How to host an easy holiday party

December is such a wonderful time of year because it is full of festive get-togethers with family and friends. However, it can also be a stressful month if you do the majority of hosting. There’s plenty to consider: the number of guests, your menu, the décor, and the date, but thankfully these are details you can plan out well in advance, so you don’t feel overworked and overtired when the party finally comes. Here are some easy holiday party tricks to a very enjoyable fête.

You don’t have to overdo the décor

We all get excited when it comes to decorating our homes for the holiday season, and sometimes that can lead to an explosion of festive décor in every corner and room in our house. Not only is that going to be expensive, but all of those decorations can take space out of a room, making it feel cramped, which is not how you want to feel when you’re hosting a group of people. Instead, be selective on what holiday decorations you use: I love the simplicity of a bow of evergreen and white candles on a mantelpiece, a bunch of red dogwood branches in an oversized glass vase, or a string of fairy lights strung on a staircase. Even Christmas trees are getting the edited-down version this year – many people are now opting to keep them ‘bare’ for an organic, natural look. Just trust that you don’t have to go overboard to create an impact.

Use what you already have.

The holiday season can be an anxious time for our finances, so before spending hundreds of dollars on groceries and party supplies, take stock of what you may have in your inventory: Check your pantry, cabinets, and storage. You likely already have many things you can use, from good dishware to last year’s holiday décor and extra candles. It saves spending money on duplicate items you don’t need.

Stock what you don’t have

Shop early and stock your pantry with a selection of cookies and crackers and buy nuts in bulk, which can be mixed or tossed in maple syrup and spices and cooked in a pan for a caramelized holiday treat. Jarred tapenades and pestos also make a fantastic dip if you mix with sour cream. Even if you don’t use these items for your specific party, they’re great to have on hand for the many surprise drop-by visits we tend to get over the holiday season.

Overestimate in food and drink

There’s nothing worse than hosting a party and running out of food or drink. While I don’t condone breaking the bank on groceries and libations for a party, I do think it’s essential to overestimate how much you think you will need. Party-goers tend to eat a lot at a function, so it’s always better to have a little more than less. The general rule of thumb for hors d’oeuvre’s is typically 5-6 pieces per person. As for cocktails (alcohol and non), I’d suggest 2-4 drinks per person as well. Plus, if you happen to have leftovers, it’s an excellent opportunity to donate all of that delicious uneaten food to a neighbourhood shelter.

Mix homemade and store-bought food

Ina Garten is a huge proponent of this trick during the holiday season, and I couldn’t agree with her more! Even if you look to cook as much as I do, I know I will be overextending if I attempt to make homemade everything I serve. Whip up a few of your favourite dishes, and then buy everything else from your local grocer. Given the time of year, many shops will have specialty holiday items you can only get this time of year, and they’re always unique and delicious.

It doesn’t have to be formal.

You don’t always have to seat guests around a dinner table for a holiday party; sometimes, a casual affair is more fun. A buffet is a simple way to serve a lot of people, and it also helps that guests can serve themselves when they so choose. Just make sure you have ample seating scattered throughout your home, so if people prefer to sit down while they eat, they will have a comfortable way of doing so.

Consider a charitable donation in place of hostess gifts

Instead of accepting hostess gifts this year, ask guests to contribute to a charity of your choice instead. Whether you collect toys for a toy drive, food items for a shelter, or a monetary contribution, this is a beautiful way to give back to the community during an exceptionally challenging time of year for many in need.