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Home for the Holidays

8 Quick Tips for Planning a Holiday Party

Kate Harveston


Holiday parties are one of the best aspects of the festive winter season. They offer a chance to get together with family and friends and celebrate each other — while eating delicious food, of course.

You might be searching for new ways to tackle holiday parties, though, if you find yourself overwhelmed by planning them each year. Having your college student home for winter break adds another layer to things.

There's no need to stress out. You can throw a fabulous party for grown-ups and teens/young adults where everyone can mingle and enjoy the evening. All you need is creativity and some party-planning know-how. Here are eight easy steps to a memorable celebration that will end the year on a high note!

1. Plan — and Invite — in Advance

Will there only be close family members, or will you include your kids' friends and families? Getting everyone in one space can be an adventure during the holidays — save yourself the stress and invite them early. Whether mailing invitations or sending e-vites, contact the guest list a few weeks before your event. Knowing how many people will attend, even if it's a rough estimate, lets you better plan for food, drinks and other festive elements.

Planning your party in advance also saves you the stress of trying to prep everything at the last minute. Stress puts you at an increased risk of succumbing to illness. You won’t be able to celebrate if you’re confined to the couch with the flu!

2. Pick a Theme

Think about your theme. "Holiday cheer" is a given, but this mood can manifest in many different ways. The one you choose depends on your attendees and your own personal style. Are you going to have a white-and-blue Christmas, a black-and-gold New Year's or a movie-based theme? Maybe you're looking for a fresh take on Hanukkah traditions, or pondering a simple solstice celebration. Are monochrome color schemes your forte, or will you throw in some added hues? Nail down your concept before you buy decor.

3. Decide on Your Decor

It may be tempting to transform your home into a winter wonderland, but it's important to think about practicality. Too many decorations can end up looking busy rather than impressive, and it gives you more to clean up when the party's over.

Produce a photograph-worthy interior by picking a few design elements and centering everything on those — from curtains to throw rugs. A simple scheme can be surprisingly holiday-like if you choose the right features. Enlist your college student's creativity on this one!

4. Select a Venue

If you're not hosting the party at home — because of space limitations or other concerns — you'll need a venue to fit the occasion. An extravagant lodge can set the perfect rustic chic tone for a wintry gathering, and it's a unique experience for students who've never visited one before. If you live in a warm climate, an outdoorsy place like a park or lakefront can be a fun and unexpected location.

Consider the formality level when picking a venue. Will there be a sit-down dinner, or is a buffet better suited for a casual evening? Establishing a formal or informal atmosphere will help you arrange your budget and give guests a hint about what to wear.

5. Choose the Food

Food choices can go in several directions,Holiday party cooking ideas depending on if you're catering or cooking. Either way, most party hosts will tell you it's better to have more than less. Guests can always take leftovers with them, but running out of food before the night ends is a tricky situation to fix.

Catering eliminates the stress of standing over a hot stove all day, but maybe you enjoy cooking and want to serve a homemade meal. You can prepare several dishes days in advance and store them in the freezer until the celebration (just be sure to leave time to defrost!). Consider mixing and matching catered and home-cooked goods. Whip up a few of the family favorites and have a catering company or local grocery store handle the rest.

6. Think About Activities

What holiday party is complete without activities to go along with the high spirits? Go for games that can appeal to guests of all ages. Heads Up is a classic party game, and Two Truths and a Lie is fun for a smaller gathering (10 people or fewer). You can't go wrong with the Ugly Sweater Game, Christmas or Hanukkah Mad Libs, or a round of holiday movie trivia.

7. Curate a Playlist

Create a festive playlist with a mix of both old and new music to suit everyone's tastes. With the right combination, you can appeal to both college students and their parents. Play Ariana Grande's "Christmas & Chill" and throw in classic songs like "Frosty the Snowman" and "White Christmas." There are some rockin' Hanukkah playlists out there, too!

Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music are great platforms for creating playlists; YouTube is a free alternative for those without streaming subscriptions. Be sure to make room for dancing and merry caroling.

8. Create a Cozy Atmosphere

The holidays Holiday planning tipsare all about reuniting with loved ones and reminiscing about the year. Enhance the mood of your perfect winter get-together by incorporating seasonal scents and creative lighting.

Scented candles can double as a magical way to light the room while providing a comforting fragrance of cinnamon, evergreen or maple. (Be sure to pick scents that won't overpower your food and drink menu.) Also, check out your supply closet and set aside some string lights to hang across the mantle.

End the Decade in a Merry Mood!

Throwing an enjoyable holiday party can be easy if you follow some simple preparation tips. Let the stress stay out in the cold, and take joy in your festive creation. You only do it once a year, so make the most of it.


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    Kate Harveston is a health and lifestyle journalist. Find more of her writing on her blog (So Well, So Woman), in College Parent Magazine by CollegiateParent, and on sites like YourTango, Greatist and Care2.

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    Lyla Peterson Recent comment authors
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    Lyla Peterson
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    That's a good idea to send out invitations a few weeks in advance so you have a rough estimate of how many people will be in attendance. I am in charge of hosting my family's next holiday party, and I want to make it as enjoyable as possible for everyone there. I will try my best to send out the invites 2-3 weeks beforehand.

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