Sunday, December 6, 2015

Home for Christmas: Ten Tips for a Highly Organized Holiday Event

I'll be home for Christmas, and I'll be hosting family. As part of  the "Home for Christmas" blog hop series, co-hosted by Hometalk.com and CountryLiving,com, today I'm sharing my top ten tips for organizing holiday events like a pro.  See more details at the end of this post on the "Home for Christmas" blog hop series.
With several years of hosting Christmas Eve dinner parties for my family crowd (of up to 35) in my home, I've learned how to be highly organized, and without hired help. Whether it's Christmas, a birthday, wedding, etc., you may find these tips useful if you're ever the host of such an event.
Without further ado, here are my top ten tips for a highly organized holiday event:
1. Coat, please. If it's wintertime, rather than taking guests' coats and dumping them on a bed in a guest room to later finding yourself in a needless game of "go fish", why not empty your foyer coat closet and use it for guests?  Hangers are inexpensive to buy (or free), and can be readily placed in the empty closet for guests to hang their own coats as they arrive. We use a rolling clothes rack in our basement as a holding place for our own coats when hosting, but you could just as easily put your own coats on the guest room bed, out of the way, prior to your event.

2. Rely on the numbers. Other than the obvious of planning your groceries for the intended headcount, there are a few other things to consider when hosting guests. Make sure every person has a seat for eating. I like to keep the house from looking like a cafeteria, so I make sure any added chairs fit into my decor (Parsons chairs from other rooms work great). I then make the choice of either snack trays or small drink tables available for each chair with coasters set by each. I set the tables I have, and then make utensils readily available at the buffet line for those who will take seats elsewhere.
Setting the Tables
Buffet Service: Dishes at Start, Extra Utensils on Sidebar
3. Do as much of the food preparation in advance as possible. I literally have all of my food cooked, baked and/or in serving dishes in advance. All I'm doing the two hours prior to guests arriving is heating things up and setting things out. I have family members that help with some of the dishes, and they deliver those dishes on Christmas Eve morning, where they slide into the fridge or coolers until the evening heating and serving.
Make Ahead Main Dishes, Desserts, Appetizers
4. Plan an organization chart for the buffet. It's important to have a good flow when serving a large number of people. I use hand-written teepees to label all the items I'll be serving, and pull out all my serving dishes in advance (usually two days in advance), to make sure everything will fit. Also important to consider is where electricity will be necessary for crockpots, roasting pans, coffee makers, etc.
Org Chart for Buffet Service
5. Don't forget to plan space for the drink station, appetizers, and dessert bar. By far, I find it much easier to let guests serve themselves drinks, apps, and desserts, as well as the meal itself. We plan a bar set with glasses, ice, mixers, etc., and have a cooler indoors (during inclement weather) or outdoors with better weather). We keep ice in the cooler and a towel at the ready for drying up drips, and on a tile floor in case of mishaps. This makes mixing and mingling much easier, while I handle last minute prep tasks.
Dessert Station
6. Is that my drink? If you're using real glasses, I suggest using wine charms, ribbons, or some other type of identifier for each person's glass to minimize confusion and keep drinks organized. If using cans or bottles, consider koozies that guests can write their names on and take with them. This would make a great take away for guests!
Charms for Glassware
7. Plan for gift exchange and cleanup. We play the white elephant gift exchange, so I make the numbers in advance for guests to pull from. No one likes the overwhelming task of cleaning up after an event, so plan for it. Have large garbage bags ready for unwrapping gifts. For food trash, we keep two trash cans in our kitchen, one for compacting, the other for food waste that doesn't go in the disposal. I use cloth napkins at Christmas, and keep a holiday basket in the laundry / powder room where they can be dropped after use and laundered later.
Gift Exchange - Who's on Cleanup Duty?
8. No butts about it! Invariably, there will be smokers in the group. Have a designated smoking area outside, at the ready with either ashtrays or a sand-filled pot for the butts.
Designated Smoking Area With Container for Butts
9. Privacy, please....If you provide your guests with the option of leaving the powder room as fresh as you originally had it, a simple can of your choice of air freshening spray can even be worked into the decor (in a nearby basket).

And most people don't wish to use the same towel as others before them - that's just gross! Do everyone a favor and leave the towels as pretty decor. Buy a supply of disposable, fingertip towels as an option for guests to use once and toss.
Powder Room Decor
10. If you provide take away 'thank yous' for guests, prepare and have them ready and waiting near the front door as guests leave. If your event is casual enough and you offer leftovers, make sure you save your reusable plastic containers leading up to the event, or purchase an assortment inexpensively beforehand. I would never do this other than with family, but I tell them BYOT - bring your own tupperware. ;)

All of these tips make my life a whole lot easier as I ramp up for the big event of Christmas Eve. Feel free to pin from this post so you can refer back to my top ten tips for organizing your holiday event. And one last thing: plan time for holiday fun! All work and no play makes for a stressful holiday. Make sure when you're planning a big event that you make time for yourself. Have fun with the holiday, take time for yourself and loved ones, enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.
Taking "Me" Time During the Holidays
Now, onto the blog hop! 
Stop in and visit any and all of the many bloggers who are sharing their ideas in the "Home for Christmas" series by simply clicking on any or all of the links below. It's sure to get you in the holiday spirit, and will be a great source for pinning any number of your favorites, for this year or years to come. A special thanks to the Hometalk.com and CountryLiving.com teams for their joint efforts in hosting this series!

Sharing with any given number of these fine hosts:
As always, your visits, comments, and loyal readership are always welcome here on my blog!
Rita C. at Panoply