It’s an exciting and festive time of year! Everyone’s super busy with shopping, decorating and holiday plans. And the parties! There are dozens of special events for work, friends and family that all clamour for our attention.

But when it comes to hosting our own events, the extra effort it takes can quickly become too much for some. The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way!

To help you have more fun with your holiday entertaining, I’d like to share some of my favourite tips.

1. If It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It

Have the party you want to host. Your event doesn’t have to be a massive evening sit-down dinner affair with a dozens in attendance. Try something more casual, like a pretty afternoon tea party. This could provide your guests with a welcome break from holiday shopping with delightful cookies, cupcakes and other easy treats.

They key is to play to your strengths. If you’re a fabulous cook, make the food the focus of the event. If you’re not wild about cooking, make something else the main draw of the event.

For example, some more active ideas include sleigh rides, tobogganing sessions, or ski gatherings. Encouraging friends to get moving over the holidays is a healthy antidote to all those treats! Tailor activities to your friends’ lifestyles, and make them family-friendly, especially if they’re scheduled for the afternoon. Just make sure someone brings a camera!

2. Deck Those Halls

If you’re hosting indoors, really go all out on the décor. Luckily, we’ve got some great tips on holiday decorating all ready for you! If you consistently go for the wow factor, people will be sure to attend your events in the years to come.

3. Planning Is Everything

If you do plan to throw a party, effective planning is essential. Last minute scrambles will ensure you’re tired and less likely to enjoy the event yourself.

Have a checklist and a calendar so you know what you’re doing and when. The idea is to spread the work out over several weeks preceding the event – especially the errands. Another fundamental planning principle: try to avoid complex meals where everything has to be prepared the same day.

Here’s a model countdown timeline to help get you started:

  • One month before your party:
    An clutter you have to deal with has been organized and tidied away. Your front walk has been cleaned up, decorated and lit, and your front hall should be organized enough that there will be plenty of room for snowy footwear.
  • Four to two weeks before the party:
    At least two weeks in advance, purchase the beverages, snacks, pre-made treats, and any cooking ingredients so they’re all ready to go. Ensure all your holiday decorating is done.
  • The weekend before:
    Your main cleaning and set up should be done the weekend before the party – that way you just need to do light cleaning the day before. Is there any cooking that can be done as well?
  • The day before:
    Main food preparation and light clean up. Ensure your music is planned.

The day of the event, your schedule should be something like this:

  • Morning: possibly cook one dish, do some light decorative touches, put out beverages on your bar table.
  • Afternoon: long bubble bath, then hair, makeup and wardrobe.
  • Evening: enjoy!

4. Become the Best Party Guest Ever

Who says you have to host the party? If the mere idea of all that cleaning and cooking is enough to make you tired, get through the season by becoming the ultimate party guest.

With family and close friends, offer to assist with their parties. Harried hosts may be very grateful for you offer to run errands, or help with decorating, set up or even clean up afterwards.

Naturally, you would never show up empty handed! Bringing special gifts that really kick it up a notch will generate that good party karma. A gift basket with wine, cheese, coffee, chocolate and other delicacies will leave no doubt that you’re grateful for the hospitality you’ve been offered. Another no-fail idea: a card containing a donation to the host’s favourite charity.

Do you have some special tips on holiday entertaining? I’d love to hear them! Please share your ideas in the comments below.