5 Tips for a Great Holiday Party!

Yes, it’s that time of year again when many of us will be busy planning a holiday gathering with friends and family. So whether you are planning a small party of 6, or a house full of 26, here are some tips to help you make your event the best it can be!

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1. YOU NEED TO NAIL DOWN A GUEST COUNT BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.It sounds like common wisdom, right? Wrong. In an age of ignored emails, phone phobias, and forgotten texts, it can be tricky to have any certainty about one’s guest list. “It always seems like ‘its just a few people,’ but truthfully a party of 6 or a party of 20 will both require some work,” says Amy Marella, event designer and founder of Fleurish. “So it’s key to know many guests are you anticipating! This will dictate everything else you will need to make it a successful night.”

And since we’re in the age of “RSVP crickets” (why can’t you get anyone to just call you back anymore?), this means sending out invitations a bit earlier than you might have, say, a decade ago. This shows guests that you’re serious about getting on guests’s calendars, and will give you extra time to follow-up with those who miss your RSVP deadline.

You also might consider mailing invitations instead of just turning to Facebook or eVite — digital invites are easier to ignore, and guests might be wishy-washy with their replies (how “convenient” that Facebook has a “maybe” RSVP option).

2. THE AMOUNT OF FOOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE KIND OF FOOD.   Many of us fixate on what to serve, what pairs well with what, and that sort of thing. But to keep your group happy, what you really need to focus on is how much you’ll serve. Nothing puts a damper on a party like quickly disappearing food. It may be difficult to estimate how much will be enough, but it’s probably better to overshoot…you can always send guests home with a “doggy bag” or you can eat the leftovers the next day!

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3. LEAVE THE DRINKS WITHIN EASY REACH – AND LET GUESTS SERVE THEMSELVES. “Do a self-serve bar! Then, you’re not running around trying to fill everyone’s drinks,” says Cortnie Purdy, former event designer and founder of The Venue Report. Direct your guests to the cart or table, where spirits, glasses, mixers, and ice are accessible. And don’t guilt yourself over this shortcut.

The bar cart trend is still going strong (the one below is from Target), so your gleaming wine glasses and array of bottles actually double as decor. Plus a do-it-yourself element (like a DIY sangria bar ) adds an element of fun — but sneakily takes the workload off the host!

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4. YOU NEED MORE GLASSES THAN YOU THINK. A change in drink is a change of glass — you may need to round-up to 3 to 4 per guest. If that count causes panic, go for plastic. After the second drink, who is in the mood to judge? (And since your guests will likely sip 1 1/2 drinks per hour, that moment will come quickly.)

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5. KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM. Getting pre-party jitters is normal, having anxiety attacks over themes is not. “Determine if it stresses you out too much to entertain,” says celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss. “If so, guests are not going to enjoy the experience and memories. In that instance, take the party to a restaurant or lovely venue where all you have to do is show up!”