We lived in a small, in town apartment and I desperately wanted to have a Christmas party in our cozy space, but was unsure how many people we could fit. My husband advised me to invite twice as many people as I thought we could host because many times when you invite people to an event only half are able to attend. So, I sent out invitations to 20 families. Much to our surprise, 18 invitations came back as a "yes". I was so excited and yet concerned how we would fit everyone, would I have enough food, should I plan activities, how would I get everything ready in time? There was so much to think of. Here is what has helped me stay organized and remain joy filled while hosting parties, whether for Christmas or at any other time of the year.
1. Choose a date.
We've had Christmas parties in early December, on Christmas Eve, or even into the New Year. Just make sure you choose your date enough in advance to get invitations out and in our neck of the woods we have a "snow date" planned in case of inclement weather.
2. Send out invitations.
Whether you are more of a paper person or prefer the immediate results of an email or Facebook event, make sure you get your invitations out early! I suggest at least two weeks in advance. The more heads up you can give people the better. Don't forget to include if your party is a potluck or important items people might need to bring if it is a sledding party or has some sort of theme.
3. Keep it SIMPLE.
Stick to tried and true recipes you know, use disposable dinner ware to make it easy on cleanup, keep decorating easy. I like to put colored glass ornaments inside large clear glass vases as centerpieces and set out mason jars tied with red ribbon and filled with candy canes as a bit of whimsy. A few sprigs of greens tucked in here and there and decorating is done. As much as possible, err on the side of simplicity. Having too many options can be overwhelming and will add up to more time and money.
The key to keeping things joy filled is to plan ahead. I make up a master list of all I want to accomplish before the party and set a date on each item. Some things I can only do the day of or hours before the party (make the punch, prepare the salad) and others I can do days in advance (vacuum, dust, buy ingredients, plan games, etc.). I do a little bit each day leading up to the party so I am not running about frantic the day of the big bash.
As we have discussed before, set a budget for your food, decorations, party favors, etc. It helps to know what you have to work with before buying items and then becoming stressed because you have spent more than you wanted.
5. Get help!
Don't be afraid to grab your bestie and ask for help whipping up cookies the week of the party or ask if someone wants to come early and help you decorate and set out food. It is so much fun to party plan with others.
Don't shoulder the burden all yourself, that will just lead to stress. Potlucks are a beautiful thing and this free planner is awesome for helping to know who is bringing what, or you can delegate and let people know what to bring. Regardless, don't do it all alone unless you want to get burnt out.
Sticking to well known and loved recipes makes for less stress. Keeping the main dish to a one pot meal also helps keep things easy which is why I am a big fan of soups. I like to find dishes I can prep ahead of time because the last thing I want to do when guests arrive is to be cooking. Here are some of our favorites dishes that are easy to make for a crowd. We ask guests to bring a side dish and/or a dessert to share. We serve everything up buffet style
Seven Layer Dip with tortilla chips.
Bermuda Spinach Salad We ask guests to also bring side dishes to share.
Chicken Taco Soup with tortilla chips (guests could bring the chips). The recipe is easily adaptable to feed a crowd. We have done a soup potluck in the past where everyone brings their favorite soup and that is fun too.
Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread ( I make a few pans of this in advance and pop em' in the freezer)
For dessert we put out a big bowl of Reindeer Chow a.k.a Muddy Buddies, which I make in advance and keep in the freezer. I also enjoy making my family's favorite Candy Cane Cookies.
In the past for party favors I have passed out out these amazing Peppermint Chocolate Whoopie Pie Pops, except mine are almost always too big to put on a stick so I just dip em' and wrap them in a cute clear Christmas goodie bag. Each guest receives one. They are a huge hit!
7. Plan Games
Games are a great way to break the ice and can lead to very memorable parties. Some parties don't need a game at all, people are just content to laugh and share stories. However, if you notice people staring into their drinks, then it might be time to pull out a game. Some of our favorite games are: (click on the highlighted links below on how to play the games and supplies needed).
Minute to Win It (below are our top 5 that bring the most laughs) These are great to do with parties that have kids and teens. A more sophisticated crowd may frown upon these
- Nose Dive (to make it Christmas themed, add a red pom pom as a bonus and it is worth extra points)
Bubble Wrap Ball - we wrapped up inexpensive gifts in saran wrap until it made a huge ball and then set the party goers in a circle and passed the ball around. SO much FUN!
8. Set the mood with MUSIC.
Don't forget to put on an awesome playlist. Spotify, Google Play, Pandora... whatever you use for tunes, you can set up your play list in advance and just hit "play" before guests arrive. We love Pandora's "Family Christmas Radio" station this time of year. It has a nice mix of old and new favorites.
9. Welcome guests at the door.
When possible, try to greet guests as they arrive so they have a warm welcome. Thank them for any food/gifts they may bring, offer them a drink, and try to introduce them to at least one other guest.
Once your guests have arrived, relax and enjoy them. Let go of all the details, your party has been well planned. The food is ready to go, your home is filled with love and laughter, now go relish in the moment! It is easy as a hostess to become so busy with making sure everyone else is having a good time that you forget to enjoy yourself. Don't do that this year! You've done an awesome job preparing for this day, so go bask in it.
Have some party planning tips or an awesome recipe to share with me? Give me a holla' and post it in the comment section below.
Please come back and join me next week as our Countdown to Christmas continues. I will be sharing how we celebrate Advent. Only 31 days till Christmas... WOOT!
Basking in the wonder of this time of year,