The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the most stressful time of the year, if you are hosting.
As the daughter of the forever hostess with the mostest and as a certified etiquette and protocol expert, my best advice for a stress-free party is a 3, 2, 1 checklist countdown to weeks, days and hours.
Just follow this 3, 2, 1, calendar of tasks and you, along with your guests, will be merry, come the day of the party.
START WITH YOUR VISION.
Use “Bye-bye perfection, hello holiday magic”, as your mantra Hosting with zenitude, means being well prepared and then having a let-it-go attitude, to let the magic set in. Ommmmm….. Focus on the memory-making moments and not on Instagramming the moment. It’s all about the people.
Imagine a smooth celebration. Write down as many details as possible. What does it look like? Think of a theme or a colour combination. Imagine the layout, the look and feel. Appeal to all senses including smell. Whom will be there? Make a list of the ideal guests. And now for the reality check, assign a budget to the fête. From there you can decide on the possible number of guests and accordingly build a menu and beverage pairings.
The more important the gathering, the more time there should be between your affair and the invitation. From casual to formal; text messages, e-vites or paper, your invitation should reflect the theme and the level of formality.
MAKE UP THE MENU. Choose your go-to no brainer favourites. Hosting is no time for experimenting. Make a list of the items that can be made ahead. Aim for 75%. Start your grocery list of ingredients and drinks. Decide on a serving style; cocktail, buffet or formal sit down. Make sure to include a welcome drink and nibbles along with a selection of water; sparkly or flavoured that you will offer regularly.
ORDER AND BORROW. Make arrangements with the caterer and for your decorations. Call on friends and family for extra seating, dishes and glasses. Arrange for activities like a sleigh ride.
- Purchase dry ingredients and booze.
- Plan your playlist. No time to put one together? Use a movie soundtrack.
- Draw your seating plan. Remember the places of honour are those to the right of the hosts.
- Assign an agenda with corresponding food and drinks, include activities like carolling, charades and the classic 20 questions.
- Enlist the help of teens or others to help you with service on the day of the party.
- Call the non-received RSVPs and confirm potluck contributions.
- Stock up.
- Cook and freeze all that you can.
- Make name and ingredient cards. Recycle the image side of last year’s cards by writing on the blank side and setting on pinecones.
- Take a break. Indulge in self-care. Reapet your mantra “Bye-bye perfection, hello holiday magic”.
THREE DAYS BEFORE
- Inform your non-invited neighbours. This is the perfect time to offer them your holiday card along with a box of homemade cookies or a jar of your famous cranberry sauce.
- Pick up, clean your home and configure the space. The laundry room can be transformed into a bar with the sink filled with ice. Hang a few small disco balls from the ceiling, place a few candles on the counter and voilà! Buckets of snow on the porch can serve as coolers.
- Wash and freshen serving dishes, trays and glasses.
- Clear out the driveway, the stair case and the alley way for cars, safe walking and climbing. Place tea lights in washed-out jars of sauces to brighten the path.
- Prepare for coats and boots. Newspaper or gift-wrapping can line the tub for boots and its pole can hang coats.
- Unthaw the turkey and whatever you can.
ON THE EVE
- Prepare drink and nibble stations without adding food and booze. Assign them on shiny trays or side tables with lots of napkins, scotch tape or nametags and markers to identify drinks.
- Set out your decorations and don’t forget the outside, the entry way and the washroom.
- Iron linen and set the table. Need a reminder on how to set the table, download this infographic. Roll out butcher’s paper to line the kids’ table. Place an assortment of washable markers and crayons in the centre so they may draw and play tic-tac-toe.
- Make sauces and dressings, marinate and chop.
ON THE DAY OF THE PARTY
AT LEAST THREE HOURS BEFORE
- Cook backwards from dessert to the appetizer.
- Chill wine and drinks.
- Take out cheeses.
TWO HOURS BEFORE
- Get party ready. Dress in harmony with your theme while making sure that you are comfy and ready for emergencies.
- Place your emergency kit, the fire extinguisher and cleaning products in an easy to access spot.
ONE HOUR BEFORE
- Cut bread and wrap in a dishcloth.
- Close your eyes. Turn around. Open your eyes as a guest. Go on a roundabout. Straighten, put away and buff.
- Simmer a potpourri.
- Dim the lights, light candles and put out treats.
- Start the music.
- Rejoice! Shine. Be proud. You did it. Now is the time to click and Instagram the moment.
Lastly, make sure to spend time with your guests, accept or even ask for help. All love being appreciated for their talents.
3, 2, 1, breathe in, breathe out. “Bye-bye stress, hello holiday magic.”Straighten your tie or put on your lipstick. Smile. And shine! “So glad you came to party with me.”