here’s my Thanksgiving Day 2013 tablescape.

3.  Write Out Your Menu & Grocery List

I usually plan my menu at the same time that I’m blocking out the time and date of the party.  And I tend to go overboard on the menu and wind up exhausted at the party!  Simple is better!  Look through your (or my) recipes and find foods that can be prepared ahead of time.  I tend to shy away from foods (except for rolls, etc.)  that must go into the oven right as the guests arrives.

Helpful Hint:  If you don’t like to cook, have your meal/appetizers, etc. catered.  If it’s not in your budget to have the meal prepared by a “for real” caterer, talk your BFF, who loves to cook, into helping you!

If you do have your dinner party catered, make sure you arrange the delivery or pickup, etc. in advance and call a few days before  the party to confirm.  I usually go a step beyond and call the morning of the party, too.  I tend to be a little overboard in that area!

Helpful Hint:  I always prepare more food than I think I’ll need.  You can always send the leftovers home with your BFF or refrigerate/freeze leftovers for another day.

4.  Line up any extra help you may need.

Your BFF would love to help co-host your party or ask some high school kids to help out.  I once did a Springtime in Paris luncheon and asked the youth group at our church to be the servers.  They all wore black slacks and white shirts and did a wonderful job!  They enjoyed serving, cleaning up and eating afterwards!

5.  Make sure your crystal, china, table linens, etc. are clean, wrinkle free and ready to use.

I always set the table the day before the dinner party.  It saves so much time!  I usually shop my house, yard and woods for centerpieces.  I tend to not use store-bought flowers that much.  I’m more into natural, rustic, free DIY centerpieces.

6.  A couple of days before the party, clean your house.

The day of, you only have to dust and tidy up the bathrooms, making sure you have fresh hand towels, soap, etc.

7.  The day before the party, do as much of the cooking as you can.

You don’t want to feel rushed the day of the party!

8.  Have a playlist ready!

When the first guests arrive, there can be an awkward silence, so it’s good to have music playing softly in the background.  For really large parties, I have an icebreaker game ready to go so the guests will start mingling.

You can find a great playlist here!

9.  On the day of, finish cooking and set out appetizers (that won’t spoil) an hour or so before the party begins.  Wrap tightly to ensure freshness.

10.  Make time for a nice, relaxing bath (heck, who am I kidding – I jump in the shower with mere minutes to spare) so that you will feel and look refreshed. Most importantly, smile and have fun!

No one likes to arrive at a party and be greeted by a hostess that is tired, on edge, grouchy and nervous.  Trust me, it shows!

Helpful Hint:  When hosting a formal dinner party, here’s the proper way to seat dinner guests:

How to Seat Guests

Do you host a holiday party?  If you’re attending a party, here’s some fabulous homemade hostess gifts!  Need help setting a formal table?  Find it here!


Nichole October 28, 2014 - 7:24 am

I love throwing holiday parties! We always host my in-laws the week before Thanksgiving (so everyone can just go to ONE dinner on the actual day), and I love planning in advance, and planning the menu. We also always have an annual ugly sweater Christmas party, which is more laid back, but so much fun! These are great tips!

Alli October 28, 2014 - 8:14 am

Hosting your in-laws the week before is an awesome idea! My daughter and her family eat with her in-laws for lunch on Thanksgiving day (big family reunion) and then at my house at 6 pm with all of our side of the family. I can tell the kids are exhausted and still full from lunch! 🙂

Christine October 28, 2014 - 9:21 am

Now this is a great post! I love this time of year because I love hosting a good party! Most of the time I’m running around like a crazy woman, but the party is always great…I’m hoping to get a head start on my planning this year!

Alli October 28, 2014 - 9:23 am

Parties are fun, aren’t they? I especially like Christmas parties when everyone is all decked out in their Christmas finery. 🙂

aimee fauci October 28, 2014 - 10:08 am

I used to host holiday parties for when I worked outside the home. It was so stressfully fun! Now I throw my girls birthday parties and it’s stress… with a little bit of fun. The RSVP or lack of kills me!

Alli October 28, 2014 - 10:40 am

Kid’s birthday parties can be a whole new level of stress!

Heather October 28, 2014 - 10:09 am

What a fabulous post! Thanks so much for the how to set a formal table graphic. That is something I always get a bit confused with when I have to set a table.

Alli October 28, 2014 - 10:39 am

It can be daunting, but after awhile it becomes second nature! 🙂

tiffany khyla October 28, 2014 - 11:26 am

These are all great tips! I especially love the bit about choosing a theme. I love themed parties, and even if I’m celebrating Thanksgiving or a birthday, I still like to choose a unique, more specific theme.

erlene October 28, 2014 - 12:03 pm

Great party tips. I do agree that it’s rude not to RSVP or to just show up without an RSVP. Your number 10 is something I do with almost any party at my house…lol.

Louida October 28, 2014 - 12:14 pm

These tips are awesome! I never hosted a holiday party and just attended them since I don’t want to handle the clean up afterwards. I always remember to RSVP because it is rude if you don’t and show up anyway. I remember that happening at my boss’s Christmas party.

Alli October 28, 2014 - 7:12 pm

Clean-up is never fun, is it?

Emerald October 29, 2014 - 9:06 am

We never host holiday parties or any parties for that matter. That’s something we really need to change in 2015.

Alli October 29, 2014 - 9:19 am

Yes, host at least one party for your closest friends and family. It’s work, but it’s a lot of fun! 🙂

Shirley Wood October 29, 2014 - 3:57 pm

The most important tip on this list is the first one, Plan Ahead! That old adage is perfect, “When you fail to plan, your plan fails” We sure don’t want our party or dinner to be a failure!
You are so right, the holiday season is so busy! I love it though and I believe you do too 🙂

Shirley Wood October 29, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Thanks for sharing with us at Home Matters! We just love you over there !!

mel poorman April 5, 2016 - 9:57 pm

Informative ideas , I was enlightened by the points – Does anyone know where my company could access a fillable a form copy to work with ?


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