Having a Party? Easy Does It!

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by Diane Lynch

Holiday season is now upon us and for many of us that means holiday parties. Whether you are planning the party or hosting the holiday family dinner at your house it can be a stressful time. But with a little advance planning you too can learn to relax and enjoy your family and friends.

I absolutely LOVE entertaining — celebrating with friends and family is often the best part of the holiday season. For the past 10 years my sister and I have hosted a holiday social and each year it has grown to include high school friends and colleagues, in addition to family. It’s a time we all look forward to getting together to laugh, exhale, reminisce about the good old days, celebrate milestones, and share dreams and aspirations for the New Year.

Make no mistake in order for this to be successful it requires careful planning and organization. But the impact is always memorable. If you want to make your celebration one you’ll remember more for the time you spent out of the kitchen than in it here are a few tips.

Plan for Success.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When it comes to entertaining with ease that rule is basic. Take the time to plan the guest list, menu, and decorations weeks in advance of the event. Be sure to make a written timeline or “schedule of events”:  what needs to go into the oven when, for how long, and at what temperature. That way there’s little room for error when chatting with your guests while trying to finishing up in the kitchen.

Keep It Simple.  This is not the time to choose complicated recipes that require hours to prep and prepare. Choose recipes that are simple, colorful and full of flavor with an assortment of textures.

Make refreshments and snacks accessible.  Make people feel comfortable in your home and to keep you from running around like a crazy person, make sure guests can easily replenish their plates. Create a beverage and coffee station stocked with cream, sugar, tea bags, spoons, cups and napkins. Place bowls of chips or plates of hors d’oeuvres scattered through the space encouraging guests to mingle and not hover in the kitchen.

Stay out of the kitchen. As the host this is sometimes a glitch. Make sure all the food is either ready or can be left unattended to complete cooking when your guests arrive. People are coming over to enjoy your company, not watch you carve the ham or make your famous cranberry sauce.

Go with the flow.  There is nothing MORE obnoxious than a host who is constantly walking around and picking up after everyone instead of sitting back and enjoying the party. People will be late in arriving. Drinks will get spilled on the carpet. Kids will leave toys all over the house. But once the party is under control, sit back, enjoy your guests, and just go with the flow.

Call in some holiday helpers.  Decide in advance, what items you can purchase pre-made and what “assignments” you can pass off to those generous friends and family who ask what they can “help” with. Every smart host or hostess knows how to leverage helpful friends and family.

Triple line the trash can.
When the bag is full you can take out the trash discreetly during your party and the new bag is already in place — no need to get out a new (and noisy) trash bag in the middle of the fun. Also, the multiple layers of trash bags will make clean up easy if a bag leaks or tears.

Entertaining should not be something to break out into a cold sweat over. With a plan of action, and some easy recipes, you too can do so with ease and minimal stress! Relax, go with the flow, and try to enjoy yourself rather than worrying about hosting the perfect party.

NCSU & NC A&T University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Christine W. Smith
Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC  27533
E-Mail: Christine_Smith@ncsu.edu
Phone: 919-731-1525
Fax: 919-731-1511