How to Plan a Party Like a Pro

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I can’t believe it’s already December 21st!  Forgive me for sending this post so late.  Our whole house has been down and out with the flu for the last two weeks and I'm WAY, WAY behind on things as a result. If you’re already ready for Christmas celebrations, great! Hopefully, this will at least come in handy for your News Year’s Eve party or the next gathering you host in 2019. 

christmas party and new years party planning

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Hosting parties is so much fun, but it can also be stressful.  I wanted to help alleviate some of your stress by giving you a guideline to follow to help you get ready for your next event. This is obviously not set in stone, but this is what I do when I prepare for a party and it seems to have served me well.


  1. Determine a date and time and decide whether this will be a casual, formal or themed party.

  2. Create a guest list, invite guests (I love using Evite) and provide an RSVP date so that you can plan for food and drinks. I find it’s actually helpful to state WHY you are asking your guests to respond by a certain date because it makes them more mindful to actually reply. (Make sure to let them know what kind of party you’re planning so that your guests are dressed appropriately – you don’t want to embarrass anyone).   Also, let people know where they can park.

    christmas party invite
  3. Decide on a menu. Make sure your menu is in line with the kind of night you planned.  (eg. don’t serve hamburgers at a formal event….obviously).

  4. Create a shopping list for food, alcohol (Wine Away, club soda and Tide-to-Go are also helpful), ice, coffee/tea, décor, party favours, extra dishes/napkins/linens, toilet paper/tissue/paper towels, garbage bags, candles/light bulbs and crafts/games for kids, etc. I like to put these each on their own list so that I’m not bouncing around the list when I go from store to store. Plus there’s a sense of accomplishment when you’ve conquered each list.

    NOTE: For alcohol, I like to plan three bottles of wine for every four people and four cocktails or beer per guest for a 3-4 hour party. If you want guests to bring their own drinks, make sure to mention that on your invitation.

  5. Make a cleaning list. Let’s be real guys, it’s so hard to keep your house spic and span (ooh did I just date myself LOL) ALL the time, especially if you have young children. If you have the time, clean your whole house.  If you don’t, don’t sweat it.  Clean the rooms your guests will be using (especially the bathroom) and cut yourself a break for the rest. Nobody cares if you didn’t have time to make your bed and if they do they need to re-evaluate their priorities.  This is all about having fun, right?!

  6. If you’re having kids at your party, plan some kind of entertainment for them. Check out Pinterest for craft ideas, keep some board games handy or plan to play a movie at some point to give the adults some time to mingle in peace.
    Kids Christmas Crafts

  7. Plan your lighting. Will you need candles? Should you install a dimmer switch? Lighting can really help to create a mood.  If you’re having an adult-only cocktail party, you probably don’t want your lights on full boar.  Install a dimmer switch or get some low-light bulbs so that you can control the amount of light in the space and get some candles for added ambience.

    NOTE:  Don’t put any candles that are too heavily scented near food areas as the scents will compete with food aromas.

  8. Take inventory of your glassware, serveware and seating. Will you have enough for everyone that is attending your party? Put a post-it note on your serving dishes to remind yourself what each dish will be used for and make list of what else you need that you don’t already have. Ask to borrow the missing items from friends or family or purchase what you need.

    NOTE: If you’re having young children at your party, plan to use plastic or paper dishes for them.  It will help with clean up as well.

    party dishes and serveware
  9. Consider the amount of fridge space you will need. If you won’t have enough room, plan to use coolers and ice for the additional food and drinks.


  1. Do a first round of shopping for all the things you can prepare ahead of time (crafts, games, lighting, serveware, glassware, alcohol, food that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen)

  2. Prepare anything that can be made ahead of time (food and crafts)

  3. Plan your music playlist. Music sets the tone for a party and is such an important part of creating ambience. If you’re not a music junky ask a friend to help with this task or rely on Google Play Music. It has a playlist for pretty much any occasion.  Just make sure to give a few a listen ahead of time so you know what feels right for the night of your party.

    party playlist

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


  1. Decorate

  2. Figure out where you’ll be placing coats (add extra hangers if need be), shoes, garbage/recycling stations, emergency clean up areas (eg. red wine spills)

  3. Take anything personal that you don’t want seen by your guests (eg. prescription medication) and put it in your bedroom or another safe keeping spot.

  4. Clean your house (refer back to cleaning list)

    Clean the house for your party
  5. Make a cooking schedule for the day of the party to keep you organized and on schedule.

  6. Let your neighbours know that you are having a party if you think it will be loud or you’ll need to use a lot of street parking to avoid complaints.


  1. Set the table(s) and place chairs. Don’t forget to designate areas for appetizers, dessert, drinks, etc.

    set the table for your party

  2. Arrange the furniture how you want it to be arranged to best suit the party. Put away anything that you are worried about getting damaged or broken.

  3. Do your final grocery shop. Don’t forget garnishes for cocktails if you’re having them.

  4. Complete any cooking or preparation that you can without jeopardizing the freshness of the food.

  5. Do the dishes and make sure your dishwasher is empty if you have one so that you can utilize it on party day.

  6. Give your house a once over to see if there is anything that needs to be freshened up before guests arrive.


    1. Set up your food and drink stations with, wait for it….food and drinks :)

    2. Wash all dirty dishes and put them away

    3. Set up your garbage and recycling areas

    4. Finish food prep and cooking

    5. If you haven’t already, put on some music (eg. your playlist) to get into the mood

    6. About an hour before guests arrive, start putting out appetizers and snacks that won’t spoil. Keep them under plastic wrap to keep them fresh and take the wrap off when the first guest arrives. Make sure to have side plates and napkins on hand.

      party appetizersPhoto by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

    7. HAVE FUN!!!!

    If you follow this guideline you will be so well organized for your party that you’ll be able to truly enjoy your visit with friends and family.  A couple final things to note about your shindig….1) Accept help if people offer and 2) Don’t worry about doing the dishes until after guests leave or in the morning.  Cleaning the dishes will change the vibe of your party and it will make people feel like you want them to leave.  It’s only one night guys…LET. IT.GO! :)

    After the party take notes about what people liked and didn’t and how much food you had leftover so that you’ll be better prepared for the next one.

    Okay friends, that’s all I've got for now.  Wishing you all an AMAZING Christmas and all the best for a fabulous new year!  May 2019 bring you all the love, joy and happy moments you can handle.  Thanks for reading and I'll chat to you in January. xo

    Val Malnar
    Val Malnar
    Principal Designer | Orangetree Interiors


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