This and That

12 Tips for Hosting a Stress Free Holiday Party

Who doesn’t love a good holiday party?!  However, actually planning one can be stressful, expensive, and crowded, especially if you live in an apartment like myself.  As a young professional, space and budget are usually the biggest issues.  After hosting quite a few gatherings at my modest, one-bedroom apartment, I have learned a few tricks.  In fact, I  just hosted my Christmas party last weekend, so I figured this was an opportune time to share my tips.  Hopefully this helps for any last minute Christmas parties, and all your New Year shindigs!

Can you tell how much I love buffalo plaid?!

Here are Shug’s top 12 tips for hosting a fabulous holiday soiree on any budget for any size space:

  1. Be Strategic with a Small Space – Re-purpose!
    • For those of us apartment-dwellers, or anyone living in a small space, the room can get pretty crowded very quickly once you combine decorations, alcohol, and lots of bodies.  Try rearranging your furniture to create a more open space.  Maybe push couches or chairs against the wall to make guests more comfortable and provide enough room to mingle.
    • Re-purposing pieces of furniture is a must for small spaces.  For example, you know that entryway table you love, the one with all your family photos and trinkets??  Well, try clearing all your personal items off and using it as a make-shift bar instead.  Besides, what’s more welcoming than walking into a table full of cocktails and munchies?
    • Do you have limited seating?  Me too.  One of the advantages of living in Phoenix is that I can open up my patio door in December to allow for extra seating and space for guests.  (And the fresh air is great!).  But, for those of you who live in colder climates, you can always borrow a few folding chairs from a friend, or try setting out some comfy pillows on the floor so guests feel comfortable having a seat on the floor.
    • Did you know your coffee table is actually an extra dining room table?!
  2. Cook as Little as Possible!
    • Seems counter-intuitive from a food blog, right?  But seriously, focus on appetizers and snacks that you can prepare ahead of time.  Try to limit things that require your constant attention.  Also, it can be nerve-racking to still be cooking as guests arrive.
    • My recommendation:  cheeseboards!  Be sure and set your cheeses out at least an hour before the party.  Cheeses reach their full flavor at room-temperature.
      • For cheeseboards, I recommend 3-4 cheese of different textures, i.e., something soft like a brie, then a semi-soft Havarti or fontina, and perhaps something hard like a salty manchego or Parmesan!
      • Serve a few salty items on the board such as salami or prosciutto, marinated olives, salted nuts, or sliced peppers.  Also, shoot for a few sweet items like fresh or dried fruit; dried figs and dried apricots are excellent additions for a cheeseboard.  Don’t forget the crackers!
    • Ain’t no shame in using paper plates and disposable utensils.  It makes cleanup easier for you and you can always purchase cute festive paper plates.  Win-win.

      Yummy appetizers from my Christmas party. I made the centerpiece with materials from JoAnn’s Fabrics & Crafts for about $12.
  3.  Put Coats and Purses in a Designated Space!
    • Have a designated area for folks to put coats, purses, etc.  I normally have guests toss jackets and purses over the bed in my bedroom, otherwise your precious counter space becomes a depository for purses and cute clutches.
  4. Have a Signature Drink and Ask Guests to Bring Their Favorite Liquor or Wine
    • Let’s face it, feeding and quenching the thirst of a large group can be downright expensive, especially with the costs of alcohol and fancy appetizers.  I recommend serving one signature drink, then encourage guests to “bring their favorite liquor or wine.”  This way, it keeps your costs down and you aren’t empty-handed if your BYOB folks arrive a bit late!  Check here for ideas on making the perfect holiday cocktail.
      • I made an awesome Sparkling Cranberry Vodka Punch by combining Tito’s Vodka, diet cranberry juice, diet ginger ale, lime juice, and garnished with some frozen cranberries and sliced limes.  Delish!  You can adjust the ratios to suit your taste. 🙂
    • Think potluck style.  If everyone brings either a beverage or food, you should have everything covered.  Focus on preparing a few appetizers and let your guests fill in the blanks as needed.  For example, if you’re covering the meat and cheese board, maybe have one friend bring the olives or fruit to compliment.
  5. Food and Drinks in Multiple Locations
    • Fact: everyone always congregates in the kitchen because food is life.  To avoid any bottle necking or traffic jams, strategically place trays of appetizers throughout your place.  I usually have most of the food in the kitchen, but throw a cheeseboard on the coffee table, and set out some chips and dip on that side table.  Keep food in multiple locations.
    • Try having a self-serve bar (if space permits) so guests can feel free to help themselves, and this takes the pressure off you as the host!  Also, I recommend having a large ice bucket or cooler filled with ice and beverages so people don’t have to congregate in kitchen.  Don’t forget to have non-alcoholic drinks – bottled water, soda, or flavored water, etc.

