Getting together with loved ones is what the holiday season is all about. But the parties don’t throw themselves. If gift giving and travel logistics aren’t enough, party planning during the holiday season can make anyone feel overwhelmed. There’s the food, the decorations, the outfits, and the activities — and the list doesn’t end there.
But don’t fret. With a plan in place and a few party planning tips, you’ll be basking in the glow of a successful holiday party soon enough. Here are a few of the best ways to prepare.
It’s easy to walk into pretty much any store around the holiday season and get the urge to make a big purchase. While the wreaths, twinkly lights, and nostalgic trinkets can be tempting, sticking to a budget is more valuable during the holidays. This is especially true for a party, where your spending is entirely discretionary.
Your budget will determine everything from the type of party you will throw to the number of people to invite. Ultimately, your budget needs to align with the party experience you want to have, so setting one is a vital first step.
Even if you don’t nail down numbers in each expense category, having a maximum spending limit in mind can ease some stress. This helps ensure you won’t have post-party regrets when seeing the debit card charges pile up. Remember to look at your party fund with other holiday expenses — like travel and gifts — in mind to ensure it fits your budget.
Flexibility is key, too. Having some budget set aside for last-minute party needs like ice or cleaning supplies can keep you on track. Once you feel comfortable with the financial end of things, you can get to the fun part and plan the details.
Whether you’re throwing a black-tie affair or a casual get-together, deciding what your party will look like is key. Larger holiday parties will require bigger budgets and help from professionals, while casual events can be simpler to put together.
Regardless, start with the basics like the location. If you’re hosting at your home, the venue is already covered. But if you need a space to throw the party, start your search as early as possible.
From there, you can decide on decorations, food, and activities. The decor can be as big and bold or low-key and understated as you like. Hop online to see what’s available, and place orders early to ensure on-time delivery.
Food can be an opportunity for creativity galore. Search for holiday snack ideas you can DIY or contact local caterers to take that off your plate. If your budget is allocated elsewhere, consider throwing a potluck where everyone brings food to share.
Lastly, think about activities. Watching a classic holiday movie can make for a fun night with minimal planning. Board games, white elephant exchanges, or Secret Santa can also be fun additions. Just remember to let guests know ahead of time if they’re expected to bring a gift in order to participate.
Once you’ve settled on your vision for the party, begin planning the logistics. Use an online tool or go old-school with pen and paper to create a timeline. Make an accompanying prioritized list of to-dos as well. Then combine them to know exactly what you have to do and when.
For example, if you need a projector for the movie night and snacks are a must, have those as top priorities. Later on down your list can come things like decor and party favors because the focal point is the featured film. Coordinate with vendors or place online orders, pay close attention to shipping timelines, and mark it all on your calendar.
This attention to detail ensures your big-ticket items are covered early and leaves the less important details for later. Taking this approach can make it much more manageable to throw a holiday party amidst your existing commitments.
Speaking of which, take note of any other events on your schedule as you plan your party. Weddings, birthdays, or work parties may require you to take a few days off from party prep. While such breaks may be unavoidable, you’ll want to account for them in your timeline.
Whether you tap a trusted friend or a romantic partner, asking for help if party planning gets to be too much is critical. Come prepared with a list of tasks that still need to be done or issues you’re having. Then talk through the party with them and see what items could be handed off or cut out from the plans.
Keep day-of considerations in mind, too. If you’re ordering a cake, rented glassware, and fresh flowers, there may be several pick-up stops to make. Even tidying your home and adding finishing touches can take more time than planned. Complete as many tasks as you can beforehand, but remember that loved ones more than likely want to help. So don’t feel ashamed to take them up on their offer to do so.
While removing things from your plan may not feel like a great decision, it can relieve stress. Your friends won’t know about the photo booth you had planned originally, so they won’t rue its absence. The same goes for substituting a signature cocktail for the full bar you’d envisioned. If that labor-saving swap helps the rest of the party go off without a hitch, it’s a great decision.
Then there’s always the option to work with a professional party planner. For larger gatherings, this is a great way to leverage someone’s proven abilities and expertise. While it may take a significant chunk of your budget, it can make the holiday season less stressful, which is well worth the investment.
Remember that holiday parties are about the people you spend them with. At the end of the day, the memories you make will long outlast the decor or favors. So ease up on yourself and make human connection your focus as you enjoy the holiday season.