How to Throw a Holiday Party

Throwing a holiday party can be stressful and overwhelming to say the least, but entertaining your family and friends this time of year can end up being the brightest memory of the season. Whether you envision a grand event or intimate affair, these are my tips to help guide you through the entire party planning process.

Guests: Tis the season to be with friends and family, but a party too large can lead to disaster. Choose a set number of guests that will fit into your space comfortably, and invite a handful more in anticipation that not everyone will attend. To avoid hurt feelings, keep the list to your closest family and friends only, and consider celebrating with coworkers and acquaintances on a smaller scale, like the office holiday party or a dinner out.

Invites: This aspect of the party planning process is simple and shouldn't break the bank. Sending out Evites for cocktail parties, or even a simple email, will suffice. For a full menu dinner party fancier invites are suitable, but no need to go all out. Invitations cards like these from Rifle Paper Co. are perfect.
- when to send - cocktail party: 1-2 weeks in advance with rsvp up to 3 days prior - dinner party: 3-4 weeks in advance with rsvp up to 2 weeks prior

Food & Drink Too many elements will clutter your party, so choose one thing and do it well.
Cocktail party: If you decide upon a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party, be sure to say so on your invite so guests don't show up expecting an entire meal. A week prior to your gathering choose a signature cocktail that can be made in batches prior to the party, and offer an assortment of wine, beer, juice, and sodas as well. Determine 3 or 4 hors d'oeuvres that are easy to eat with your hands and don't require a lot of time spent in the kitchen. Shop for your party assuming each attendee will consume 3-4 drinks and roughly 10 hors d'oeuvres pieces.
- suggestions - signature drinks: cranberry martini, candy cane cocktail, maple butter kiss, 103 holiday cocktail recipes - easy appetizers: brie with cherry chutney, fig and olive tapenade, double tomato bruschetta, antipasto pasta salad

Dinner party: If a plated dinner is something you had in mind, planning your menu a week or two in advance will make all the difference. Choose sides that can be made ahead of time so you're not stuck in the kitchen the day of the party. Keep appetizers simple and store bought: nuts, crackers, cheese, fruits, and dips. Pour them into festive dishes to fancy them up.
- suggestions - main course: maple glazed roast turkey, holiday rib roast, apricot brown sugar ham, stuffed winter squash (vegetarian) - make ahead sides: roasted pumpkin apple soup, traditional mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, chilli glazed sweet potatoes

Decor: Keep decor at a minimum, allowing the drinks, food, and company to be the star. Simple table cloths or table runners, glass or mercury votives with unscented tea candles, and fresh greens from your tree or the store will be more than enough to create a holiday party wonderland.
- suggestions - mercury glass votives, winter white garland, striped table runner

Entertainment: Nothing trumps good conversation and laughter amongst guests, so keep the entertainment factor simple with a mix of your favorite holiday tunes. Create a playlist on your iTunes or log into Pandora for free and find a holiday station to your liking.
- suggestions - Michael Buble holiday, Diana Krall holiday, Nat King Cole holiday

Favors: This step is completely optional, but if you want your guests to leave with a little something in hand, homemade gifts from the kitchen might be the perfect ending to a great evening.
- suggestions - brownies wrapped individually, roasted nuts in a small mason jar, hot chocolate packets with a bag of mini marshmallows

For even more holiday party planning tips and accessories, check out my Decemeber article on Houzz here.

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