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Top 5 Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining

Hosting a party doesn't have to be all work and no play, even if you're a little rusty. Just keep these 5 tips in mind and you'll absolutely nail it.

Schedule your time carefully

This might sound boring, but every party needs a schedule. It’s basically the Golden Rule of entertaining. At least a week beforehand, sit down with a pen and paper and plan out what you need to do and when you need to do it—the more detailed, the better. Aim to get as much as possible done by the night before so you’ll be ready to party when the doorbell rings. 

Tried-and-true beats brand new

Treat your party menu like a best-of record: Just play the hits. Now’s not the time to experiment with something wild that may or may not turn out well enough to serve to guests. Instead, choose recipes you can make in your sleep, ideally a day or two ahead of time. If you’re not sure where to start, our go-to recipes for holiday appetizers are sure to inspire. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle, but it’s not just about the convenience factor. Familiar recipes make people happy, and isn’t that the whole point of a party? 

Store-bought is fine

With that said, making an entire party menu from scratch, all by yourself, is a good way to have a terrible time. Outsource at least a few elements of your menu: Pick up appetizers from a local restaurant, serve wine and beer instead of fancy cocktails, let a professional handle the showstopper dessert, or raid the supermarket freezer case for easy hors d’oeuvres. (Creamy Jalapeño or Garlic & Spinach Crispy Stuffed Shrimp, anyone?) With less prep work to worry about, you can focus on the fun stuff, like actually enjoying yourself at your own party. 

Don’t forget the kids

Kids at a party are guests, too, and they deserve to have as much fun as the grownups. Think about what the specific kids at your party like to eat, drink, talk about, and play with, then incorporate those things into the party. The kids’ table is the perfect place to start: Make little party favor bags with candy and small, age-appropriate toys—and consider ordering them pizza instead of whatever the adults are eating. 

Make it easy to deal with dishes and trash

Cleaning is the worst part of any party, but with a little advance planning, it doesn’t have to be a total headache. First, pick a spot in your kitchen to function as The Dish Zone during the party. This can be a cleared-off countertop, a folding table in a corner, or a bucket in the sink; as long as it’s a separate area that doesn’t block foot traffic, it’s perfect. Next, make sure that every room has at least one trash can so people don’t have to walk around holding used napkins (or leave them on any available surface). You’ll still have to clean up the morning after, but at least the mess will be contained. 

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