8 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining
Forget about flaws
"Surrender the notion of the 'perfect' holiday," says Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., founder of The Stress Institute. Rather than focusing on shortcomings, think about what you can realistically handle this season and write it down. "I often prioritize a list with the top things I absolutely need, and then go down the checklist," says Hall. If you can host a dinner but don’t have time to whip up homemade desserts, there’s no shame in swinging by your favorite bakery
Bing: Holiday desserts
Put time on your side
"The most stressful thing about planning is running out of time," says event planner Mindy Weiss. Start your party prep as early as possible to make room for surprises like unexpected guests or winter weather. Try making a schedule and assign yourself manageable tasks each day, so you won’t feel overwhelmed. For instance, you can decorate weeks ahead of time, shop for groceries a couple days in advance, and start chopping or baking the night before.
Related:10 Holiday Etiquette Tips
Know who's boss
Learn to delegate, says Hall. Whether you need help cleaning up the yard, scrubbing the guest bath, or making a playlist, ask your spouse or child to pitch in so you aren’t doing it all.
Bing: How to give kids chores
Ditch the complicated sit-down menu
Party planner and host of My Fair Wedding David Tutera suggests abandoning the multi-course meal altogether. Consider cocktail foods or desserts for a “great gathering with a lot less fuss, and a lot less time requirement from guests who likely have a calendar full," he says. If your budget allows, save time by ordering food from a caterer or buying prepared dishes and desserts from the market. Toss the boring store-bought packaging and place edibles on festive platters, sprinkled with nutmeg or adorned with sugar-dusted sprig of cleaned pine.
Mix up a holiday cocktail
Serve a pre-mixed drink, such as sangria or eggnog, which you can prepare beforehand in batches. Not only will you make guests feel special with a signature cocktail, you might even save money. "Purchase one or two large beverage servers where you can pre-bath up to 40 cocktails,” says Colin Cowie, lifestyle expert and party planner. “Set out glasses on trays with an ice bucket and your guests will help themselves."
Video: Holiday drinks for all ages
Upgrade your buffet
Trade in the traditional buffet for interactive food stations you can set up around the dining room, creating movement and encouraging mingling. Cowie suggests skipping the tired holiday lineup and opting for plates such as charcuterie, smoked salmon on rye bread, and one warm dish like turkey stew, chicken pot pie, or risotto. Lay out small cups and spoons for guests to sample the spread.
'Twas the night before the party
"The key is to set everything up the night before," says Cowie. "That way, the day of the party, I just have to put food and drinks out." Rearrange any furniture or gather extra seating; restock the restroom with toilet paper and clean towels; decide where to put the drinks.
Video: How to set a table
Don’t splurge on overpriced scented candles when you already have the aromas of the season sitting in your kitchen. "Sliced citrus fruits, apples, cinnamon sticks, or spices like cloves will give the air cozy scent," says Tutera. "A few fresh pinecones or cinnamon sticks in a crackling fireplace will have the same effect." Fill small bowls with fragrant pieces and display throughout the dining room and bathroom.