With so many things to juggle during the holiday, sometimes hosting a holiday party is the one thing that sets you over the edge. Instead of turning into the Grinch at your holiday party, nip stress in the holiday bud and host like a pro. Here are our favorite ways to help your holiday party without stress:
Pick What Works Best For You and Your Guests: Cocktail-Style or a Full Meal
Unlike Thanksgiving — a holiday practically dedicated to food and that one special meal— things are a little more lax when it comes to the December holidays. Make no mistake: we’re not saying that you don’t need to feed your party guests or serve crummy food, but there isn’t as much pressure around holiday party meals as there is around Thanksgiving. Because things are a little more flexible when it comes to holiday food, it might be smart to debate what kind of meal you’d like to serve at your holiday party.
…Is a cocktail-style party right for you?
Cocktail-hour only events, which involve no plated meal, have been sweeping the events industry for the last two years now. Weddings are even starting to favor a reception of only hors d’oeuvres for the entire event instead of breaking up the celebration with a meal. If you are a person who finds the sit-down meal and all of the components of it to be too stressful, consider doing a party of only hors d’oeuvres. If you do this, make sure that you have a larger variety of appetizers than you would if you were also doing a sit-down meal and that there is enough food to replace what guests would have eaten with full meal and pre-meal apps.
We love this idea because it is unique. It also allows hosts to spend more time with their guests instead of getting dinner ready in the kitchen. Another great reason to pick the cocktail-route is that you can ask guests to bring an appetizer or dessert to help reduce your time spent cooking. However, just be aware that many guests might expect a meal at your party and could be dissatisfied if dinner never comes. Make sure that your guests know the deal before they arrive.
…Or is a sit-down meal the better choice?
There are many holiday traditions, and a big meal is often one of them. A seated meal allows uninterrupted time to connect and bond at the dinner table and it’s also a chance to tuck into some really special food items that you might only get to eat during the holidays.
We really love seated meals for parties that have kids. A cocktail-style party probably isn’t the right choice for a party with kids. An event full of little fingers (that are probably sticky… kids are always sticky!) poking into unfamiliar appetizers probably isn’t the best combination. And a cocktail night will kids will be filled with stress. If you love to cook and enjoy the tradition of a holiday meal, we suggest going this route.
Prioritize, make sacrifices, and do things ahead of time
Between shopping for gifts, wrapping gifts, having a calendar packed with other parties to attend, and your average-day-to-day tasks on top of it all, the holidays are crazy. The last thing you want during your holiday party is your uncompleted to-do list nagging away at you. Do your best to make sure that everything that would cause you anxiety about not being done during your party is done before guests arrive.
Sometimes, this means making a few sacrifices to your party or to your to-do list. If you had plans to make your world famous chocolate cake that requires a full day in the kitchen to make but you also have gifts to wrap that you need to exchange the next day on Christmas morning, the gifts probably need to come first. No one will care that you traded your cake for a store bought one. Do you need to take the dog to the groomers or do you need to make the house party-ready? The dog can probably wait until next week— save yourself the stress! Be willing to make sacrifices and prioritize.
Pick Out & Label Your Dishes
Labeling dishes sounds unnecessary, but it’s key to having a stress-free party. With so many appetizers, side-dishes, and sauces, any holiday party uses a lot of serveware and dishes that it can be hard to keep track of things. First, it’s important to make sure you have enough serveware. Once that’s worked out, line up all of the dishes you plan on using and begin to label what will go in each dish with sticky-notes the day before your party.
Trust us, this is key. With a million dishes being served, labeling each dish will help keep you organized. It will also make it easier for people helping you in the kitchen to figure things out. Make sure that you are using dishware that is safe to use in the oven if you plan on heating before you serve, and of course, remove the sticky note before you put in the food!
Allow guests to help themselves
Being the ‘hostess with the mostest’ doesn’t mean that you need to babysit your guests. Sure, any good host checks in with their guests frequently, but you don’t always need to worry about or wait on them. Allowing guests to help themselves will be a big weight off of your shoulders.
One way you can do this is by setting up a bar instead of mixing their drinks yourself. An ice bucket, glasses, open bottles of wine, liquor, beer, and of course, soft drinks and a special mock-tail is more than enough. Guests will see the bar and take the hint that they are more than welcome to serve themselves, meaning you get more time to do other things. Another way to welcome guests to help themselves is by how you serve food. If you do a sit down meal, serve the food buffet-style. This way, guests can make their own plate and can grab seconds without needing to ask.
While hosting over the holidays can be stressful, remember: you’re hosting a party to see your loved ones! Spending time with our friends and family is the best part of the holidays, so even if your party might not be ‘perfect’ by your standards or if things go awry during it, keep in mind that you are surrounded by those who care about you and will be more than willing to laugh anything off. Cheers!