2021 update: so much has happened since I wrote this post in 2016. We hosted lavish large parties, and attended many parties through the holiday season at that time in our lives. It was a wonderful but very hectic time. I loved hosting and attending parties, baking cookies and decorating. Things have changed significantly for us here at the Casa, and I imagine the same is true for many of you. Our parties have gotten significantly smaller, and the number of invitations we receive are fewer. I have come to enjoy a quieter, simpler pace. I cherish smaller and fewer gatherings. I love to let our guests shine. I decided to go ahead and re post this for those of you how may want to put together larger events, and for those of you who like to organize and plan. If you are looking for more holiday inspiration visit the holiday page here.
I love entertaining, especially around the holidays when my home is decorated and full of sparkle. It’s a chance for me to spend time with friends and celebrate our friendship. I find myself pouring over my recipe collection, Pinterest boards, and magazines for inspiration–new recipes, decor ideas and DIY’s. All the fuss is both fun and overwhelming. Over the years, I have found 12 tips that have helped me reduce stress and free up time so I can enjoy the Holidays, my friends and family.
1. Print out a blank calendar for the month. Put in all events you plan to attend or are going to host. Next add in all deadlines for purchasing and sending gifts. Make sure you use a pencil! Add in anything you need to do pertaining to the holidays, such as making a dish to pass, baking cookies for an event, or preparing foods or shopping for parties or get togethers you plan to host. I also add in meal plans. Schedule hair, nail and facial appointments well in advance. When you RSVP–and make sure you do–write the event title and time on your blank calendar. Place the actual invitation in an invitation folder where you will keep all things holiday until the season is over.
2. Next, print out weekly calendars. This is where you will add more detail and to do lists. I like to be able to see the month at a glance as well as the specific things I need to do each week. On the days I am really busy, I also make a schedule for the day. I keep my schedule in a page protector with the monthly calendar on one side and the daily schedule or weekly calendar on the other. I use a dry erase marker to mark off things I have completed or highlight things that are yet to be done.
3. Create a gift list–I keep mine year to year to make sure I don’t give duplicate gifts. My gift list is a simple spreadsheet that has the name of the person, the gift I am planning for them, when and where I purchased it, and if I ordered it, the particulars on that. I save all the confirmation information in my holiday folder. This way, you can keep track of how much you have completed and make sure gifts get out to people in a timely manner. Once the purchases for a person on you list is completed, I highlight the row so I can easily see who remains to buy for. Place all receipts, return policy information, warranties and purchase confirmation information in a gift folder. This way, if something is damaged or is in need of return, you have all the information at your fingertips. I also track the delivery of gifts since many of my away gifts not go directly from the vendor to the recipient. I keep track and print out shipping confirmations to ensure gifts are received. These days tracking has become so much easier. I signed up with UPS and USPS so I could be apprised when items are delivered and can follow up immediately when they are not.
4. Plan the events you host in advance to ensure attendance. Nothing is worse than having big plans only to have no one available to attend. For big events, I send a simple Save the Date card six weeks ahead, which is followed in four weeks by an invitation with all particulars such as address, time, security gate information and maps (if necessary).
5. Dealing with RSVP’s: I keep a list of responses, then follow up with those who have not responded by a week before the event. It used to be that you could assume people who didn’t respond weren’t coming, but that has changed, so it’s a good idea to call if your plans rely on the number of guests in attendance. I’m not sure why, but some guests don’t really get the RSVP concept, which can really put a hostess in a bad spot.
6. Make sure you add in time to relax. I sometimes purchase a few extra facial packets and bath soaks for myself–and schedule time to use them.
7. If I have a lot going on, I will often print out daily calendars I created which have an area for to do lists as well as the hours in the day so I can fill in appointments and see everything for the day in one spot. I keep that with me in a page protector.
8. Prepare as much as you can in advance. In my busiest of times, I would place all the things I needed to deliver in the car on Sunday evening, lay out my clothes and set tables so that things would be one less thing to worry about as you make your way through the season.
9. Have some holiday napkins, some cheese and crackers, and a few generic gifts on hand for unexpected visitors and invitations so you have hostess gifts on hand and don’t have to run out at the last minute.. One of the best things about the season are it’s surprises, and getting the opportunity to visit with a long lost friend or being invited to a party unexpectedly is less stressful when you know you have a few things set aside for just such an occasion puts me at ease–the less running around or worrying, the better!
10. I prefer to host buffets, desert buffets or cocktail parties rather than sit down dinners. That way, the party is less dependent on exact numbers and people showing up on time.
11. If possible, give yourself breathing space between events, especially when hosting house guests, it may be just me, but I get exhausted after a while and really need down time. (Perhaps its that introvert in me, but when I host certain house guests, I schedule nap times so I can keep rested and pleasant.)
12. Go easy on yourself–if you forget something or something goes wrong, remember, you are human, and we all make mistakes.
In recent years, we have moved to doing less and savoring the holidays more. We’ve cut the size of our gatherings to a maximum of four couples and the number of activities to one a week. I have found that I am far less stressed than I once was, and I enjoy my friends more. I hope that this helps the planners out there, Have a happy holiday!