How to Throw a Great Holiday Party

By David

December 15, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is the time for socializing, and for many of us, that means going to parties—and giving them.

If you’ve been entertaining the idea of entertaining this season, here are some hints for tossing a bash that your guests won’t forget.

Here are four of the most popular types of parties that happen this time of year, and how to throw one of your own.

Remember—the point of a good party is having fun, so don’t sweat the details too much!

The Open House

This is basically a party where you invite everyone you know, or at least as many of them as you can fit into your place. Throwing this get-together lets you discharge a year’s worth of social obligations in one afternoon or evening, and it’s pretty easy to pull off.

The main things you need for an open house are adequate seating and plenty of food. Since this kind of crowd tends to spread out of the living and dining areas into the rest of the house, make sure all rooms are clean, clutter free and ready for company¬—especially the bathroom, where most or your guests will visit after a couple of drinks. To make sure you have places for everyone to sit, move the dining room chairs into the living room and borrow or rent folding chairs if you need more.

The most practical setup for an open house is to serve all food and drinks buffet-style from the dining room and have guests take their plates into the living room to sit down. If you have a second, smaller table, use it for drinks and ice while serving food from the dining room table.

If you cook, great, if you don’t, have the party catered or head over to your local Trader Joe’s for a supply of snacks and libations. This is not a sit-down dinner where you’re expected to provide a complete meal, so keep it simple. Buy some festively decorated paper plates and plastic utensils so you don’t have to wash too many dishes. Put on some holiday tunes and just let everyone mingle.

The Bowl Bash

If you’re having a few fellow football fans over to watch the last games of the season, don’t feel like you have to get too fancy. As long as the TV works, the beer’s cold and the food keeps coming, your guests will be happy—at least until their favorite team loses. For extra-cold beer, buy a few bags of ice and chill cans in the bathtub or kitchen sink. Buy chips and dips, then send out for pizza at halftime. Be a good host, but don’t feel like you need to cater to your guests’ every whim, since the game’s the thing!

Haven’t found the tips you are looking for yet?  Keep reading for more holiday party planning advice.


The Family Dinner

This is the one occasion that does require a real meal, home-cooked or not. If you’re not enough of a cook to pull this off by yourself, many grocery chains are offering complete holiday dinners already cooked and ready to serve. Check the weekly flyers from your local markets or call them and ask about holiday meals. They also have appetizer trays and desserts, so you can order the entire meal ahead of time.

While you can order the food, you do need to do some preparation. Like make sure you have enough seating and dishes. You should try to make a good impression with real plates, glasses and cutlery rather than the paper/plastic kind. Borrow this stuff from a neighbor if you have to, but attempt to create the impression that you’re a grownup who wasn’t raised by wolves.

If you’re going to have the clan over for a semi-formal, sit down type of dinner, do be prepared to play host. Make sure everyone is taken care of. If arguments break out between members of your family, try to diffuse the situation as best you can. Family is family and you’re stuck with them, for better or worse.

The Cocktail Party

This is one of the easiest parties to pull off, since all you really need is people and booze. Invite the immediate world, the more the merrier! Invite the neighbors so they’ll feel too guilty to call the cops at 3 a.m. because you’re making too much noise. Encourage guests to BYOB, so you don’t have to foot the entire bill for this bash. Toss around a few cheap decorations, because after a couple of drinks, nobody will notice them anyway. Except for the mistletoe—they’ll notice that. Whatever the occasion, the cocktail party is about getting at least a little bit drunk and having a good time.

You’ll need snacks to absorb the booze but don’t feel like you have to get too fancy. The best party munchies are finger foods that guests can nibble on while circulating. This is definitely an occasion for paper plates and Solo cups, because you just know anything breakable will get broken.

If you’re having a large crowd, and can afford it, hiring a bartender frees you up to mingle with your guests instead of spending the night handing them drinks. A bartender can also watch for guests that have already had too much and start mixing their drinks weaker.

Music is a must, so if all you have is an iPod, borrow or rent some serious sound equipment. You don’t want to wake up the whole neighborhood, but you do want to be able to hear your tunes all over the house. Make your own holiday-themed party mix, or have a musically talented friend do it for you.

If your crib has enough room for a dance floor, this will add to the festivity of the party, especially after everyone has had a few drinks. Don’t forget to hang that mistletoe over the dance floor!

Whatever sort of party you decide to throw, don’t get too uptight about the details. If you do a little planning and make sure you’ve taken care of the major preparations, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you have to call the liquor store for more supplies or someone spills red wine on the freshly cleaned carpet, just relax. If you’re having a good time and being a good host, your guests will have a blast!

Written on 12/15/2013 by Linda Cauthen.


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