Six Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Hosting

Plan ahead so you can enjoy your own party.

A seasonal table setting by The Party Bee. Photo by Kara Schab of Right Foot Creative

Whether you’re trying to throw a grand party on a petite budget, figuring out how to squeeze two dozen people into your home for a seated dinner, or in need of soup-to-nuts party planning, Kimberly Hill of The Party Bee can help get you through the most wonderful time of the year with your sanity intact. “The idea for all of our parties is that it looks like you’ve done this yourself,” says the Donaldson Run planner and mom of three. “Nothing corporate or cookie-cutter, just a personalized event scaled to the size and feel of your home.” Here are her tips for sidestepping some common entertaining snafus:

Kimberly Hill. Photo by Kara Schab of Right Foot Creative

Create a tablescape to last through New Year’s. “The key is to play up your existing décor, not just hose your house down in red and green,” Hill says. “Being from Mississippi, I’ve re-created a Southern vibe in my home with lots of pinks and greens. I love using boughs of glossy magnolia leaves, then I might tuck in some gourds and white pumpkins. After Thanksgiving, I’ll swap in other elements that bring out similar colors—maybe pomegranates and limes.”

Avoid bottlenecks. During parties, “position drinks and snacks in a comfortable location away from the kitchen—but not in the remotest corner of the house. If you can station some café tables at strategic points, they’ll become centers of gravity for guests.” Many Arlington homes weren’t built on an open-concept floor plan, she observes. If that sounds like your house, “do a walkthrough before the party to figure out where the problem spots are with flow.”

Set up a self-serve bar. “The bar is another hot spot for traffic jams, particularly if there are too many beverage choices. When you do a self-serve bar, limit the options—maybe a red wine, a white wine, some sparkling water and a signature cocktail. You can also pre-pour drinks and have them sitting on the bar, or have glasses of wine passed as guests arrive, which makes it feel like an elevated experience. Pushing a table up against a wall and draping it with linens to create a makeshift bar is also a space-saver.”

Stress not if your place settings don’t match. It happens when you host a sit-down for more than eight people. “Don’t be afraid to break out your good stuff and embrace the high-low mix,” Hill says.“Or you can mix and match two different sets of china.” Only have room for half your guests at the table? “Put the other half in the kitchen, but give them the fine crystal and use your everyday wineglasses in the dining room. The key is to make it look like everyone’s of the same stature.”

Cut the clutter. Round placemats work best when you’re trying to cram people around a table, and simplifying can be elegant. “You don’t need two wineglasses unless you’re serving both red and white. If you’re not serving a formal dessert, don’t include a dessert spoon.”

Escape the kitchen. “The first dollar of your budget should be spent on staff so that you can actually enjoy your own party. Instead of serving five hors d’oeuvres, pick one favorite plus a cheese plate and use the rest of your budget to hire some help. If you have more than 25 guests, you’ll probably need at least two people. You may want to double up on bartenders at the beginning of the party, then have one staff person shift to collecting glasses and helping with cleanup after the guests are settled.”

Related Stories

Categories: Style