      This is a fun cheese and meat board I put together for a summer gathering.
  6. Make a To-Do List
    • Organization is the key to sanity for throwing a fabulous party.  I recommend making a list of every single thing that needs to happen before your party, i.e., food preparation, cleaning, ordering, shopping, invitations, etc.  Don’t forget the little things
    • You don’t have to clean the baseboards, but make sure all the areas where guests will linger are clean and tidy.  Be sure and empty the dishwasher before the party! (I’ve made this mistake before).
  7. Use an online invitation system, i.e., Evite or Facebook Events
    • I love Evite because it takes care of sending the reminders to your guests, and you can easily post a sign-up list for guests!  Facebook Events are a great tool, but not everyone has Facebook.  To use Evite, they just need an email address! 🙂
  8. Lighting is Key
    • Think lamps, candles, or dimming overhead lights. Leave the harsh fluorescent and overhead lights for crafting or working, not socializing.  We want the right ambiance!
  9. Thermostat
    • Even though it’s winter, your home can get very toasty very quickly once bodies come in and drinks are flowing.  Try setting your thermostat a couple degrees lower than normal, or keeping a window/door open (if realistic).  It might seem cool at first, but your guests will thank you.
  10. Music = Ambiance
    • This one isn’t necessary, but I think having  some good tunes in the background really sets the tone as guests arrive.  Also, it breaks up any potential awkward silences.  Crank up the Pandora!
    • LIGHTLY-scented candles or plug-ins work really well.  You don’t want anything to be too pungent, but you want your home to smell fresh and welcoming.  I love these plug-in wallflowers from Bath & Body Works.  The Mahogany Balsam is my faaavorite scent – it’s a fresh and clean scent, with subtle hints of Christmas trees and has a slight masculine smell.  Love it!
  11. Decorations – Less is More
      • When you have limited counter space try using festive serving dishes of varying heights to create your table scape – rather than wasting precious space on garland and decor.
      • I DO recommend having one fun centerpiece and a festive holiday wreath on your door.  Wreaths can get expensive, so try doing a DIY one!  Some wreaths I looked at were literally over $100, but for about $22 worth of materials from JoAnn’s Fabrics & Crafts, I was able to make my own.  I learned that making bows is more difficult than calculus.

    Not too shabby for my first wreath. I purchased the ribbon, decorative trinkets, wreath, and glitter from JoAnn’s Crafts for just over $22 total. I used a hot glue gun (and a prayer) to hold everything together!
  12. Have Fun!
      • Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!  Take lots of pics, laugh, and enjoy being surrounded by friends and family during this magical time of year!
    Stacey, Christy, and myself enjoying the “crackling fire” video. #HubWives

    Amy, me, and Melissa at my Christmas party.

Do y’all have any other tips for party prepping?!  I would love for you to share!

Merry Christmas!



  1. Melissa Galvao

    I must admit you are an amazing host and the food was delicious!

    1. Shug

      Awww…thanks, Melissa! That means so much 🙂

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