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Meg’s Top 3 Holiday Party Tips

Published December 13, 2017

Planning for any party is daunting, but holiday parties seem to have so many more layers to them. I’ve hosted a number of events, both at home and other places and have made a few incredibly helpful observations. I hope these tips will help you have a successful holiday party. Learn from my mistakes and don’t light your kitchen on fire!

1 – Start Early

Pinterest has become the go-to place for all of us who want to throw that perfect holiday party, but sometimes have a hard time finding the right theme or place to start. If you begin early enough, you have the opportunity to Pinterest your heart out and find all of the amazing little things you want to do. However, we all know what happens – we fill our boards with delightful projects and delicious recipes we want to try, but there they sit until the week before the party when there is no time left to actually do them.

When you start early, you can get the guest list together and plan the menu properly. That way, you know exactly who is coming, how many of those cute little menu cards or favors you need to make, what entrees and sides you plan to make, and which ones you can assign to other guests. It also gives you time to sort through that “Projects to Try” board, narrow down which ones are most important to you, and which ones you can just let go.

Maybe having your couch look warm and inviting is most important. Break out those Christmas throw pillows in advance so you don’t have to do it the day before your party. Love that holiday centerpiece you saw? Odds are good that you can get that put together and have it ready weeks in advance. I was recently involved in a baby shower that took some serious pre-planning to find everything we needed, but with proper coordination, we had all of the necessary items, including homemade pennants, customized signs, and fully themed décor prepared in advance making the day low-stress. And for Pete’s sake, do not go back and keep searching Pinterest! You’ll just uncover more ideas and it will take you from feeling confident to overwhelmed all over again.

2 – Mise en Place

I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, for three years while getting my Master’s Degree and while I was in school, I was taken in by friends as their honorary little sister. While I do wish that some of Aaron and Laura’s cooking skills had made their way into my conscious memory, I did learn one incredibly valuable lesson from them…”Mise en Place“. It’s a French phrase pronounced [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas] – “everything in its place”.

One year, they decided to throw the Super Bowl party to end all Super Bowl parties, which meant that mountains of food were in order. I’ll never forget when they asked me to come over for a Mise en Place day. I showed up that morning not very sure of what I’d gotten myself into but they explained that this is a day of preparation. The highlights of the menu were a dozen different kinds of crazy pizzas and Laura’s signature brie nachos. We spent the entire day making the pizza dough from scratch, marinating the meats, grating the cheeses, slicing the vegetables, and finding places to store all of these delicious items. When Super Bowl day rolled around, we just assembled the pizzas with the ingredients and baked them; it was a rotating door of delicious options all day long. It wasn’t the case for this party, but if there is something that can be completely finished the day before, perhaps baking a pie or making the cranberry relish, do it! You’ll thank yourself tomorrow.

Don’t allow the food example to fool you though. Getting everything in place can mean any number of things. Maybe it’s restocking the bathrooms with plenty of extra toilet paper, cleaning up the toy room, or pulling out the air mattress and bedding for that family member who is crashing at your place. Or maybe, if you’re anything like my Mama, you set your table and pull out all of the dishes you’ll need. I’ve always admired this about my mother. The day before a big meal, she pulls out her tablecloth, places her centerpieces and dresses the table with the necessary china, silverware, glassware and two sets of salt and pepper shakers (one for each end of the table). She then goes through her preplanned menu (Step 1) and pulls out the bowls, serving platters, and utensils she will need for each dish and then labels them. It sounds a little silly, but it makes everything so much easier the next day!

3 – It’s in the Details

Your guest list is complete, your table is set, and your food is prepped. Now what? Now you finish things up and remember, it’s in the details. That might mean garnishing your finished platters, starting a fire in the hearth, turning on a Christmas movie for the kids, or whatever might help your guests feel taken care of. My sister-in-law is the queen of this. I just attended her Thanksgiving dinner and she left no detail unturned. She purchased a bottle of wine that was to be served hot and rather than last minute trying to warm it, she’d had it sitting in a warmer all morning with the cork already removed. Being a good hostess means anticipating the needs of your guests before they step foot through the door. She also remembered to turn on the Christmas music in the background and had all of the candles in her centerpieces lit. Don’t be afraid to make a “to do list” – there is something gratifying in crossing things off of a list and knowing that you’ve accomplished everything. Paying attention to the small details makes such a difference and your guests will notice; I guarantee it.

I hope these tips help you to plan a successful holiday party. If you forget something, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not the end of the world, but proper planning can raise your event to the next level and leave people wondering how you did it. Happy planning!

Until next time,
Megan C. Wherley
Gettysburg Hotel Insider

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