Hosting a holiday event this season?
Make sure your event is as stress-free as possible with a holiday hosting timeline.
While the holidays are a time for celebration and gathering with loved ones, it’s also a time that can induce stress and headaches. Scrambling around for last minute gifts or dealing with the chaos of holiday travel. The holidays are a frantic time to say the least.
But with some planning and prep work up top, it’s possible to host a holiday meal or event without losing your mind.
Like with any big project or event, it helps to create a timeline for yourself and set targets that you can easily accomplish. This way, you get things done with measured progress and avoid doing everything at the last minute.
Here’s how you can create a timeline and make sure that your holiday event is a success.
Make a to–do list
Before you start mapping out your timeline, create a comprehensive to-do list for all the things you need to do before your big event.
This includes sending invitations, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, setting up guest rooms, and other tasks you need to accomplish.
Once you get everything down on paper, you can start planning for the main day and checking things off your list as you go along.
1-2 months out: Create your guest list
Because the holiday season is such a hectic time for everyone, you’ll want to create your guest list and send out invitations in a timely manner. This is especially important if your guests live out of town and need to make travel plans.
According to the Emily Post website, a good timeframe to send a holiday dinner invitation is 2 weeks to 2 months. Of course, the timing will depend on the size of your event and how formal it will be. If you’re throwing a black-tie New Year’s Eve dinner, you’ll definitely want to give as much notice as possible. If it’s an intimate Thanksgiving dinner with close friends and family, 4-5 weeks is usually enough time.
If you’re sending your invitation cards by snail mail, then send them out as early as possible so that your guests can receive them and rsvp on time.
By working on your guest list in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to start planning your holiday event and your guests can start making travel arrangements.
1 month out: Prepare your space
If you’re hosting an intimate holiday dinner at home, 3-4 weeks out is probably a good amount of time to start thinking about your dining and living room space. Make sure there are enough chairs and table space for everyone. Will there be overnight guests? Then check to see that your spare bedroom is in order and that you have enough linens, pillows, and towels.
If you’re hosting a large group or a formal dinner, then give yourself enough time to rent any chairs, tables, dishware, or other items you might need.
1 month out: Create your menu
A month before your holiday event, you’ll want to start thinking about what you’re going to serve to your guests. A month will give you enough time to plan your food and drink menu, create a shopping list, and place orders that need to be made in advance.
Coordinate with guests. If your guests are bringing side dishes or dessert to your holiday dinner, coordinate with them around this time. This way you’ll ensure that there won’t be duplicate dishes or that you suddenly find yourself without dessert.
Shopping list. Write down the ingredients for your main entree, side dishes, appetizers, snacks, and beverages. If your guests are staying overnight or for the weekend, then include breakfast, lunch, and other meals you’ll need to prepare.
Take note if you need to buy any food or beverages online or at a specialty store. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time for your items to be delivered and take into account the holiday rush.
Some stores require that you place an order in advance for items like a Thanksgiving turkey or a holiday platter. Check the store’s website for order deadlines and add a reminder to your planner or calendar so you don’t miss the date.
3 weeks out: Shop for pantry items and beverages
You don’t want to save all of your grocery shopping for the week of a major holiday. Avoid the holiday madness by buying drinks, condiments, freezer foods, and other non-perishable items in advance. This includes canned goods, flour, spices, wine, soda, etc.
2 weeks out: Declutter and organize your house
Start getting your house in order two weeks before your event. Do a deep clean and decluttering session over the weekend so that you can do routine maintenance the week of your event. Clear the guest bedrooms and make sure that your hall closets have enough room for your guests’ coats.
1-2 weeks out: Go through your menu and prepare dishes in advance
Save yourself the hassle of cooking everything on the day of by making some of your dishes the week before.
You can make stock or soups the week before and freeze them. Dessert items like cookies and pie dough can be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer.
This is also a good time to read through your recipes and take note of marinating or defrosting time. This way you won’t be caught off guard on the day of and realize that you should’ve defrosted your turkey days ago. Or that your meat needed to be marinated overnight.
Plan for it now so that you’re not scrambling later.
3-4 days out: Buy your fresh ingredients
Equipped with your shopping list, go to the grocery store during an off-peak time and buy the fresh ingredients you’ll need for your meal. Think herbs, produce, meat, dairy, etc.
You probably want to avoid washing and cutting up tons of vegetables on the day of your holiday event. Wash or scrub your veggies and cut them ahead of time. You can keep them in ziploc bags or pyrex containers.
1 day out: Final touches
Go through your house and pick up any clutter. Set the table, arrange candles and flowers, and put up any decorations.
Start preparing food items that need to be made the day before. Make sure beverages are being chilled.
Day of: Final food prep
Congrats! You’ve made it to the day of your holiday event. Your main course is roasting in the oven, your beverages are cold, and you’re putting the final flourishes on your table.
Make sure to take a moment for yourself to exhale, count to ten, or close your eyes to relax. You’ve worked so hard and you deserve to enjoy this special time with your loved ones.