How to Host Holidays and Parties

Hosting holiday celebrations, dinner gatherings, birthday parties, and seasonal soirees doesn’t have to be stressful. With some planning—guest list, food, and decor—you’re well on your way to throwing an unforgettable get-together. Explore our Guide to Entertaining and plan the perfect party, celebration, or holiday gathering.

Top 5 Tips For Party Hosts

Throwing an anniversary, birthday, or graduation party? Is it your turn to host Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, or are you throwing a New Year’s Eve bash? Perhaps you’re planning a backyard gathering, pool party, or patio BBQ. No matter what type of event you’re hosting, follow these tips and tricks to make your gathering a success.

Blue and White Theme Table

Always Plan Ahead

The more you plan in advance, the easier the days leading up to the event will be. Start small: making a guest list informs decisions regarding venue—whether everyone will fit in your kitchen, if you’ll need to move to your backyard, deck, or patio, or if you should rent a space—as well as whether you can prepare food yourself or if you should cater. A large crowd and limited seating may mean that buffet-style finger foods are better than a sit-down meal. If you’re doing the cooking, don’t try something new without a trial run—test your recipes before finalizing the menu.

It's Okay to Delegate

You don’t have to do it all, but ask early for help. If you are looking for extra hands for day-of prep, volunteers to bring desserts, or someone to greet guests, get your assistants on board in advance.

When it’s time to clean up, you can accept helping hands—but never expect guests to clean. Or, if you’d rather not interrupt the flow of the gathering, wait until everyone’s out the door to start cleaning.

Flannel Wine Bags

Get Prep Work Done Early

Saving party prep for the last minute is a surefire way to get stressed. Instead, prep ahead: choose menu items that can be made in advance, then reheated to serve. Or chop veggies, mix dry ingredients, and measure individual items to store in containers so they’re ready to cook on party day. If you can decorate a few days early, go for it. But be realistic about the time you have, and don’t stress over the small things: if it’s too much to bake mini pies or prepare gift bags for every guest, skip it.

Go Easy On Decor

When it comes to holiday party decor, it’s okay to keep it simple. Choose seasonal tablecloths, add a statement centerpiece, and serve food from platters that spark a festive mood. String some lights or light candles in indoor or outdoor gathering spaces, and use decorative throw pillows to liven up seating areas.

Holiday Serving Trays

Make the Party Fun For Kids, Too

Party games, kid-centric activities, party favors, and special place settings help kids make their own memories. Offer kid-friendly food, too: little ones may not appreciate the main dish, but mac and cheese or chicken nuggets are quick and easy to make and are always a big hit.

How Do You Create a Party-Planning Checklist?

When planning a party, holiday gathering, or event, make a checklist of everything you need to do so you stay organized and don’t miss a step. Some important party-planning checklist items include:


  • Pick a theme
  • Set a budget
  • Make a guest list
  • Select and send invitations
  • Choose your decorations
  • Decide on the menu

Party Planning Tip: If you’re hosting a large group and want to rent a venue, you may need to book your event space five to six weeks in advance—plan accordingly.


  • Order, purchase, or DIY event-specific items (birthday cake, candles, holiday wreaths, centerpieces, decor)
  • Follow up on RSVPs
  • Prep a party playlist
  • Pick up or arrange delivery of rental items, such as chairs
  • Decorate the party space
  • Rearrange furniture, set up tables, chairs, and necessary buffet or bar areas
  • Designate a table for gifts, if necessary
  • Choose a closet or room for coat storage and make space
  • Shop for groceries
  • Prep any food that can be made ahead of time

Party Prep Tip: Perishable food can harbor nasty bacteria when kept out at room temperature. Prepare multiple small trays rather than one big one, and swap for a fresh platter as food is eaten—or every two hours, maximum.


  • Pick up any food items you’ve ordered—and don’t forget the ice
  • Set out food for easy access
  • Ensure the drink stations are always full
  • Welcome guests as they arrive
  • Mingle, introduce guests, and facilitate conversations
  • Lead group activities or gift exchanges

Post Party Tip: Ready to wrap it up? Inviting guests to enjoy a last cup of coffee or tea can subtly signal that the party is almost over.

After any gathering, thank your guests for attending, share photos you’ve taken, and give yourself a moment to relax. Whether you keep it small or go big, prepare early so your holiday parties, seasonal gatherings, and celebrations go off without a hitch. For more entertaining tips and tricks, explore our other Guides.