5 Steps to a Stress-Free Holiday Party

What's the point of a party you can't enjoy?

Make-Ahead Holiday Salad

Want to host a holiday party everyone will remember, but without the stressful party prep you want to forget? Let our step-by-step plan be your guide. Cut down on time spent in the kitchen with a simple menu and some store-bought extras. Rather than play bartender all night, create big-batch cocktails that allow guests to help themselves. Then, let a few easy decorations and a scented candle set the scene. With these party tricks up your sleeve, hosting that holiday dinner party just got easier.

01 of 05

Make only easy, impressive food.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbreads
Johnny Miller

This stress-free menu comes complete with make-ahead recipes (a few savories and a sweet) and some delicious store-bought extras. Even better: This grab-and-go, finger-food-only menu requires no utensils, meaning less cleanup.


02 of 05

Step away from the cocktail shaker.

Best Holiday Punch

Making each guest custom cocktails? Forget about it. These big-batch drinks are crowd-pleasers, and guests will enjoy helping themselves. Mix up a few of these recipes before the party starts, and then set them out on a bar cart—along with a bucket of ice, cocktail napkins, and garnishes:

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Manage the mood.

Holiday Party Record Player
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Create atmosphere: Turn off your bright overheads and light candles to give off a warm glow and cozy scent.

Enliven with music: To infuse the party with holiday cheer without subjecting folks to back-to-back tracks of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Feliz Navidad," mix traditional holiday tunes with modern favorites. If your party is scheduled for later in the holiday season, guests will be especially grateful for a mix of new and old favorites.

04 of 05

Work some behind-the-scenes magic.

Party Plan, Coat Rack
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Rent a coat rack: It beats having guests pile jackets on your bed. Check party-rental sites: Coatracks cost about $20, and often include hangers. Set the rack in the entryway against a wall.

Soak dirty dishes: Fill a large plastic bin with warm, soapy water and keep it in the kitchen. Toss in used dishes during the party to save time scrubbing later.

Clear the air: Remember to crack a window open to bring some fresh, cool air into the room. You may need to adjust as more guests arrive and the room heats up.

05 of 05

Wind it down with subtle hints.

Chinese Take Out Boxes
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Subtly signal that the party is over: Lower the music, blow out a couple candles, and turn on one light. If guests don't get the hint, resort to Plan B: Start cleaning up.

Dole out leftovers: Buy to-go boxes for guests to take leftovers home.

Tidy up a tad (then hit the hay): After guests are gone, take out the trash and recycling so your house doesn't smell when you wake up. Check for any spills or stains on furniture, but leave the heavy cleaning until tomorrow.

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