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    How to Throw a Fabulous Holiday Party...So You Enjoy It, Too!

    Every host goes through the internal debate of whether or not to plan a get-together over the holidays. On one hand, what better months of the year are there to spend time with family and friends? Festive ambiance is built right into November, December, and January. 

    On the other hand, a lot of stress accompanies planning a party. You probably have competing events like work parties and Christmas concerts to plan around, and let's not gloss over the bank account drain synonymous with the holiday season. 

    However, for the host with the instinct to entertain (and sometimes the obliging host), the need to mingle and socialize will take over, so the planning must begin. Instead of working through the merriment this year, what if you created a party plan that allowed you to enjoy the party, too? 

    Incorporate these time and money-saving techniques to squash holiday hosting anxiety. 

    How to Throw a Fabulous Holiday Party So You Enjoy It Too

    Food and Drink Shortcuts 

    Crowdsourcing is a way of life now. From funding honeymoons to organizing a clothing drive, mass donations are here to stay. Potluck dinners were one of the first crowdsourcing concepts, if not the original. Play both sides of the coin, usher in tradition while becoming completely modern, and ask your guests to bring their best dishes!

    If you’d like a little more control or prefer to handle the food yourself, consider having the party catered. A less expensive option is to order food trays from local restaurants.

    Grocery and specialty stores are two more places to start researching menus. Even some fast food restaurants present popular options. Few people will turn down a plate of Chick-fil-A nuggets with dipping sauces.

    Build-your-own taco bars continue to hold their righteous place atop the list of best entertainment trends. Consult with local mom-and-pop taquerias about catering. They’re fantastic places to get quality food on a budget. 

    holiday party guests holding drink and food

    Photo from Canva

    Hire a food truck to indulge your guests over the holidays for the ultimate hands-free hosting. The service doesn’t have to be expensive. An ice cream, cookie, or other dessert truck is more affordable than full meals. Your guests will talk about the treat for years to come. 

    Pro Tip #1 

    If not several people, someone will offer to help in some way. Say yes, particularly if you are the go-to host throughout the year.

    Appreciate their kindness and accept the help, whether it's bringing a side dish, preparing flower arrangements, or offering to plate hors d'oeuvres when they arrive. Make this holiday event one where many people pitch in. Most guests are glad to help and secretly happy the party isn’t at their house!

    Food As Entertainment

    Preparing a DIY food or beverage is an instant way for guests to mingle and leave the host to either spend their attention on another task or to take a few minutes to chat with friends.

    Choose a festive cocktail recipe and leave all the ingredients for guests to prepare on their own. Ice, garnishes, and fancy drinkware make a statement and allow guests to customize the strengths of their cocktails. Non-alcoholic mocktails are also a possibility.

    friends toasting with cocktails

    Photo from Canva

    Gingerbread and/or other cookie decorating stations serve as entertainment and individualized desserts for guests to enjoy at the party or later at home. Hot cocoa and candy toppings achieve the same effect. They are fun for guests and allow them to create treats according to their preferences.

    Traditional holiday entertainment, such as music and board games, are simple and cost-effective ways for other party guests to contribute. Ask a trusted friend to provide a holiday-themed playlist and use a portable speaker to keep the music flowing. Leave a pile of board games within the eyesight of your guests. Your more outspoken friends will take the lead and begin a few rounds of charades or card games.

    marshmallow snowman in cup of cocoa

    Photo from Canva

    Double Duty Decorations

    The best place to make up for time and money is during the home decorating process. Most homes are already decorated for the holidays, so there isn’t much more to embellish. Focus on the front entry to provide a welcoming space. A wreath and outdoor candles are perfect.

    natural items used as holiday decor

    Photo from Canva

    Inside, your table tops only need a few items to dress up their appearance. Tablecloths, candle sticks or votives, and small floral arrangements should do the trick. If you want more, add creative uses for Christmas tree decorations. Snowflakes, colored glass balls, and star-shaped ornaments all pull double duty elegantly.

    Don’t forget to clean the guest bathroom and add scented candles and hand soap.

    The Brilliance of a Night Before and a Day of Prep List

    You’ve likely had several versions of party preparation lists since you decided to entertain over the holiday. The most important of these is arguably the "day before" and "day of" lists. You’ve already planned and purchased, so it's time to relax, but don’t let the details get away from you.

    woman taking pecan pie out of oven

    Photo from Canva

    Pro Tip #2

    Split last-minute tasks into lists of what you can accomplish the night before and what needs finishing the day of the party.

    Chores to do the night before:

    • Iron and set table linens 
    • Place serveware and name cards  
    • Rearrange furniture to accommodate guests
    • Set up the drink bar
    • Make space in the refrigerator
    • Clean guest bathroom

    Chores to do on the day of: 

    • Cut fruit and vegetables 
    • Coordinate oven bake times
    • Fill ice buckets
    • Light candles 
    • Sweep the front porch 
    • Put pet beds and toys away

    No matter how many hours of prep went into the party, there are bound to be a few hiccups. Even professional party planners prepare for the unexpected as much as possible. As hobbyist hosts, you’ll get a few things wrong (and that’s ok!), leading to the inevitable “give up point.” After the guests are fed and happy, you’ll probably reach a point when asking for the fifth time if you can get somebody something will get old.

    This is the time to sit down, grab a drink, and let be whatever will be. You’ve done all you can, so relax and don’t think about cleaning until tomorrow. Or, better yet, enlist those friends who offered to help any way they could. Have them load the dishwasher and take out the trash!

    The holidays are some of the best days to be in the military. Entertaining current friends and friends from the past is a lovely reminder of the best of what military life has to offer.

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    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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