How to Host the Ultimate Holiday Party

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Having get-togethers for some isn’t just a past-time–it’s an art form. I mean, have you SEEN the stuff people like Martha Stewart put together? The decor, the food, the drink stations, the general ambiance. Unreal. Well, maybe not for the by-standers and those that simply attend and have never attempted to pull one of these off. For the rest of us that heart all things party and get-togethers, and nearly kill ourselves in the process–this post is for YOU.

how to host a holiday party ideas with food, appetizers, decorations

So what’s the secret? A good checklist? A caterer? A million dollars? Hmm. I guess yes and no. All those things are supremely helpful, but the best place to start is definitely a good checklist. The rest we’ll cover step by step.

See, for some it doesn’t matter what everything looks like. But the holidays…they’re almost magical. (Or should be.) Especially after 2020 (good Lord we need a break!)

I get it–sometimes you’re forced to be squished into homes of in-laws and other family members that you’re glad you only have to see once a year. But when it gets to that point of irritated hammering mindset, I have a glass (or three) of wine and remember that we do this mainly for our kids.

Honestly I really love a good get-together. Which really is the inspiration of this post. I’m sorta shocked at how many people don’t know the first thing about hosting a get-together or party, let alone cooking anything for it. But rest assured–after you’re done with this one, you will know all!

1. The Perfect Holiday Party Ideas Start with Exceptional Planning

So that checklist we were talking about? Yeah, that’s the first thing you need to get started. And not just a single list. You need several. You’ll need lists for:

  • Guests to invite and keep up with who’s RSVP’d
  • Food and drinks
  • Decor
  • Vendors, if using any
  • Other to-do’s for before the party commences (like cleaning and logistics kinda stuff).

Overwhelmed yet? You must be a rookie then. (Lol)


First thing you need to figure out is how many people are coming to your soiree. This will halfway determine the amount of work you’ll have to put into this. Think about everyone you want to invite and make a list. (Make sure you send invites approximately 2 weeks ahead of time.)

Use a spreadsheet to keep track of RSVP’s and number of people coming if it’ll be a larger gathering. And especially keep track if you’re having this catered. The number of people needs to guide you in things like: layout of furniture, and whether or not you need more seating. Think about what the point of the party is, and where people are most likely to congregate OR where you WANT them to congregate. (*Hint: it’s usually where food and drinks are closest. So if you want to make sure people are flooding to the fantastic outside area you’ve decorated, put lots of food and drinks out there as well! Or hell, maybe all of it.)

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Second, decide if you’ll have an actual ‘theme’. If so, you’ll need to go ahead and get busy shopping or asking around for decor. Use Pinterest (obviously) for ideas to get ya going! And keep track of any decor needs you have + things you already own or can borrow. (This will also include things like bowls and platters to serve food on –I keep several in different sizes and neutral colors so I can use them for any occasion!)


Once you know the size of the get-together and the elaborateness, you can figure out what kinds of food you want. Do you need to plan an entire menu, or just apps + drinks?

*Another thing to keep in mind here is whether anyone has food allergies. Sometimes people that do will bring their own food they can eat. But if someone has a life-threatening allergy, it’s always polite, anyway, to make sure that specific food does NOT show up in anything you have at the party (especially if it’s someone you’re really close to and already are acutely aware of the allergy.)

Ambiance and Mood:

You can usually determine the type of music you want by what kind of theme you’ll have. Again, Pinterest or Google can assist in what you should play, but make no mistake–good music helps ANY get-together have better ambiance.

Pandora, Amazon music, and Spotify have ‘stations’ and playlists already generated for holidays, and if you don’t mind the occasional commercial can use it for free.

Also good for ambiance? Lighting! If you can dim the lights, definitely do that and add in lighting from smaller areas like lamps, candles, or twinkle lights. THESE little fairy lights are perfect for coiling inside a hurricane vase, bird cage, or even a beautiful glass bowl  to go on tabletops.

2. Holiday Party Food (including Holiday Party Appetizers)

In most cases, the food is the star of the show. Honestly, what’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word ‘Thanksgiving’? Yeah: food.

Now depending on the type of get-together you’re having, the food can be the MEGA star, or just the understated star.

If you’re doing an all-out holiday feast–you have lots of planning to do and should definitely get help. Just doing a get-together or ‘in between meals’ party? You can get by with awesome drinks and delicious appetizers.

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But know that the bare minimum of what you should have is:

bottled water, a veggie platter, cheese platter, and a fruit platter.

