‘Tis the season for holiday parties. But when you’re playing host, sometimes all of the pre-party prep can leave you feeling stressed out and keep from enjoying your company.
In order to host a party you AND your guests can enjoy, incorporate these effortless entertaining secrets into your holiday event that are guaranteed to make hosting any party a whole lot easier on you.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hosting parties that are unforgettable. And before I had kids, I’d go all out. I’d deck the halls from floor to ceiling, cater the perfect menu, and pretend like my house looked this clean all the time.
But then after I had my son (who’s now two), I’ve discovered a few secrets that make entertaining much easier and always kid-friendly, without sacrificing elegance. Because while most people think that they’re not good at entertaining, really, it’s not that hard. And it definitely doesn’t need to stress you out or make you feel like a Pinterest-fail!
All you need are these simple tips to make hosting any party fun and memorable:
RELEASE YOUR EXPECTATIONS:
The first thing you have to do is release your expectations that everything will be perfect. This is a huge! If you expect everything to turn out exactly as you imagined, you are just going to stress yourself out and your guests will feel it. Instead, let your focus be on your guests. After all, they are there to spend time with YOU!
PREP YOUR HOME:
Please, don’t dust the baseboards. Instead, focus only on the practical essentials, which will free up your time to enjoy the actual event:
1) Make sure you have a spot for the pets. It’s safer for you, and them. If they can be put in a separate room until the event is over, that’s great, or keep them behind a baby gate or exercise pen until they are calm. Plus, some guests might have have fears or dogs or dislike cats, or they may have allergies, so this is helpful for everyone. So think about where you will put your pets.
2) When it comes to cleaning, focus on the areas that matter. NO ONE will be looking at the thin layer of dust on your window sills or the tiny fingerprints on those windows, but they will appreciate a clean bathroom that’s stocked with clean hand towels and scented soap.
PLAN YOUR MENU:
One of the trickiest parts of party planning can be the menu. Keep it easy by deciding if you will have a sit-down, or a buffet. If you’re setting up a buffet, put drinks on one side of the room and food on the other to help with traffic flow. Decide if you will cook or cater the party. If it’s a sit down, let guests know what time you’ll be sitting down to eat. And if you’re catering, please do yourself a favor and prepare ahead as MUCH as possible. And better yet, order out! Lots of grocery stores have prepared appetizers and meals that you can just warm up and serve. You can make cookie dough in advance and freeze it, and you can prepare other dishes a day or two in advance. This will save you so much time and energy, so you can spend that energy on your guests. The best party we ever hosted was the one where we ordered a $40 smoked turkey from the grocery and no one knew the difference! You always have the option of making it a pot-luck, too. If this is the route you choose, assign everyone an item to bring beforehand so that you don’t wind up with too many appetizers or not enough sides. (PS: a little flattery doesn’t hurt here — say something like, “Oh! would you mind making those delicious deviled eggs of yours? I don’t know how you do it, but they’re the best I’ve ever had and everyone is going to love them”)
KEEP DECORATING SIMPLE:
It’s fun to decorate for the holidays, and it feels good to show off your house. But your life is NOT a Pinterest Board! Please don’t stress yourself out over it. The focus should be on your guests, not on your decorations. I’m personally pretty minimal when it comes to party decor. I love a clean look. I’ll pull out my simple white table cloths which are so great because you can use them for ANY occasion. For the holidays, I love using live garlands that you can get from any local plant center or grocery store, which adds a touch of green and feels really fresh. Throw in some inexpensive, battery operated twinkle lights to add some fun sparkle.
And a tip on dinner ware — you do not have to use REAL plates! In fact, if the party is for both adults and kids, I recommend plastic ware or even paper plates. Just make sure if you’re using paper plates that they are sturdy — no one likes a floppy plate! Or, you can pick up packs of simple melamine plates at any party store that usually come in fun designs and colors, and that can be washed and reused at your next gathering.
If people offer to bring a dish or help with the clean up, take them up on it. People like to feel useful, and this is one way people actually enjoy expressing their gratitude. You’ll be glad to have the extra hands.
CALL IT A NIGHT:
Worried your guests will linger? Include a definite ending-time on the party invite rather than leaving it open ended. You can start picking up the food and doing a little bit of simple clean-up toward the end of the event, to subtly clue your guests that it’s time to head home.
And remember, once people arrive, just enjoy the party. This is the golden rule for being a great party host! No one wants to feel like the party or dinner or event is stressing you out. That’s awkward for them, and certainly not enjoyable for you!
So remember: don’t sweat the small stuff, because no one notices it anyway. Focus instead on making people feel like you’re glad to have them there, because when you do, it’ll become an event you remember to enjoy, and enjoy to remember.
Courtney is a Lifestyle Strategist, Speaker, and Stress Expert dedicated to showing high-achieving women how to StressLESS and LiveMORE.
After a fast-paced corporate career and overcoming cancer at the age of 25, Courtney realized that life’s too short to waste any time feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out. She believes every woman was put on this earth with power and purpose, and deserves to have success without the stress.
As the creator and founder of The StressLESS System©️, Courtney specializes in showing busy women how to ditch the overwhelm, create order out of life’s chaos, and find their inner peace.
She’s known for sharing simple, actionable steps to help them grow their business without the stress, so they can have more time to enjoy the life that’s in front of them right now. After all, “StressLESS, LiveMORE” is her motto!
Courtney lives in New Orleans with her husband Alan and their son AJ, a surprise miracle baby following her cancer treatments. You’ll find her hanging out wherever there’s dark chocolate and good cappuccino.
To learn more, you can connect with Courtney on Instagram @CourtneyElmer_ or on her website, CourtneyElmer.com