Holiday Party Checklist

Yes, it’s only October and Halloween has yet to arrive (and Thanksgiving for my American readers), but holiday party planning usually needs to start before the actual season. Although holiday parties don’t need to be overly formal and elaborate events, a little bit of forethought and planning can go a long way to smoothing out the planning process and making for a fun party! This post will help you get ahead for your party planning while keeping the work to a minimum. The checklist will help you stay on track and organised while the holiday season gets chaotic and busy! (Also, thinking about warm and cozy holiday parties will help you get through the autumn transition to winter with cold weather, potential snow, and dreary skies.) To the party planning!

1. Decide What Kind of Party It Will Be- Six Weeks Ahead

Do you want to have a formal dinner party? Do you want to have a movie marathon? A baking exchange? Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? Pretty much anything goes for holiday parties nowadays, but whatever you want, have a firm idea of what it is you want for you and your guests. Most of us host these at home but if you do want to host it elsewhere, take that into consideration when deciding the theme and feeling of the party!


2.Pick a Date- Six Weeks Ahead

It seems simple, but pick a date and get it out to your guests soon! The holiday season is busy for everyone, and you want to ensure your friends have your event booked in before all of the other invitations start flooding in. If you want to a formal dinner party to celebrate the holidays, perhaps consider hosting on a Friday or Saturday evening when people will have time for a longer meal. A laid back party for the whole family? An afternoon might be better for kids! To accommodate everything else going on, you might want to choose a date in late November and have your party kick off the holiday season!


3.Send Out Your Invitations- Four to Six Weeks Ahead

I would recommend sending out your invitations three to four weeks ahead for a holiday party, if not earlier. I don’t think that you necessarily need to mail out invitations but you could kill two birds with one stone, and put an insert into your holiday card with the party info. You could also send an e-vite, which would save you the hassle of purchasing stamps or hand delivering all of the invitations. E-vites also allow you to manage your guest-list online and send updates to those attending if you need it.

Christmas Tree

4. Plan Your Decorations- Four to Six Weeks Ahead

I know that it seems a little ridiculous to plan this far ahead, but make a general plan as to what decorations you would like to have and what you already own. If you own everything you need, you are good to go! If you need to purchase anything, use this time to pick things up on sale. Check Walmart, Canadian Tire, Michaels, dollar stores, drug stores and anywhere else that has an “assorted aisle”. Michaels is especially good for their 40% coupons for one item/ 25% off for your whole purchase; if you only need a few items, it is the perfect way to knock them off.

5. Plan the Menu- Two to Three Weeks Ahead

Along the same lines, plan your menu ahead of time to allow yourself time to buy anything that might go on sale before. Anything that can be frozen or sealed can be bought ahead of time to lessen the hit on your wallet and to save time at the grocery store. (Those huge shops take hours….) This is the time to take note of an allergies, sensitivities, and preferences of your guests!

6. Make or Buy Favours- One Week Ahead

Not all parties need favours, but I think that it is a nice touch for the holiday season that is all about celebrating your time together! I don’t recommend anything crazy expensive or elaborate, it’s an annual occasion. However, a small gift of cookies or fudge or chocolate bark is fairly inexpensive, easy to make large quantities of, and quick to assemble in a small bag with ribbon. If it is a cookie, you might want to make the cookie dough, freeze it, and actually bake them closer to the event.


7. Decorate Space- One to Two Days Ahead

If possible, try to get your decorating done the few days before! You will have plenty to do the day of the party, you don’t need to be spending time hanging lights and mistletoe when they will keep for more than a few days. Plus, you get to enjoy the decorations for longer! My recommendation is use your standard holiday decorations and then add a few extra touches for the party. That way you’ve knocked one more task off of your list!

8. Cook Food, Lay Out Food- Morning Of

Depending on what you are making, you can start cooking in the morning and then leaving it in warming dishes, or at least lay out everything that doesn’t need to cooled or warmed. Trays of baking can be laid out with cling wrap taken off before the party, chip and pretzel bags can be put with their bowls to be poured later. Plates, cups, and napkins can be put out, as well! Make a written schedule of what needs to be made when ahead of time so you don’t have to spend a ton of time figuring out what should go in before what else. You should have very little to do in hours before the party, food and beverage wise!


9. Get Dressed

Throw on some Christmas music, and then put on your glittery shoes, don your ugly Christmas sweater, and put on your reindeer antlers! Give yourself twenty or thirty minutes to get ready, enjoy the peace and quiet before the magic starts…

10. Party Time!

Enjoy the party and your guests!

You can find the checklist here for your convenience; it is more detailed than the above post for those who want it!


What are your holiday party plans? When do you start preparing? 

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!

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