Every year we host a holiday party with all our favorite people!  We look forward to it every year and like to think our party guests do too. Our kids get involved and love seeing everyone.  There are a million different themes and ideas you could use for a holiday party but this is my favorite and works best for us with our guest list and space.

Before anything else, I think about the when.  The holidays are a busy time for most people so I like to send out a “save the date” text or email to my VIP list. While all my guests are VIPs in my book, there is a core group that I want to make sure can attend on the date I am planning for.

Now it’s time to think about your budget.  You can’t plan and prepare until you know how much you can spend!  Be realistic and make sure you pick a menu that you can do within your budget.  Your budget may determine your guest list too.  

Once the budget is sorted, I sit down and make my guest list.  I like to keep it easy and send invites through email but feel free to make it fancy with actual invitations.  It’s super easy for guests to RSVP through email or text and it’s even easier for me to keep track of who’s in and who’s out.  When sending your invitation, remember to include all the necessary information like where, when, what time, and any special information a guest might need.  I send out the invitations 3-4 weeks before our party to give guests time to make any arrangements they may need such as babysitting.   I also make sure to get them out early since it is such a busy time for people.

The bonus of hosting a holiday party is that the decorating is already done!  We love, and I mean love the holidays in our house (think 5 Christmas trees not including the mini ones in the girls’ rooms). When party time comes around, I have zero decorating to do which allows me more time to focus on the menu and other party planning matters.

The menu, my absolute favorite part.  I obsess over this every year.  Not in a panicked “what am I going to serve way” but more of a “I can’t wait to make this food way!”  I love to cook and entertain so much that this is the best part for me.  I 100% subscribe to the “you can’t have too much food” way of thinking but have also learned over the years that less is more and not to be too ambitious. I’ll spare you the details but there have been a few years where my menu caused me some self-imposed angst.  So now, I keep it simple but delicious.  Pro tip – simple food can look a lot more extravagant than it is – it’s all about the presentation.  I like to stick to finger food/apps that can mostly be made ahead of time – I want to have fun and not be stuck in the kitchen all night.  I also like to plan a second “late night” menu, you never know how late guests might stay and you want them to have plenty to eat.

This year I did mostly bruschetta, toasts, dips, and individual skewers.  Here is a sample of my menu.

  • Pulled pork with fig jam crostini
  • Filet with Manchego cheese crostini
  • Chicken and waffle skewers
  • BLT bites skewers
  • Traditional tomato and mozzarella bruschetta
  • Whipped goat cheese with candied bacon
  • Charcuterie cups
  • Cucumber tea sandwiches
  • Whipped ricotta and pistachio bruschetta
  • Brie and radish bruschetta
  • Smoked pork tenderloin with horseradish sauce
  • Chicken cordon blue bites

I realize looking at my menu that it may seem I did not learn my lesson of less is more but I promise you for the amount of party guests that were there, we had almost no leftovers. As for the late-night menu, the chicken waffles came into play there.

Now onto the bar, and this, at least for my party, is a big deal.  We always have a bartender or two to make things easier.  Since we have an actual bar in our house it makes sense but before we built one, we just set one up!  I hire my nieces or other people I know looking to make some holiday shopping money???? We even have some servers walking around taking orders, this allows the guests to mingle more and not all stand around the bar.  By no means is this necessary, it just works well for us.

We generally keep it simple for the bar.  All your normal choices along with beer and wine.  We have a kegerator and always try to highlight local beers for our guests to enjoy.  I do a signature cocktail every year and choose something that can either be made ahead of time by the pitcher, such as a winter sangria or a drink that’s super easy but looks impressive like a prosecco with raspberry sorbet. Having a signature cocktail is fun and our guests really seem to like it.  Some things I have learned over the years…

  • Cut all your lemons, limes, etc. ahead of time 
  • When you think you have enough ice, buy another bag
  • Have a variety of mixers available – club soda, tonic, cranberry juice, ginger ale, pineapple juice, etc.
  • There is no such thing as too many extra cups – trust me, you will use them
  • Cocktail napkins for the bar, buy them
  • Use disposable cups. Unless you’re having a small gathering, I promise you’ll run out of glassware.
  • Have all your offerings in the bar area out for your guests to see.  Just put one of each brand of beer out, a bottle of wine for each kind of wine you have and any other bottles such as vodka, gin or bourbon.  This makes it easy for guests to decide what they want!
  • I like to put out signs and labels too.  The chalkboard ones are my favorite since I can reuse them.

Some other tips I find super helpful 

  • Clean your house in advance.  Keep in mind that there will be a lot of people in and out so don’t kill yourself, the deep clean comes after the party.
  • Shop and prep whatever food you can ahead of time.
  • Pull out the serving dishes you plan to use and mark what each is for so you know you have enough.
  • Make room for coats, lots, and lots of coats
  • Make sure the bathrooms are stocked for guests.

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