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Early Holiday Party Planning for a Stress-free Season

Publish Date August 17, 2023 6 Minute Read

Early Holiday Party Planning for a Stress-free Season

We all have those warm and fuzzy memories of seasonal celebrations with our closest loved ones, and if you’ve hosted the holidays, you know that pulling off a beautiful celebration requires patience, planning and intention. Whether you’re a seasoned seasonal host or a newbie memory-maker, the best way to keep things fun and festive is to start planning your party ahead of time, keeping these simple tips in mind.

Make Time to Budget

If possible, give yourself a month or so to collect your thoughts, set a budget and visualize your perfect party. Are you planning a big event or would you rather throw a few smaller, more intimate gatherings? You might have a big space and a generous budget, or a small apartment and a more modest target. Either way, you can plan a spectacular holiday party with proper planning.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Once you’ve decided on a budget, you can get to the planning. Start with a guest list and figure out your budget per guest to get a better idea of which appetizers, entrées, desserts and decorations make the most sense. This way, if your guest list grows, you can adjust accordingly and mean it when you say, “the more the merrier.”

Plan the Menu

It may be helpful to think of your gathering in terms of couples or families to eliminate appetizer anxiety and meal-planning madness. How many shared plates would you order out on a date? What about on a family outing? Decide on your magic number and craft your list to cater to a few different tastes.

If you’re used to preparing family-style entrées, you can use your weekly meal budget as a template for your party. Looking at your party as 7 meals for 4, for example, can make it much easier to budget a dinner for 28 people. As a bonus, you’ll likely overestimate the cost since you can take advantage of bulk savings when shopping for your event.

Be sure to keep your kitchen’s capacity in mind when planning your menu. An ideal menu will have a balance of make-ahead dishes and fresh favorites, as well as oven, stovetop and no-bake dishes to help alleviate any kitchen traffic jams. Remember to do a test run if you’ll be serving any new recipes.

Get a Holly Jolly Head Start on Holiday Shopping

You can get a head start on your shopping by stocking up on the nonperishable and non-food items you’ll need now. Plan your tablecloths, napkins, platters, dishes and table décor, keeping an eye out for sales and versatile basics. You can also make your holiday food shopping more manageable by stocking up on pantry items, like:

  • Flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips, nuts, spices and other baking essentials.
  • Canned cranberry sauce, fruit, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and vegetables.
  • Crackers, chicken stock, stuffing and any other shelf-stable recipe ingredients.
  • Butter, pie crusts, cookie dough, baked cookies and other treats that keep well in the freezer
  • Frozen turkey, ham, meatballs, shrimp and quick-thawing proteins.

Stock a Bargain Bar

You can cut costs by purchasing juices and other mixers when they’re on sale. Look out for sales on colas and juices and start collecting cocktail inspiration now. Stock your bar 1 bottle at a time to avoid breaking the bank, and if you’re looking for a reason to break out that fancy punch bowl, try a holiday punch, pomegranate sangria or vegan eggnog for a crowd-pleasing, small-batch beverage you can make in advance. Store your mix in the freezer until the big night.

Plan for Spontaneity

If you’d rather throw a few smaller, spontaneous celebrations throughout the season than host a big party, try these simple planning hacks now to keep the party going all season long:

  • Stock up on frozen appetizers and desserts.
  • Save a few favorite recipes, and keep the nonperishable ingredients on hand.
  • Work seasonal decorating into your weekly to-do list.
  • Stock your bar and freeze any premade mixers.

Looking for More Seasonal Inspiration?

For a seamless season of celebration, be sure to check out our handy holiday party planning guides, holiday appetizer recipes and helpful Thanksgiving schedule.

Holiday Party Essentials