Top 10 Tips for Hosting The Ultimate Holiday Party

By: Kevin Bender

Holiday party season is upon us. Here are our top 10 secrets for throwing a holiday bash to remember without adding stress to your holiday season.

1. Plan Your Menu

Everyone will appreciate a varied menu that appeals to guests with diverse palates and preferences. Prepare some healthy options and indulgent options, meaty recipes and vegetarian recipes, a mix of sweet and savory bites, and maybe even a few gluten-free options if some of your guests are gluten-sensitive (tip: hard cider and popcorn snacks are (generally) gluten-free options that everyone will enjoy). Finally, remember that bite-sized food is always less awkward.

Click here for more foolproof cocktail party menu planning tips.

2. Pick a Color Scheme

There are lots of accessories to consider when throwing a party (cocktail napkins, plates, menu signs, flowers, etc.), and without a color scheme you might find yourself overwhelmed by the choices. Pick two main colors that contrast, perhaps a third "pop" of complimentary color and focus your accessories around your choices. Camille Styles chose bold reds and pinks with a pop of gold for this  Holiday Cocktail Party in Five:

Description or Caption: Cooking Channel Holiday Cocktail Party in glamorous jewel tones with a penguin motif and candy cane cocktials, bar snacks, hot chocolate, ornaments and champagne.

Photo by: Melanie Grizzel ©2012. Cooking Channel, LLC. All Right Reserved.

Melanie Grizzel, 2012. Cooking Channel, LLC. All Right Reserved.

3. Make Menu Cards

Everyone likes to eat unidentified mystery foods, right? Wrong. Make menu cards for each dish so guests know what they’re eating, or create them on printable cards. This is also a good way to call out common allergens like peanuts or shellfish.  It is also a good way to save yourself from answering the question, "What is this?!" all night long.

4. Create a Signature Cocktail

Nothing says holiday party like a festive signature cocktail. Luckily for us, Classy Ladies' Alie and Georgia have tips for creating the perfect signature cocktail. Here’s one idea: Holiday Eggnog with a Salted Caramel Gingersnap Rim (below, right). Dip the rim of a simple glass into salted caramel, then dunk in crushed gingersnap cookie crumbs to create your holiday-flavored rim. Add eggnog and a shot of bourbon, stir to combine, and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Congratulations: You’ve captured the holidays in a cup.

Another idea is to make a simple drink that captures festive holiday colors and flavors, like Chuck's Burnt Orange Campari (above, left). The brightly-colored and newly released  limited edition Campari bottle also makes for a great hostess gift, and will stand out on your bar.

Check out our cocktails package for more tips for stocking a bar at home, making drinks for a crowd and creating special garnishes.

5. Set The Mood

Setting the mood is essential for capturing the spirit of the holidays at your party. The "mood" includes atmospheric details like decorations and lighting. For decorations, visit your local craft store for decoration inspiration within your color scheme. In addition, the right lighting is essential. Too bright, and your guests will feel like they’re at a high school dance; too dark, and your guests won’t be able to see what they’re eating. Candles are an easy and inexpensive way to add holiday glow and ambiance to your party.

Check out our Holiday Cocktail Party in Five for more decorating tips and party recipe inspiration:

Description or Caption: Cooking Channel Holiday Cocktail Party in glamorous jewel tones with a penguin motif and candy cane cocktials, bar snacks, hot chocolate, ornaments and champagne.

Photo by: Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles ©2012. Cooking Channel, LLC. All Right Reserved.

Melanie Grizzel, Camille Styles, 2012. Cooking Channel, LLC. All Right Reserved.

6. Have Awesome Music

The right music is a party atmosphere essential. Create a playlist of your favorite holiday songs and albums on your iPod. Instead of buying expensive speakers, you can play music from your cell phone and put it in a ceramic bowl to amplify the sound ( no, really). For a vintage twist, you can order a few of your favorite vinyl records and spin them on a record player for an authentic holiday throwback to the “days of yore.”

7. Make Some, Assemble Some

Hint: No one will have a better time at your party if you make every last item from scratch. Lean on your local market and buy an already prepped vegetable platter. Pair it with store-bought dip or hummus perked up with fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and toasted pine nuts. Note: Always transfer purchased items to your own dishes. Disposable plastic tubs of dip might fly at a Super Bowl party, but not at this classy holiday gathering.

8. Make Something Cute

Nothing will get your guests ooh-ing and ahh-ing like a darling party treat: Making something almost too cute to eat will earn you compliments for days. Choose something easy and adorable, like these Teddy Bears In A Holiday Bubble Bath from our sister site Food.com:

9. Be Generous

We've all been to cramped holiday party where food is scarce and the bar runs dry.  Can you say party foul? Since this is the season of giving, be generous with your portions and drinks per person. Six to eight items of food and 3 drinks per person, total, is a good estimate, though you know your friends best: If they are a particularly hungry or thirsty bunch, adjust accordingly. If you have plentiful leftovers (and well planned parties will), you can offer them to guests to take home, or enjoy them yourself in the days following the party.  If you’re seeing the dollars signs add up now, think strategically about who you’re inviting: Inviting fewer guests and having plenty of everything is always more enjoyable for everyone than inviting a large, unmanageable group without having enough food and drink to go around.

10. Give Guests a Gift to Take Home

Nothing will win over your guests like a goody to take home with them and remind them of the fabulous time they had at your party. A batch of  holiday sugar cookies decorated within the color scheme is a great choice. Another easy DIY idea is baking a batch of  Lemon Blueberry Muffins and wrapping them in clear cellophane bags with a ribbon: Not only have you treated your guests to a wonderful party, but you’re also sending them home with breakfast for tomorrow.

More Holiday Party Tips to DEVOUR:
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