The Stress-Free Holiday Party Plan
Want to host a holiday party everyone will remember, but without the stressful party prep you'll want to soon forget? Let our step-by-step plan be your guide. Cut down on your time spent in the kitchen with a simple menu and some store-bought extras. Rather than play bartender all night, big-batch cocktails 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 much easier.
Step 1: Make Only Easy, Impressive Food
This stress-free menu comes complete with make-ahead recipes (a few savories and a sweet) and some delicious store-bought extras. Even better: The grab-and-go, finger-food-only menu requires no utensils, meaning less cleanup.
- Appetizers: Crab and Chive Puffs and Hot Ricotta Dip
- The Main Event: Maple-Glazed Ham with biscuits, mustards, and chutney
- Dessert: Chocolate Peppermint Shortbreads
- Store-bought goodies: Stock up on mixed olives, pickled vegetables, pistachios, and clementines to set out for guests to snack on before the main meal and in between courses.
Step 2: Step Away From the Cocktail Shaker
Making each guest custom cocktails? Forget about it. These big-batch drinks are crowd-pleasers, and guests will like that they can help themselves. Mix up a few of the recipes below before the party starts, then set them out on a bar cart, along with a bucket of ice, cocktail napkins, and garnishes.
Big-Batch Cocktails to Try:
Step 3: Manage the Mood
Turn off your bright overheads and use candles to give off a warm glow and cozy scent. Before guests arrive, light a Glade Cozy Cider Sipping 3-Wick Candle. With warm notes of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg, it will give the impression you've spent the day baking pies, even if your dessert menu is make-ahead.
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. Especially if your party is scheduled for later in the holiday season, guests will be grateful for a mix of new and old favorites.
Step 4: Work Some Behind-the-Scenes Magic
Rent a coatrack. It beats having guests pile jackets on your bed. Check party-rental sites. Coatracks cost about $20, and many times hangers are included. Put 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. As more guests arrive and the room heats up, you may need to adjust.
Step 5: Wind It Down
Signal that the party is over (subtly). Lower the music, blow out a couple candles, 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 home leftovers ($13 for 50, save-on-crafts.com).
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.