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Dare to enjoy the holiday season

How to host a celebration with less stress and more joy.

It’s the season for entertaining – and if the very idea of throwing a party sends you into a spiral of stress, read on. A holiday gathering at your home can be both easy and affordable. All it takes is a little planning and creativity. If you’re committed to throwing a get-together, here are some tips to help relieve the pressure, so you can enjoy the occasion too. 

Decide how you want to entertain

Think about the type of event that suits you, your budget and your space. For example, if cooking isn’t your thing, consider catering or order in. If you need to cut costs, host a potluck. And if you’re tight for space, plan a drop-in cocktail party rather than a sit-down dinner. You can keep it casual or organize a themed event. Whatever you pick, just give yourself enough time for preparations.

Planning ahead reduces stress

Make the big decisions – date, time, guest list, menu and decor – well in advance. And don’t forget to ask guests about dietary restrictions, like gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian or vegan. Once the RSVPs start rolling in, not only will you have a better idea of how much food and drink to serve, but you’ll also know what kind of menu options to prepare. More is better than less, and if you have leftovers, you can send some home with your guests as parting gifts. You’ll also want to ensure that everyone gets home safely. Have numbers for taxis on hand or ensure people can get a ride share or a lift home with a designated driver. 

Keep the menu simple

It’s no fun prepping food in the kitchen while your guests celebrate without you. That’s why it makes sense to serve a meal that can be prepared (or mostly prepared) ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to serve something you are comfortable making. No matter how intimate, a dinner party is not the best time to try out a brand-new recipe. Be prepared to offer special fare for those with allergies or particular diets, as mentioned. 

Stagger party prep 

Create a to-do list early on, and schedule one or two small tasks every day in the lead-up to the party. You’ll be better prepared, and you won’t have to do as much last-minute running around. Shopping, cleaning, decorating and some food prep can be done ahead of time. Your goal should be to minimize the work you have to do on the day of the party, like trips to the florist, bakery or caterer. 

Consider self-serve stations 

Encourage guests to help themselves by setting up self-serve stations for cocktails (with recipes, ingredients, shakers and glasses), wine, beer, non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers and desserts. Place napkins strategically so they’re close at hand when needed. At a sit-down dinner, you may want to bring food to the table in serving dishes rather than plating each portion. 

Get guests involved 

Many people will offer to help, so let them. Guests can take coats, arrange flowers brought by new arrivals or pass around appetizers. Those who are shy will likely enjoy having a specific role to play. Consider your guests’ interests too – someone may love to be put in charge of music or taking photos. 

Enjoy yourself 

Remember, the people you’ve invited came to see you, so relax and have fun. Your guests won’t remember lopsided icing on a cake or imperfectly arranged throw pillows – but they will remember a stressed-out host. So, when the doorbell rings, take a deep breath, trust all your planning and preparation, and become the life of your party.


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