It’s the day of your annual holiday party. You’ve pulled out all the stops, from your rustic theme and homemade finger foods to making sure the house smells like cookies and fresh-cut pine. You’re dressed in your holiday best, putting the final touches on everything, setting up your playlist for the evening, when suddenly you realize — you don’t have plates for the food, and guests are set to arrive in half an hour.

So, what do you do? We have some simple tips and tricks for planning and executing holiday parties that will help you cruise through the holiday season with comfort and joy.

When planning your holiday party – or any party, really – it is imperative that you imagine a party you would want to attend. Don’t feel like you have to go all out throwing a formal event when the crowd you’re inviting is more of a jeans and T-shirt group. Your party should be an expression of you, or something that you want to express to your guests. Create a traditional ugly sweater contest, or invite everyone to wear their favorite flannels. Themed events create memories for your guests, and they encourage people to look forward to the upcoming date every year.

Creating a menu for your themed party is sometimes a hassle. Buying liquor, wine and beer is an easy task, and many people will bring their preferred brand as long as you provide the mixers. Hosts and hostesses spend time stressing over the perfect menu when most guests are perfectly content to snack on cheese and crackers. The holidays are as much about being together as they are about the tradition of delicious food and drinks. When in doubt, keep it simple. Publix, Costco and Walmart all create delicious trays of finger foods that your guests will enjoy, and you won’t break the bank.

When deciding a theme and menu, remember your smallest guests. If your party is kid-friendly, imagine a few menu items, beverages and projects they can enjoy while the adults visit. Brown crate paper on a low table with a box of crayons, or a liquor-free “mock-tail” the kids can enjoy, are fun options. A gingerbread house kit is fun and edible. Having a holiday-themed movie on hand is also helpful, especially for the youngest ones who are rambunctious and have short attention spans.

If you aren’t the most creative person in the world, don’t be afraid to use Pinterest or Instagram to seek out inspiration. Social media is your friend. Take the ideas and dress them up or down as much as you want. None of your guests will notice that you decided not to use glitter on your pine cone centerpieces, or that your white roses with sprigs of cranberries are fake. It’s the personal touch, and you can save them for next year!


What you may be thinking is, “This is all well and good, but that’s a lot of work!” Stress is natural with party planning, even for the pros. There are a number of simple things you can do for yourself in the weeks and days leading up to the event which will ease your mind:

  1. Lists are your friends. Make lists, keep them in one spot (like the fridge or a planner), and check off every task you complete.
  1. When in doubt, cheese and crackers is always a good hors d’oeuvre.
  1. Set up and decorate to relaxing or themed music to get in the mood for the party.
  1. Don’t sweat what you can’t control. Something will go wrong. No one will notice.
  1. Hydrate and have a snack beforehand. There is nothing worse than missing out on all the snacks you worked hard to prepare for your own party. Treat yourself a little bit beforehand and do some “taste testing.”
  1. Have a designated area for personal belongings. You won’t have to run around with your friend’s guest at the end of the night trying to find her black purse that looks just like your friend Susan’s, worrying that someone else took it by mistake.
  1. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Your friends and family are the best help. Offer food and drinks as payment, or a place to stay if they don’t want to drive home at the end of the night.
  1. Make sure to have water. You don’t want to send people home tipsy, or assist with a hangover. But don’t feel like you need to babysit your guests, either.
  1. Don’t try and clean everything the night of the party. It will be late and you’ll be tired, creating more stress.
  1. Lastly, a note for guests: If you’re attending a holiday party, reach out to your host or hostess and see what you can do to help. Is there anything you can bring, like a side dish, beverage or dessert? Do they need help setting up or cleaning up after? Also, never show up empty-handed. A simple hostess gift goes a long way to say thank you.

There is a lot involved with planning a party. The most important thing you can do is to make it your own. People won’t look back and say, “Gosh, can you believe Heather forgot napkins at that party in 2017?” They are going to remember the ugly sweater Joe showed up in, or the festivity of the décor. Pace your preparations so you can enjoy being with your guests on party day.

Happy Holidays!

About the author

Heather Thomson is Marketing & Communications Coordinator at TLC Marketing & Creative Services, Inc. — a Florida certified, woman owned and operated, full-service boutique marketing and event planning firm, operating out of Bonita Springs. 

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TLC’s Shady Wheeler and Heather Thomson set up for a festive, open-air party at the Everglades Wonder Gardens. Their table is set with four centerpieces to provide inspiration for four trending holiday themes: Seas and Greetings, Greenery, Elegant, and Flannel.


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