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Stress-Free Holiday Party Planning: Tips for Hosts

What better time than the end-of-year holidays to slow down and enjoy being with friends and family? Read on for some stress-reducing party planning and decorating tips that will help you do just that.

holiday place setting entertaining decor party planning

The Decor

Planning and assembling decor a week or two in advance of the event can save you time and headaches later. This more relaxed time is also perfect for putting together your party playlist.

Choosing a color scheme ahead of time—that is, before you go shopping—can be helpful in guiding your selections. Expert chef and host Sandra Lee recommends using no more than three colors in your decor for a more professional look.

Interior designer Nate Berkus recommends focusing on coordinating decorative elements rather than trying to match everything. If you are using a snow theme, for example, you might use mismatched glasses if they all have snowmen or snowflakes on them. Plates don’t have to be from the same set if they all contain elements that tie them together, such as a color, theme, or pattern. 

And, when it comes to tableware, you can rent party-perfect china sets instead of spending a fortune on new plates, dishes, silverware, and glassware. Party rental stores often make these available at reasonable prices, saving you money and storage space in your home.

Delegating tasks can save you time and let others in on the fun. Children can help with making decorations, like gingerbread houses to adorn the dining table as centerpieces. A plain wreath can be dressed up with small toys, ornaments, wrapped gifts, ribbons, and candies. Kids can help wrap the gifts and attach the items to the wreath. 

Adorning your home with evergreen garlands adds a touch of elegance and brings the scents of the season to your gathering spaces. Garlands can be draped over the fireplace mantel, and shorter pieces can be strategically placed throughout the home on chandeliers, bookcases, and the dining table.

Miniature strands of twinkling lights can be woven throughout the decor, and the possibilities for their placement are seemingly endless. Wrap lights around evergreen garlands, wreaths, centerpieces, and candle holders. Outdoor mini lights can add festivity and atmosphere to open-air spaces where guests will gather.

The Party

A week or so before the party is a great time to start planning your seating arrangement, if you will have one. There are limitless possibilities for place cards to designate seating. Here are a few ideas: write each guest’s name on a small slice of wood adorned with sprigs of rosemary, pine, and holly berries tied together with twine, or you may opt for simple elegance with a tented piece of inscribed linen paper placed at each seat. If you opt for assigned seating, remember that a clever seating arrangement can be the catalyst for new friendships. 

A digital assistant like the Echo Show can save you time and keep you organized by setting timers, adding items to shopping and to-do lists, setting reminders and alarms, and helping you organize your day. And, because it’s also a speaker, it can handle your party playlist.

No-cook appetizers, such as cheeseboards with crackers, nuts, olives, and fruit are not only delicious, they’re also wonderful time-savers. Make-ahead dishes can be prepared a day or two in advance. Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi recommends entrées like pasta salad, meatballs, and casseroles. We love this extra-large-capacity Hamilton Beach slow cooker, which is just right for meatballs. Prepare baked pasta dishes, mashed potatoes, and main-course meats like ham and turkey the night before so you can simply heat and serve on the day of the party.

Drinks and cocktails can be made in advance and served in pitchers so guests can pour their own beverages. And, you can save space in your fridge by creating countertop chill stations. Simply fill buckets with salted ice to chill bottles of wine and champagne, and keep cloths nearby to clean up any spills.

For buffet-style food settings, placing drinks and food at opposite ends of the table or counter can help keep traffic moving; or, you may opt to have a beverage station located in another area, separate from the food. Have disposable containers on hand if you plan to send guests home with food.

When it comes to entertaining, blogger Camille Styles recommends adding a hint of nostalgia by setting out a stack of board games. Everything from Trivial Pursuit to Scrabble to Yahtzee can keep guests entertained for hours. 

The most important thing is simply to be present at your own party. Making as many preparations in advance will help alleviate holiday stress so you can relax and enjoy your time with friends and family.


Time is at a premium during the holiday season. With all of the shopping, planning, and preparation to do, not to mention the cooking and entertaining, digital assistants are worth their weight in gold for the convenience they add to our lives.

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