We love entertaining especially during the holidays. To me a great party is one where all you can hear is the sound of laughter, the foot steps of kids running around, and the cling of champagne glasses as you and your guests cheer and take a celebratory sip. If asked what is my entertaining style, I’d have to say is that I am definitely a more casual relaxed kind of host. You will often find me walking around barefoot making sure everyones belly is full and no ones glass is empty. I wouldn’t host so much if I couldn’t enjoy my own party or my loved ones. As a party stylist for big events I’ve learned to use those same ideas when planning even the smallest of gatherings at home. When you’re relaxed it shows and your guests get to enjoy you and your party so much more. It’s funny because without fail I always get asked how I look so calm when I’m hosting and my answer is always the same “I’m here with my favorite peeps doing what I enjoy most what’s there to be stressing about?” Seeing how the holidays are fast approaching (it kind of just snuck up on us, didn’t it??), I wanted to share my top 10 entertaining tips for stress-free holidays!
2 WEEKS PRIOR
Plan it out I know I’ve mentioned this a thousand times but planning ahead is key! Plan your menu, plan the decor, plan your outfit, plan the schedule for the evening, plan as much as you can ahead of time. We’ll get into more details next.
Plan the menu this part is so important guys! Planning the menu even a couple weeks in advance helps tons. If you already know what you are cooking and baking you can start your grocery shopping list early. Take inventory of what you do and do not have already at home. Anything needed should get put on your Holiday Grocery Shopping List. Keep this list in handy (I usually keep it as a Note on my phone). This way whenever you go to the grocery store for your weekly shopping you can pick up the nonperishable items on the list and just get those out of the way. This also avoids having to spend Christmas Eve at the grocery store at 10p getting that one last minute item you thought you had but didn’t. Been there? Be there no more!
Plan the decor I mean you spent so much time on that beautiful tree and getting that garland to hang just right, why not have your evenings decor be an extension of the holiday decorating you’ve already worked so hard on? Use what you have and go with it! If you have silver and turquoise christmas ornaments hanging on your tree grab a few and display them in a white bowl on your kitchen island. Or maybe you have an all White Wonderland scheme going on. How about covering your kitchen island with faux snow and displaying the food and desserts in pretty white and silver lined serving platters? Or maybe a traditional red holiday table is more your thing. Bringing in some red into your holiday table scape or your flower arrangements can be something very simple to do and would help tie everything together and feel cohesive.
1 WEEK PRIOR
Keep it neat we all know that we should have a clean and tidy home when welcoming guests but with all the craziness of the holidays things can get a little hectic and fast. Staying on top of things, even if its just a matter of clearing the “catch all” desk area in your kitchen (that’s the problem area at our house :/ ) or making sure the powder room stays neat or dusting off the bookshelves and the coffee table in your living area, will help when your racing to the finish line the following week to get things squeaky clean. Taking care of the smaller details will help when its time to do the overall deeper cleaning.
Wrap those gifts this is the time to get all those gifts wrapped that you will be handing out the day of. Yes it’s yet another task but one that has to get done so why not making it pain free. Spend a couple of nights while your catching up on your DVR to do it or invite a girlfriend over pop a bottle of wine and get to wrapping! Trust me, getting it done and checking it off the list will be a weight lifted off your shoulders and will leave more time to tackle the bigger items on the to-do list.
Plan your outfit okay so this is often the one piece of advice I forgo and immediately regret. I get so busy with everything else that I forget about myself. Then I end 30 mins before guests arrive just throwing on my go-to outfit and always wish I had planned my outfit out better. With that said, take some time and think of what you’d like to wear and how you’d like to feel that night. Maybe you’ll want to get dressed up a bit or a lot. Go for it! Or maybe you’ll want to keep it simple and rock a black turtleneck with a pair of skinny jeans. That works too! Its totally up to you but having a plan ahead of time will make things so much easier…getting a mani and pedi and taking that 1 hour to yourself isn’t a bad idea either ;)
3 DAYS PRIOR
Clean it up cleaning your home now won’t seem as daunting because you’ve been taking care of the small things on the daily. Now it’s time to tackle the main areas where your guests will be hanging out in the most. Clear things out, clean it up, and scrub it down! Remember the more open and airy a room feels the more invited your guests will feel. I like to even go as far as clearing the kitchen counters of anything I may normally have out but will not be needing that night. So maybe put your blenders and toasters away and make room for any unexpected dishes or drinks your guests may bring to share.
The small details this is the time to start putting together all your creative juices and think of anything special you might like to do to take things up a notch. It can be something simple like hand-writing place cards or doing something simple like hot coco parting favors (like these by Its A Sparkly Life) for your guests to take home. Anything that can make your guests feel that much more special and make your celebration that much more memorable is worth the extra effort.
Make the marinade/Prep your dishes this is the time to add all the yummy fresh produce you’ve bought for your dishes and throw them in the blender. Divide them into labeled containers and refrigerate until needed. I add a special blend of parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and peppers (called Sofrito see recipe here) to just about all of my holiday dishes. I like to get it done early so I have it ready for marinating the meats and for when I am pre-making rice and soups. There are quite a few dishes like casseroles, soups, rice and desserts that can be done the day before. So it is also a good idea to make those beforehand and avoid the oh so stressful day of the cooking marathon we all know too well. All you’d have to do is simply warm those pre-made dishes up when your about ready to serve. This also helps with oven real estate. There’s nothing worse than having to wait to put something in the oven because there just isn’t any room or because you can not coordinate the oven temperatures for all your dishes.
Take a load off I mean yes you will still be occupied cooking and taking care of any last minute clean up and the kids may need a shot of “grown up” Egg Nog to calm down their excitement (totally kidding about the Egg Nog) but you’ve planned your holidays to perfection and have already taken care of all the heavy lifting. Now it’s time to do the fun stuff like set up the self serve drink station (a 5 min Hot Coco Bar is always fun! See the how-to here), crank up the holiday tunes, pour yourself a well deserved glass of champs (or my personal favorite, a yummy holiday Moscow Mule) and greet your guests with a relaxed smile and maybe even barefoot. Cheers to stress-free holiday entertaining!
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