Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

’Tis the season for baking sweet treats, putting up festive decorations, shopping for gifts and making merry memories. That’s why many people love to throw holiday parties to celebrate this festive time of year. But with such gatherings comes a lot of pressure.

“Hosting a holiday party can often feel more stressful and high-stakes than other parties for several reasons,” Shameka Jennings, chief events officer at EventsNoire, told HuffPost. “Expectations and traditions inherent in holidays, such as specific expectations about the atmosphere, decorations and the type of food and drinks, create pressure to meet or exceed these expectations. Additionally, holidays are emotionally significant, with people attaching a lot of sentimentality to them, desiring everything to be perfect as these gatherings are seen as special moments for family and friends.”

Furthermore, people are especially busy at this time of year between shopping, work commitments, travel planning, and the many holiday events that crop up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So you want to make your party worth everyone’s while.

“We feel a pressure to go above and beyond for the holidays, especially for the little ones, because we want to make it special,” said event planner Hovik Harutyunyan. “We want to celebrate with our loved ones, and treat them to a wonderful and magical celebration. We also need time for ourselves to relax and reenergize. However, we often rob ourselves of that opportunity when we get caught up in the stress and high stakes of the season, which only causes more burnout.”

To ease some of the stress around hosting around this time of year, we asked Jennings, Harutyunyan and other event planning professionals to share the one mistake they recommend avoiding at all costs when you throw a holiday party ― along with their advice for putting together a nice celebration that you can enjoy as well.

Leaving Too Much To The Last Minute

“As humans, we generally underestimate how long things will take, and inevitably, life and last minute work requests get in the way of the afternoon you set aside to get ‘host ready,’” said Kat Grimes Moynihan, founder and CEO of HOST. “Order all the supplies you need ― food, drink ingredients, decor ― ahead of time, so the only thing left to do the day of the party is set up. Because no one likes a stressed out host.”

Procrastination is a big mistake you’ll want to avoid as a party host, especially around the holidays. Much of the preparation can be done in advance.

“Without coordinating in advance and considering all items that need to be accomplished to host a festive affair, you are only adding to the stress when you have to think about a clean house, grocery shopping, and food and beverage prep, and setting a beautiful table,” said Lindsey Morgan, owner and creative director of Bello & Blue Events. “When I host, I love to make a list of everything that needs to be done for that particular party, and then start checking items off my list as soon as possible.”

She recommended setting your table and batch mixing cocktails to store in the fridge ahead of time. Clean the house, go to the grocery store, start on food prep, make your baked goods and do everything else you can accomplish in the days before the party. That way, your to-do list will be short and manageable on event day.

Overextending Yourself

“Avoid overextending,” said Seri Kertzner, chief party planner at Little Miss Party Planner. “Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you have too much on your plate for the holidays, then don’t offer to host.”

If you still want to host despite low bandwidth, consider making the event a potluck meal or find other ways to ease the stress of throwing an event.

“This year I hosted a birthday party that was during the holiday season,” Kertzner added. “Normally I take care of every little detail myself, but this year, I made it turnkey so I could focus on the rest of my crazy holiday to-do list and avoid the stress. I rented out a bar where the food and drinks were included in the package, I kept the decor minimal, and I had a DJ to take care of the music.”

Not Asking For Help

In the interest of not overextending yourself, resist the urge to try to do everything alone. It’s a mistake to not ask for help when you need it.

“It is just not possible to decorate, make food, serve food and drinks, and have time to actually spend with your guests,” said Kelly Soule, owner of Kelly Elizabeth Events. “Too many times I see hosts running around trying to make everything happen and before they know it, the party is over and they barely got to spend time with the people they invited. I think that hosts often feel like asking for help is a weakness, but actually it is the true strength of a host.”

She recommended allowing yourself to dedicate time and attention to particular areas, and hiring a professional or enlisting friends for other aspects of the event.

Allow yourself to put more time and attention into the pieces you want to contribute, and allow either a professional or other friends and family help in other areas. So maybe you’ll take care of décor and dessert, but hire a caterer for savory foods or ask friends to bring dishes.

“If you have an extra set of hands, you can actually enjoy your guests,” said Allison Welch, CEO and founder of As You Wish. “Order food or converse with your private chef on the menu, have the bar set up (cocktail napkins, wine key, wine buckets, etc), make your playlist, arrange for pet sitters and have your home cleaned.”

