Even the most seasoned home entertainer could use a little backup. “When hosting a party, you should always remember to ‘BE A GUEST!’” says Jodi Fyfe, founder and CEO of Paramount Events. “Hire others to do the work and clean up.” Need a little more direction? Here’s how to be the host with the most this holiday season.
- Get organized. Lists are your friends. Don’t be afraid to get granular in terms of detail.
- Understand your limits. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. (No one will know the difference!)
- Get ready early. Set out your party clothes the night before, and shower before noon. That way, all you have to do is change quickly before guests arrive.
- Rent chairs and tables. Twelve chairs and a dining table for 60 guests does not compute.
- Know your crowd. Do you need vegetarian/vegan options? Non-alcoholic drinks? Whatever you do, don’t leave your friends hanging.
- Stock up on ice. You’ll need it for the ice buckets, the punch bowl, and to fill cooling tubs for bottles and cans. In this case, more is more.
- Have plenty of water available. Tell servers to offer glasses at every turn. Rule of thumb: One glass of water after every serving of booze.
- Enjoy yourself. About that waiter thing: By all that is holy, hire some service staff. It’s worth it.
- Try a new recipe. This is not the time to guinea-pig your guests. Go with what you know, or make it at least once before the party.
- Expect perfection. Stuff happens. Deal with it and move on (and laugh about it later!).
- Disappear. Rule one of hosting is to be present for your guests. You are the glue of the party, so if you ghost off to bed at 11 p.m., the party will end — and the questions will follow.
- Overextend yourself. If you need help, ask for it. Whether that means hiring a caterer, having dinner delivered, or hosting a potluck, do whatever you have to do to be able to enjoy yourself. (See: “Understand Your Limits” above.)
- Play party DJ. Make a killer playlist beforehand (see our three top picks below), and study it. Pro tip: Lull in conversation? Start talking about whatever music is playing!
- Get sloppy drunk at your own party. It’s just tacky. Repeat after us: Club soda with a twist.
- Forget to tip. That incredible service staff you hired deserves a happy holiday, too!
A Playlist for Every Crowd
Here are a few of our favorite holiday party playlists, sure to maintain the perfect vibe at your soiree.
- On Spotify: The Pastiche – Dinner Party (think Willie Nelson, The Shins, and Leon Bridges)
- On Valslist.com: Holiday Best Ever (great covers from unexpected sources, plus a few soon-to-be classics)
- On Pandora: Hipster Cocktail Party (mellow grooves with some pep to them for the ironically mustachioed crowd)
And Don’t Forget to Make Plans for Your Pets
Yes, Fido and Meow-Meow are a part of your family. But not all pets are party friendly, and not all of your guests will be down with your hairy, 80-pound dog wandering around sniffing crotches or a moody cat slinking through everyone’s legs and eating food off of people’s plates. And if your animal is anxious, territorial, or (gasp!) a serial barker? Fuhgeddaboutit. But, you’ve got some options.
- If your dog isn’t a big barker, crate him in the basement, the mudroom, or an upstairs bedroom — and be sure to have someone take him for a nice long walk right before the party. Corral your cat in a closed-off bedroom (extra points for tossing in a special catnip treat).
- Send your fuzzy pal to a trusted neighbor’s home and pay the kids in ice cream to pet-sit.
- Ask the vet to prescribe a mild sedative or recommend a natural alternative, then make your pet comfortable in an out-of-the-way spot in the house. A little something to take the edge off might be just what the doctor ordered, especially for an overly anxious animal.
More from Make It Better:
- 11 Festive Restaurants for Holiday Dining Around Chicago
- Here’s the Only Hanukkah Latke Recipe You Will Ever Need
- Rick Bayless, Maria Pinto and Other Chicagoans Share the Best Gifts They’ve Ever Received
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.