It’s that time of year: holiday parties are starting to crowd onto everyone’s calendars, and if you’re planning to host one, we’ve got some tips. Our biggest suggestion is to center the night around a holiday movie (or two) of your choice. We’re not saying you have to stop everything and sit down together to watch a holiday classic, but plan to have something on in the background for whenever people need a break from conversation or just want to chill out.

Here are some other party pointers to keep in mind.

Remember the Spirit of the Season: The irony is that this is supposed to be a happy time of the year, but too often everyone ends up being frazzled and exhausted (and therefore grumpy). So if you read nothing else in this post, remember these tips to help keep everyone in high spirits:

  • Take the pressure off of both you and your guests by keeping things low-key. Ask guests to bring a dish or contribute ingredients for a holiday cocktail of their choosing.
  • Unless you want to dress up, let people know they can keep it casual.
  • Enlist a few close friends to help you clean up afterward, and do it that night — it’s never fun to wake up to a complete mess the morning after.
  • And for the love of Rudolph, clearly state an end time for the festivities. If you’re screening a movie or two, when the show’s over, so is the party!

Make the Most of Easy Decorations: Keeping in line with what I wrote above, there’s simply no need to drive yourself nuts trying to clean and decorate before your party begins. My tried-and-true strategies for hosting include:

  • Buying $1 plastic tablecloths and layering several per table so that you don’t have to worry about tears. Spills are also easy to clean on these sorts of covers, and they come in all the holiday colors.
  • Sticking with the cheap theme, I personally think there’s nothing prettier than strings of tiny white lights — and the good news is that you can find these all over the place now for low prices. They’re easy to either hang vertically wherever you have space (or in an entryway) or string creatively through chair backs, around staircase handrails, or on top of TVs and tables.
  • Other quick and simple options include reams of tinsel, bunches of balloons (you could go with a green and red theme, a blue and white theme, or maybe white and blue or silver and white—gold also works with any of those combos) and streams of crepe paper.

Commit Yourself to No-Fuss Snacks: Again, no one is going to judge you or end their friendship with you if you don’t go full Martha Stewart for your party. And let’s be real: while fancy high-end appetizers can be pretty to look at, a lot of times they’re awkward to eat. So stick to what you know everyone in your crew likes, and keep things bite-sized to lessen the odds of drips, spills and accidents. Great options include:

  • Literally anything on a short skewer: grilled veggies, fruit slices, tomatoes and mozzarella, marshmallows—anything!
  • Ham roll-ups (is it just my family who’s into these?)
  • Olives
  • Olives AND ham roll-ups … on a skewer
  • Cheese cubes (also skewerable!)
  • Chocolate-covered pretzels
  • Bacon-wrapped dates or bacon-wrapped mini-sausages (yet again—ON A SKEWER!)
  • Those phyllo dough appetizers (both savory and sweet) you can buy at almost any grocery store
  • Cucumber slices with dip already spread on top
  • Triangle chips or crackers with guacamole already spread on top (it looks like a Christmas tree! — add tiny cubes of tomatoes if you want to take it to the next level

Pick a Movie to Achieve the Mood You Want: As I wrote earlier, you don’t need to stop everything and sit down to watch a movie in silence. But giving guests the option to pop in and out of a room that has an old favorite on is always a great idea for any holiday party. The movie you select will help set the mood you’re going for.

Feeling nostalgic? How about:

Want to keep it lighthearted? Try:

Need it to be family-friendly or want an option to occupy kids’ time? Pick:

Here’s to a fabulous holiday party surrounded by your closest friends and loved ones!


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