Think of these things as your staple party foods. They should be at everything.

Maybe even add in some crackers and dips. But the appetizers and any ‘special’ drinks you choose will set the tone for the party. Just make sure you label everything–THESE mini chalkboards are great for that, and can be used over and over! (And don’t forget the chalk pens!)

If you’re planning on cocktails, only go with a single signature one, or maybe two. I’d say three, max, if you have a lot of people coming.  If you’re doing that many, make sure they’re either pre-mixed, you have an unofficial bartender, or you have a fun display with instructions and the proper measuring/mixing equipment on the table.

On the non-alcohol front, it’s always fun to have a hot chocolate bar for the kids, a coffee station, and maybe another drink for kids (like punch or fruit drink packs.) Since we’re Southern, we always have sweet and unsweet tea as well, with a cooler of ice and cups right beside it.

3. Holiday Party Prep

The prep stage involves not just food prep, but also things like cleaning the house, arranging furniture, adding tables, making sure you have flatware and serve-ware, etc.


Having a clean home is a good thing when you’re having guests over, but don’t kill yourself. (If you have a housekeeper that will come before and after–great! If you want to cut that expense by half, only have them come AFTER the party for your own sanity–and follow these tips:)

1-Clear all clutter off all surfaces first–you can put everything where it actually goes later. Wipe down all those surfaces.

2-Wipe down the bathroom/s that people will be using.

3-A light sweeping and maybe spot clean on the hard flooring will make your space appear pretty clean as well.

4-Run a quick vacuum to pick up any obvious pet hair, crumbs, dirt off the rugs and carpet. And if it’s really dusty, have the kids run the swiffer around the joint. Seriously, your biggest energy on cleaning will be after this party’s over, so don’t wear yourself out ahead of time!


Decide where you want people to have extra seating and make arrangements for that. Need to borrow some chairs from your neighbor? Rent them from a party supply place? Need extra tables? Figure all this out ahead of time and get commitments. Also schedule in on your calendar if you need to go pick these up or be home when they’re delivered.

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If your party is outdoors, keep things in mind like time of day and where the sun is when deciding where to arrange seating. Nobody wants a sunburn in the fall or winter. Do you have an outdoor space that’s stuffy? Arrange for a fan to circulate the air better. Really think about things like comfort (temperature) when planning this out.

how to host a holiday party ideas with food, appetizers, decorations


As far as flatware, if you have enough-great. I recommend buying the plastic stuff so you don’t have 8 loads of dishes to wash afterward.

There are some really fun patterns in paper plates nowadays (even Lenox has some that are waaay affordable!!), as well as plastic that have gorgeous designs on them like THESE. And if you want flatware that looks a little fancier, you can always opt for the silver or gold ‘look’ flatware.

4. Being a Good Holiday Party Host

(In other words, being the hostest with the mostest.)

Being a good host doesn’t just stop with taking someone’s coat at the door.

For people that have never been to your home, you need to give them a quick tour so they can find things like the bathroom and coat closet, and also show them where the food is. Guide them to where the kids are playing if they have kids with them. And for heaven’s sake–if they don’t know anyone there, introduce them and help start some conversations so they feel comfortable!

Other things you can do to be a good host include making sure basic needs are taken care of or are on autopilot:

  • Leave a stack of clean hand towels on the bathroom counter. (Or opt for disposable ones like these pretty ones that simulate linen!)
  • Have lots of hand sanitizer on tables readily available
  • Leave rolls of TP on the back of the toilet in case it runs out.
  • Have water bottles readily available and in clear view.
  • Have boxes of tissues out (it is cold season {and COVID season till the end of time for all we know.)
  • Have basic meds like pain killers and a first-aid kit in an easy to find place (if your fam is like mine, you will absolutely need both of these things.)
  • And for heaven’s sake, make sure all the booze is readily available and on ice!!

And really the rest of being a good hostess is making sure food and beverages are refilled when needed, or cleaned up, and MINGLING!

You want your guests to feel welcome! Have a good time and everybody else will follow suit!

Let me hear about your party in the comments below!

Know someone else that needs help planning their perfect holiday party? Please SHARE this post!

  • Sara @ Magical Mama Blog

    December 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm Reply
    I adore hostessing parties and the bathroom tips are a must! Extra hand towels, tp, tissues, & meds! Awesome post!
    • Laura

      December 12, 2017 at 10:40 pm Reply
      Thanks so much, Sara! It's funny how that gets neglected so many times, lol! Thanks for stopping by! -Stella

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