Precious time with loved ones, tasty food, meeting new friends, and sweet memories—hosting a great holiday party can bring you all these things. However, it can also stress you out! To minimize the frustration and maximize the fun, here’s a guide to help you make the most of this special gathering.
Planning and Inviting
Nowadays, party invites are mostly done via email and Facebook. You don’t need to call all of your guests to invite them, only the ones who don’t check email or Facebook.
Make sure your invite, electronic or otherwise, includes the following details:
- The date, time, and location of the party
- A quick description of the activities at the party (dinner, games, watching sports, dancing, gift exchange)
- A prompt for guests to RSVP
- Your contact information
- What items the guests need to bring, if anything
- Whether the party is BYOB, or not (you don’t want to be stuck providing drinks for everyone if that wasn’t your plan)
On the party invite, be sure to state clearly the complete address and detailed directions to the party, both by car and by public transit. State the buzzer number if needed, and the closest major intersection. Give details of parking space, whether they are in a parking lot, on the street, in front of your place, or elsewhere. If possible, also give the time of the last bus, train, or subway that leaves from the closest stop.
It’s very important to consider what activities to host at the party. Ask yourself: what do you and your guests like to do? Are you all very social and love to talk? Perhaps some enjoy video games? Are there any sports fanatics who would love to catch a game on TV? Or maybe you like designating a party theme, and require your guests to dress up?
Name tags may be a good idea if you are inviting guests from more than one social circle.
As the party host, it is your responsibility to ensure that your guests get home safely. Do not let drunken guests drive: either arrange for designated drivers or taxicabs, or provide a guest room or a couch for your guests to stay the night.
Decorations and Music
For a Christmas party, decorations are very important. A tree decked out with ornaments is essential, and pots of poinsettias are also pleasing around the room. Add in mistletoe for laughs.
Candles are an effective way to add pleasant atmosphere to your party. Place them judiciously around your apartment or house, but position them away from food, furniture, or elbows to avoid accidents. Also, buy a light dimmer extension cord to lower the brightness of your lamps and let the candles add a warm glow to the gathering.
Music is very important to add fun and possibly some singing and dancing to your party. For a Christmas party, traditional carols are clearly needed on the playlist, but any fun, upbeat, and popular tracks are also great. Include both recent hits and songs from decades past so that everyone knows at least a few tunes. Also, make your playlist longer than the expected party duration, so that you never risk running out of music and ruining the party vibe with dead air.
Food and Drink
In general, prepare more food than is necessary for your guests. Although it may be somewhat wasteful, running out of food during a party is a real downer!
Another general guideline is that, while delicious food is important for a holiday party, do not stress yourself out with preparing a meal that is too complicated, or that requires a long time in the kitchen. As the party host, you should be chatting with your guests, not busy in front of the oven.
Don’t forget to bring or make vegetarian or vegan food! Although it may seem like a hassle if you’re not a vegetarian, you may be surprised at how much you end up enjoying the vegetarian dishes yourself, not to mention that many of them are lower in calories and cholesterol.
If preparing a dinner for all your guests is too much work, do a potluck. It means less meal preparation time for you, plus everyone can bring what they like to eat.
For appetizer trays, include the following: bread slices or tortilla chips with dip, chocolate pieces, biscuits and cookies, and nuts like almonds and peanuts. Sweets like mints and candy canes are also great.
A fruit tray is a great idea, not only because it may be one of the only low-calorie foods at the party, but also because it keeps you and your guests hydrated while your heating system is turned on full blast.
If you’re not sure of what drinks to stock up on, the following should cover most drinking needs at your party: tea and coffee; hot chocolate; egg nog; red and white wine; vodka, whiskey, and rum for spirits; and fruit juices and soft drinks by themselves or as mixers for cocktails.
As the host, try your best to be present and available for all your guests. Do not hide in a corner munching on cookies, or stay with a small clique of close friends the entire night. As much as possible, talk to everyone and make sure everyone’s needs are met.
A crucial hosting duty is to actively include shy guests into conversations, by introducing them to other guests and finding common or general interests to talk about. This is especially important if you’ve invited certain guests who only know you.
Whenever food is ready, or a guest brings a new dish, walk around the party and offer the food to all your guests. Also, let them know they can help themselves to more food in the kitchen.
For a New Year’s party, be sure to tune in to a televised countdown, and have the bottle and glasses ready for a champagne toast.
Clean up trays, plates, and messes as the party progresses. This reduces the amount of cleanup at the end of the party, and keeps the atmosphere agreeable for late guests and everyone else.
Let smokers know where they can smoke, be it on a balcony, a patio, in the backyard, or on the front lawn.
Do not overdrink! As the host, you should be the one taking care of people, and your guests, no matter how close you are to some or all of them, should not be taking care of you by the end of the night!
If there is a gift exchange, make sure to set a price point for the gifts in advance. It should be affordably priced.
An entertaining way to spice up a gift exchange is to do Secret Santa, with the names either selected in advance or drawn at the party. Add in the chance to swap gifts after all of them have been opened for more laughs.