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50-Point Checklist To Perfect Your Holiday Hosting

The mere thought of being a host can send many of us running for the hills and at the holidays, the idea can be even more intimidating. Don’t fret! With our 50-point checklist you’ll have your house (and yourself) in order for hosting a casual buffet party for neighbors, having family members bunk in your place for a few nights or cooking the ham, sides and everything in-between on Christmas Eve.


There are a lot of elements to holiday hosting that can be done before the party even starts. Getting your house in order will eliminate a huge part of stress and also give you a chance to go through what you have before heading out to stores to buy items you need for the season.

1. Get a headcount. For each party you host, try your best to get a solid headcount for how many people will be attending. This prevents you from buying too much or too little.

2. Plan accordingly for informal parties. A get-together means so-and-so’s best friend may show up, co-workers drop by and your kid’s entire baseball team may make an appearance. Have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand for this type of occasion.

3. Gather everything you need for centerpieces and party decorating. Once you get this home, keep it in one place so once the big day arrives, you can easily find it and set everything up.

4. Keep lists for different parties. While lists can get out of hand, during the holidays, they’re your best friend. Keep a list for each party, including what need to be picked up at the store and anything that needs to be done at the house before the event.

5. Do a chair check. If you’re having a party with a large amount of people and need extra chairs, figure this out beforehand. You can rent chairs from a local vendor or ask a neighbor who lives nearby for a few extras. Always be willing to go over to retrieve them the day of the party and of course, return them in the same condition in which they were received.

6. Get a theme going. While you don’t have to be matchy-matchy in your holiday decor, you do want it to coordinate. Keep a theme in mind, which gives you direction when creating centerpieces or buying a few new decorations. Easy themes include plaid or snowflakes.

7. Grab a few extra blankets and pillows. If you’re hosting houseguests, double check the condition of your pillows and linens. If needed, you can pick up a few extras during holiday sales so you aren’t giving guests pillows that have sat in the hall closet for years.

8. Get your holiday cards sent in early December. Grab your holiday cards one afternoon and sit down to get the ball rolling. Send them in early December before the post office is packed, but when holiday stamps are already available.

9. Get baking. If your family has a major sweet tooth, start your holiday baking early on and freeze items. After that, all you have to do is let cookies and brownies de-freeze for a quick treat that won’t take any of your precious time once the frenzy takes over.

10. Shop online. If you are one of those people who simply must give the perfect gift, start your shopping escapades online. You’re more likely to find exactly what you want and shop around for the best price.

11. Order your food, if you need to. If you’re ordering your turkey or any of the sides you’ll serve, be sure to put the order in before the holiday rush. Always get the name of the person you placed the order with and call one or two days before pick-up to confirm the order.

12. Create a budget for each party and stick to it. This is why shopping ahead of time is integral. If you’re hosting multiple holiday parties, money matters and stocking up on items if they go on sale will save you major green in the long run. You can set one budget for all parties, but this makes it easier to go overboard. One budget per party allows you to see things a little more clearly.

13. Make sure you have enough of what matters. Basics like toilet paper, soap (for the bathroom and dishwashing liquid) and paper towels can sometimes be overlooked during all of the holiday ruckus. Make sure you have enough of the above (especially toilet paper) since you’ll have many people in your home and have plenty of dishes to tend to.

14. Get the kids what they need for any activities. If your child is participating in a holiday play or day camp, be sure anything they need is purchased before the holiday madness sets in. This is less for you to worry about down the line as things get more hectic.

15. Replenish holiday necessities. Check your supply of wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, gift tags, gift bags and tissue. A great time to buy this is in January or February (along with holiday cards) when it’s marked 50% off or more. Make sure you have enough to get you through the holidays, and plan for extra if you have houseguests who may need to wrap gifts after they arrive.

Cooking and Baking

You want to cook things people are familiar with and that you’ve cooked before, no matter what type of kitchen you’re working with. Read on for tips that will prep your kitchen for holiday hosting.

16. Think about your menu weeks in advanced. This isn’t so you can spend time perfecting an incredibly complicated meal, it’s so you have adequate time to prepare, budget and shop for the food you need.

17. Have go-to snacks on hand. Besides your formal (or informal) gathering, the holidays beg for neighbors and family to stop by for a cup of coffee and chatting. Have go-to snacks ready like pretzels, seasoned nuts and gourmet candies that you can put in colorful dishes at a moment’s notice.

18. Nix the basic snacks. Yes, pretzels are basic, but we’re talking about the bare bones of snacks like chips and plain popcorn. Take a new spin on favorites by offering blue corn tortilla chips instead of potato chips and spicy popcorn over the microwave stuff.

19. Get acquainted with soups. If you’re busy, soups should be your best friends. You can make a huge pot on Sunday and nosh on it throughout the week as you manage work and the holiday season.

20. Don’t forget the healthy stuff. While there’s no way to know everyone’s diet, you should offer a decent array of healthy food. Do this with a vegetable soup that can sit on the burner throughout the party, along with a tray of veggies and hummus and whole grain breads.

21. Disposable dishes are the way to go. Unless it’s the big dinner with family for Christmas Eve or Christmas day, don’t worry about using real dishes. Buy stylish biodegradable plates and cups for casual get-togethers.

22. It’s all in the layout. No matter how ornate or simple your menu is, if you’re serving it buffet-style, the key is laying out food in an appealing, accessible manner. Start with your appetizer-type food at one end, working towards heavier food and ending with desserts.