Trying New Things

“Hold off on trialing any new recipes when you’re hosting, especially time consuming ones,” said Courtney Zentner, co-founder of The Drifter. “Go with tried and true classics you know well.”

If you want to make the event special, find other ways to elevate the experience without risking a major setback.

“Break out the special items,” Zentner added. “Fine china, antique glassware, stitched napkins ― it’s the best time of the year to be festive with your tablescapes. You can never be too fancy during the holidays!”

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

Resist the urge to overspend or overcomplicate your holiday hosting plan.

Overcomplicating The Plan

“One common mistake to avoid when hosting a holiday gathering is overcommitting to an elaborate menu or overly complex setups,” said Yana Daryeva of YD Event Management. “This can lead to unnecessary stress and fatigue. Simplifying the menu and decorations allows the host to enjoy the event more, and ensures a smoother experience for everyone involved. ”

Resisting the urge to overcomplicate things will make you feel more confident and successful as a host.

“Pick a few ‘wow’ things to impress,” said Renee Patrone Rhinehart, founder and CEO of Party Host helpers. “For example, instead of a full bar, serve two fabulous, delicious signature drinks like a cranberry prosecco spritzer and a Christmas Old Fashioned, and then have red and white wine on hand. Set up a hot chocolate bar with Baileys for dessert and offer two kinds of desserts rather than overbuying.”

As the mantra goes, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

“Don’t make it harder than it has to be,” said event planner Jove Meyer. “Lean into your strengths and ask for help with things you aren’t good at. If you like to decorate, do that. If cooking isn’t your strong suit, order takeout and put it in platters. If you are not into music, ask a friend who is to make a playlist, and enlist your friends to use their talents to help bring your holiday party to life.”

Forgetting To Savor The Moment

“If you, as the host, are calm and confident, even if something has gone awry, your guests will have a great time,” said Virginia Frischkorn, founder and CEO of Partytrick. “Remember, your guests will not know what was planned and if anything goes wrong unless you tell them. So, try to remove the stress and pressure of making it perfect and remember why you’re gathering in the first place. It’s time to enjoy hosting.”

Prioritize enjoying the moment as you host holiday festivities. Jennings also advised against getting too caught up in details, worrying excessively and forgetting to savor the experience.

“Engaging with my guests, practicing gratitude and being present in the moment ensures that the true spirit of the holidays is celebrated,” Jennings said. “I’ve come to appreciate that imperfections add charm, and seeking help when needed turns the gathering into a cherished memory for me and my guests.”

Spending Too Much

“Overspending would be a mistake people should avoid,” said Andrew Roby, founder of Andrew Roby Events. “I recommend not focusing so heavily on having a luxury type holiday party to avoid unnecessary debt. There is magic that can happen with a blend of high-end and low-end party elements.”

While you might offer fancy decor and champagne, your food options could be lower end with winter comfort foods instead of lobster.

Neglecting The Details

“It’s all about the details,” said Lisa Lafferty, founder and CEO of Lisa Lafferty Events. “Elevate your soirée with lavish decorations, enchanting lighting and a soundtrack that ‘sleighs.’ Create a signature cocktail that’ll have your guests’ singing carols in no time, and an abundance of festive food options is a must.”

She recommended exploring small details like hiring a photographer, or setting up a photo booth or custom photo backdrop for guests to share and take home as keepsakes from the event.

Forgetting About Holiday Spirit

“On a higher level, don’t lose sight of what the holidays are about and why we gather and celebrate in the first place,” Harutyunyan said. “We want to share the magic of the holiday spirit with our loved ones, and so many people around the world may not have that luxury. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of your holiday to-do list that we lose touch with this reality.”

Remember things won’t be perfectly seamless, and do everything you can to remove stress and negativity from the experience. Don’t get bogged down by mini struggles.

“I encourage everyone to make planning their holiday party a form of self-care,” Harutyunyan said. “Use your guest list as an opportunity to express gratitude for what each of these people mean to you. View your to-do list not as a parade of stressful projects that need to get done, but as a plan to curate a fun and special act of appreciation and hospitality towards those special people. Keep sight of your priorities, and know that as long as you get to celebrate the health and happiness of your loved ones, then everything at the party went perfectly.”

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