Party Planners Share the Biggest Holiday Hosting Mistakes

Steer clear of these common blunders to keep your guests happy.

With the holidays just around the corner, festive parties are sure to be in full swing any day now. And if you're planning on throwing one of your own, you should know the key factors that lead to a smooth and successful holiday party. Whether you're hosting an intimate cocktail party or a multi-course dinner, thoughtful planning and consideration are essential to keeping your guests happy and to making things easier on yourself. To avoid any holiday hosting oversights, we asked expert party planners about the biggest hosting mistakes. With these tips in mind, you'll be hosting like a pro.

Related: Mistakes You're Making as a Host That Your Houseguests Aren't Telling You About

<p>Elva Etienne/Getty Images</p>

Elva Etienne/Getty Images

Don't procrastinate

Let’s face it—life is busy and prepping for hosting a large (or even small!) amount of people can be overwhelming, hence the urge to put it off until the last minute. “The longer you wait the more stress it is likely to cause, as the to-do list gets longer as the time draws closer,” says event planner Jove Meyer. “It’s best to shop and prepare early, get the things you need and can get in advance done ahead of time, especially with all of the crowds of other last-minute hosts and shoppers.” The only things you should be buying very close to the party, he says, are fresh items, like veggies and flowers. Alcohol, dry and canned ingredients, and anything else with a long shelf life should be purchased well ahead of time to cut down on your stress.

Keep track of everyone's drinks

If you have matching glassware for drinks, it’s easy for your guests to mix up which glass is theirs. “Glass charms or markers work great, so guests don’t lose track of which identical glass is theirs,” says Annie Lee, event planner and founder of Plannie. It also cuts down on guests ditching full glasses of wine in the mixup, which wastes glassware and wine, she explains. This also means less dishes for you later—or, less waste, if you're using disposable glasses.

Make sure to set the tone

“Music sets the tone for a party, so have fun making a playlist ahead of time!” Meyer says. “If you don’t love making playlists find a service like Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music that can do it for you, or you can even delegate the playlist to a friend. Charge the speaker and music device to ensure they do not run out of power mid-party. Pro tip: Start the music off more chill, and as the party goes on, build the energy!”

Don’t clean up too soon

“Leave the clean-up until after the guests are gone,” says Lee. “Too many times, the host will spend the whole event in the kitchen instead of entertaining and enjoying their guests.” She even suggests hiring an extra pair of hands to help tidy up if you’re having a larger event and have the budget for it.

Don’t set up day of

It may seem obvious, but setting the table is a lot of work, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to do it. “If you have a dining table, set it up the night before or even a couple of days before,” suggests Meyer. He says to pull out your plates, candles, and napkins, and have fun setting it up early. Marking one thing off your list ahead of time can make a huge difference in your day-of stress level. “Also, by setting it up early, you can see if you want to change or restyle it and still have time to do so," he adds.

Buy more booze

A common hosting blunder? Underestimating the amount of drinks you’ll need. “Most hosts underbuy drinks and ice, so be sure to overbuy alcohol, mixers, and ice—so much ice,” says Meyer. “It's not fun to have someone run out in the middle of the party to buy ice, so be sure to buy a lot, or ask a friend who will be showing up earlier to bring it.” Hot tip: He suggests filling the sink with ice and bottles, for smaller events, and if it's a larger party then go fill the bathtub! He also suggests pre-batching mocktails and cocktails in large pitchers, so you don’t have to spend time making cocktails for every guest.

Don’t forget Fido

“Forgetting about your pets before a party is a common mistake for hosts, so be sure to walk your dog(s) for an extra long time before guests arrive,” says Meyer. He suggests putting nervous pets in a room with their toys and treats so loud noises or new people don’t cause them any undue stress.

Time the turkey

Nothing is worse than inviting guests to come over and then making them wait hours for the turkey to finish. “Make sure to meal plan so the turkey or other meat dish is already out and resting under tinfoil while guests arrive and enjoy some welcome bites and cocktails,” Lee says. She advises that hosts not make their guests wait more than an hour tops before moving on to the holiday meal.

Go high, but also go low

“Another common mistake when hosting a holiday party is to make everything luxe and gourmet,” Meyer explains. “While fancy foods are nice, we all love comfort foods and snacks. Make sure you have a mix of foods and drinks, the ones that make it special and elevated, and also the ones that are always a crowd pleaser. Think caviar and chicken tenders, champagne and pigs in a blanket, high low, special, and delicious.”

Related: 31 Easy Appetizers That Are Ready in 20 Minutes or Less

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