8 Essential Ingredients for Holiday Party Planning


Hosting a holiday party can be exciting but also stressful.

Good planning is the key to pulling off a successful event you and your guests can relax and enjoy. The sooner you decide who to invite, when and where to host your festivities and what to serve, the more smoothly things will go.

To help you out, we’ve put together a party planning checklist with 8 essential ingredients for planning a memorable occasion this year.

#1: Create a Guest List

This may seem like an obvious first step but thinking through specifics will help set the tone for all the planning that follows. For instance, is your party for family, friends, neighbors, professional colleagues or some combination of all the above?

Will guests be encouraged to bring a spouse or partner? Are children to be included, or will this be for grown-ups only?

Answering these questions upfront will help all other decisions fall smoothly into place.

#2: Select a Date

Consider dates and times that will accommodate work, academic and travel plans as well as other holiday events.

If out-of-town guests are expected, consider hotel availability and whether group rates will apply.

#3: Choose a Venue

Will you be comfortable inviting people to your home or would a professional venue be more appealing?

A private home may suffice for a small gathering of friends or relatives, or a neighborhood get-together just a short walk or drive away. Hosting the event at home may also mean taking on more of the preparation yourself or shopping for an outside party planner.

If you’re expecting 20 or more people, a professional venue may accommodate larger gatherings than most private homes can. Professional venues often include help with event planning and even food and drink service.

#4: Plan Your Menu

Decide both what to serve and how to serve it. A sit-down plated meal is considered more formal, while a buffet and appetizers create a more casual atmosphere.

If you are hosting the party at home and you love to cook, you may choose to prepare food yourself. In other cases you may want to hire a caterer. You’ll want to prepare enough for everyone and have it ready before your guests arrive.

A professional venue may offer a menu of plated dinners and buffet options, along with hors d’oeuvres, salads, desserts and children’s menus. Your venue may let you schedule tastings for some items ahead of time.

Always consider guests’ dietary restrictions so that everyone can enjoy the meal.

#5: Plan Beverage Selections

You will likely want to consider having a sufficient assortment of beers, wines and spirits on hand so guests have plenty to choose from. Include non-alcoholic options such as coffee, tea, soda or even ice water.

If you’re entertaining at home, make sure there’s room to store and serve enough beverages for everyone. Will you set up a drink table where guests can help themselves or hire a bartender to work the event?

Many professional venues offer a full drink menu to accommodate gatherings of different sizes. Work with your venue or party planner to select the best options for your guests.

#6: Prepare Decorations

Whether you’re working with a party planner, vendor or handling decorations yourself, remember that simple goes a long way.

You don’t need elaborate designs to create an elegant, fun and festive atmosphere. A bowl of colorful ornaments, or a vase filled with seasonal plants make for a beautiful, unique centerpiece.

Choosing a venue that already has a beautiful decor reduces the need for bringing in additional decorations. Also be aware that some venues will have restrictions on decorations like confetti, glitter or flammable items like fireworks or sparklers.

#7: Personalize with Fun Activities

A pleasing mix of old and new traditions make for a memorable event your guests will appreciate.

Prepare a holiday playlist of familiar favorites. If live musicians are performing, talk with them ahead of time about a repertoire that includes a little something for a variety of musical tastes.

Hands-on activities may include a white elephant gift exchange or games that encourage light-hearted conversation.

#8: Consider Setup and Clean-Up

Include setup and clean-up in your preparations, along with who will be responsible for each task. Don’t try to take on everything yourself! Allow others to contribute.

How far in advance do you need to put up decorations? How much time will be needed for taking down decorations, washing dishes, and removing trash after the last guest leaves?

A professional venue may have staff available for food and beverage service and basic cleaning. However, you or your vendors will still be responsible for setting up and taking down decorations and making sure the space is clean before you leave.

Holiday celebrations are a festive way to celebrate the season with family and friends, and the memories made last much longer than most gifts. With a little pre-planning and guidance you can enjoy the preparation almost as much as the party itself.

Are you looking for the perfect place to host your next party? Contact Les Bourgeois Vineyards to learn more!