23. Forget about doing a brand new recipe. Unless you’re a seasoned cook or baker, forget about trying the thing you saw the Barefoot Contessa make at 3am while you were wrapping gifts. Try new recipes about two weeks before your party, so you can try it again if you wreck it the first time.

24. Stick with few drinks. When it comes to drinks offer bottled water, beer, red and white wine and one signature mixed drink, which you can make a pitcher at a time as it runs low.

25. Stick with the classics when it comes to the big holiday dinner. For the big ta-dah, folks want food they know and love. This means turkey or ham (or both), a fresh salad, your family’s favorite type of potatoes, a couple of other sides and homemade rolls or biscuits.


Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be a heavy duty task that takes hours (or tons of money). Remember to keep things simple for a chic finish that will evoke the spirit of the season without stressing you out.

26. Decorating doesn’t have to be complex. Remember that decorating (even for the holidays) doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Sometimes less is more and there are many simple ways to add holiday spirit to your home without someone falling off the roof.

27. Think red. Red. This simple color is probably the most associated with the Christmas season, so adding red around the house gives it an instant dose of the holidays. This can mean changing guest room bedding, the towels in your bathroom or drapes.

28. Add lights. Simple twinkling lights add a festive touch to any space. Try adding them to your mantle, above the computer desk and even in a houseguest’s room.

29. One word – cinnamon. Cinnamon adds a gorgeous scent to the air that uplifts people. Real cinnamon sticks are the way to go. They’re cheap and can be clustered together in a dish.

30. Get personal with a holiday banner. Print out pictures of your family throughout the year and then hole punch the corners and attach with metallic ribbon.

31. Don’t buy the tree too early. You don’t want your tree to dry out, so buy it about two weeks before Christmas versus the day after Thanksgiving.

32. Fall in love with metallic. Metallic takes on red and green, as well as the classics like gold, silver and bronze instantly add that holiday glamour to your home.

33. Add an organic touch. Bring in pine cones, small Christmas trees and poinsettias will bring the spirit of the season inside.

34. Go old school. This means creating fun decorations from the days of yore, like rainbow chain links and white cutout snowflakes.

35. Mix it up. For a home to exude warmth, it should feel liveable and familiar. Don’t worry about perfecting every decoration in your home. If your centerpieces read shabby chic and your dishes are modern, it’s likely no one will notice but you.


Throwing a dinner party or hosting a houseguest? Get tips from these blogs and articles and become the ideal host for your guests.

36. Allow guests to be themselves. Everyone loves being at their own house, but around the holiday season, this isn’t always possible. Encourage guests to get chatty by asking about neutral subjects like the weather in their area and current movies.

37. Ask if your houseguests have any allergies. If you have pets, this may pose a problem, so asking ahead of time. It’s the same for a guest who may have a severe peanut allergy.

38. Stock the medicine cabinet. Have everything from pain reliever to bandages for guests in case they need it.

39. Have extra essentials on hand. Essentials like deodorant, toothbrushes, hair elastics and mini bottles of hand sanitizer are great things to have on hand for guests.

40. Give a guest privacy. Make it clear that houseguests can ask you for anything if they need it, but try not to hover. Give houseguests their space, which also takes the pressure off you.


When it comes to gifts, it’s best to have a plan. Check out our tips for easy holiday shopping that you’ll want to implement no matter how many (or how few) guests you have for Christmas.

41. Make a list. Ah, the power of the list. Keep a list going for who you’re shopping for and what you plan on buying for them. As you buy, check items off so you don’t forget anyone.

42. Don’t go nuts with personal gifts. Why? Well, this makes things harder on you, so when it comes to your cousin’s daughter and your son’s flavor-of-the-week, don’t overdo it and buy what’s handy.

43. Buy extras. If you score a deal on candles, calendars for the new year or memory cards, buy extras. These are great gifts to have in case extra people show up.

44. Buy neutral gifts. In addition to the suggestions above, grab $5 gift cards for iTunes and coffee shops.

45. Give the gift of food. Who doesn’t love a snack or two? Think outside of the box by gifting folks with exotic spices, sauces and rubs, which can be purchased online.

46. How about something to drink? A bottle of wine or can of hot chocolate make great gifts that can go to a couple or gifted to an entire family.

47. Bring families together. Board games are perfect for a family since it will make them try the game out and is sure to bring fun memories.

48. Get your gift wrapping items together. If you have a lot of wrapping to do, it may be worth investing in a gift wrapping container which has slots for a few rolls of paper and storage spots for gift tags and ribbon.

49. Employ a teen to gift wrap. If you have a lot to take care of around the house, employ a teenager to do some of the gift wrapping. Hold a session to show them how to do it (and how you’d like it done) and pay them $2 per gift.

50. Don’t worry too much about the wrapping. Sure, you want your mother’s gift to look fabulous, but when it comes to things like canisters of popcorn or hot chocolate, a red bow is just fine.

Once you check your p’s and q’s around the house, you’ll feel confident about welcoming guests with open arms. Remember that a great host encourages guests to be themselves and feel comfortable. Mingling with your holiday guests will be easy this season since this checklist leaves little room for a catastrophe. In the event something goes wrong, remember not to make a scene in front of guests and keep a cool head. As long as folks are fed, they usually remember the party as a swell time.