Hostess With the Mostest: How to Throw a Killer Holiday Party and Survive to Tell the Tale

At first the idea of throwing a party at your pad sounds awesome. You get some friends together, you get to have a good time, and at the end of the night you don't have to worry about catching a cab or finding someone to drive you home. And what are the holidays for, but letting your hair down? So you set a date, you tell some people, you spend the day cleaning your place, throw some food together, and hope for the best. Right? Wrong. If you want to have an amazing get-together that has people asking when your next fete is going to be, it's a bit more involved than a slapdash "get together." Of course, you don't have to let your guests know that. The bigger of a deal you make it to them, the less comfortable they may feel when they arrive. That's just one of our tips for throwing a fantastic party in which everyone gets along, there's nothing but peace and love and it's all perfect — sort of. Stuff happens, regardless. But we've got tips to help you cope with those little mishaps like a pro. Before you know it, you'll be the preferred hose amongst your friends. And who doesn't like to be the most popular girl in the room? 

Party Prep

Arguably the most important part of throwing a party, you've got to prepare yourself, your place, and your guest list to the best of your ability while mitigating stress and frazzled nerves. How to?

  1. Start making a list of your guests weeks in advance and seriously consider their compatibility with one another. Diversity is a good thing at a party, but if you've got two friends who just can't play nice, you may be better off inviting only one. Think about including the attire (cocktail, casual, etc.) in the invitations. And anything else that might garner questions from invitees.
  2. Consider your space limitations. How many people can comfortably fit in your living space? Can you open up a bedroom for extra room? Think about these things before you throw out an invite with the tag, "Bring anyone else you think might want to come!" 
  3. Set the mood. Soft lighting by way of a few inexpensive lamps or the dimmer on your chandelier is the best way to go. Make more than one music playlist so the music doesn't get boring. 
  4. Plan your refreshments and stick to the list so you can make a step-by-step plan on the day of for getting it all together. Need ideas? Keep appetizers and drinks simple. Have a signature cocktail mixed up ahead of time so you can keep refilling guests' glasses. Let people bring some beverages to contribute and don't forget to have water on hand.
  5. Spills happen, guests clog up the toilet, things get broken. Make sure you have your broom and dustpan easily accessible, a bottle of club soda, and for goodness sake, a plunger under the bathroom sink.

Get Help

Hire someone to come in and help to prepare food, shop, or clean up ahead of time. At the very least, ask a friend or family member and offer some sort of compensation such as first dibs on the goodies, the addition of their own playlist to the party mix, or you returning the favor when they throw their next bash.

Timing is Everything

Invites should go out a few weeks ahead of time, so people have ample time to make room in their schedule without forgetting it's happening. Try to keep track of who you invite. An open Facebook event is not the way to go. Give yourself time on the day of to prepare, it's not a day to sleep in or have brunch first. Not only do you have to set up, you have to get ready yourself! Look chic. 

Mix and Mingle

The key to getting guests to mingle is you! The rule of thumb is to introduce, introduce, introduce. And do a thorough job of it. For example, just sharing first names is lame. Suggest something two people might have in common. Like, "Hey Jen. This is Dave. He's in my underwater basket weaving class on Thursdays. He loves wicker as much as you do!" Mingle with guests on your own, too. Ask how someone's day went. How their job is going, etc. Try to be specific rather than, "What's new?" It's an awkward question. If nothing is new, they'll be at a loss and the convo will be DOA. If something great is on the horizon, a humble person might be hesitant to share and a cocky one will overshare, which will get on your nerves. Though not entirely necessary, it's polite to greet as many people at the door as you're able to and to take their coats. If you go this route, make sure you let them know where you've stashed their outerwear so they can retrieve it without having to seek you out first.

Keep Calm. Carry On

Your guests will look to you upon arrival to set the tone. Be casual, comfortable, and gregarious. Keep calm — don't forget, it's just a party! Everyone is there to have a good time and they want to see you having fun too. When it comes to drinking, keep your pace at slow and steady. Walk away smiling from any remark that upsets you, realize it could be brought on by the whisky flask hidden in someone's blazer. If someone gets out of control, don't be afraid to ask them to hoof it home or have a particularly manly man at the party do it for you. 

image: Getty