Holiday Party Planning Tips & a Printable!

This past week we hosted a small gathering at our home to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It wasn't a giant affair, however, it was a good way to amp up for larger celebrations that come with the holiday season.

I will admit, throwing a shindig can be a bit overwhelming.  You have to prepare the guest list, create a plan for drinks and food, scrub your home, decorate and maybe even DIY some of your own decor.  However, with a little planning ahead, many of those stresses are sure to melt away....

This month, Target is partnering with their Inner Circle team to put together a Party 101 series!  This is a series I will be stalking following very closely.  Although I am a planner at heart, there is still so much to learn when it comes to throwing the perfect party and the Inner Circle crew will be covering everything from invitations to cocktails to figuring out what to wear.  Today, I am kicking off the series with a few tips that help me when it comes to planning a party!

Make a List!  Check it Twice!

It should come as no surprise; the key ingredient for me is a checklist.  Checklists make my world go round so when it comes to putting together a holiday celebration, I stick with what I know.

The party planning checklist is part of a bigger holiday planning binder I started building.  Of course, I found the fabulous binder at Target.

Because planning a party doesn't happen overnight, I created a checklist that covers everything that needs to be done a few weeks prior all the way up to the minute you open the door for the first grinning guest.

As soon as the thought of having a party comes to mind, it is smart to start jotting down a few of the important pieces of the party puzzle.  Will there be a theme?  Who do I want to invite?  Where will I host the event?  What date and times make the most sense for my guest list?  Do I have a strict budget to stick to?  Should I serve a few appetizers and drinks or a full course meal?

Once I determine the event date, I flip to a separate calendar at the front of the binder and write in when I need to accomplish some of the key items on my to do list.  For example, I will write in when I should have the invites sent out by, when I should start deep cleaning, when I should start decorating and even my trip to the grocery store.

The checklist contains two pages; the second expands on some of the key to do list items by helping me manage the guest list, plan my menu and create my shopping list for the big fiesta!

Plan ahead!  

Typically, a few weeks is all one needs to throw a successful party, and much of that time is to give your guests enough of a chance to clear their schedules {because your party will be off-the-hook amazing}.  And right off the bat, it is as simple as compiling a guest list and sending out the invitations.  Sometimes, I save time by going the digital route with my invites, although, you can never go wrong with a hand-written option.  Then, I get excited and make some lists and about a week before the party I spend a little bit of time each day doing something quick and easy to prepare.  Doing some of these tasks ahead of time reduces the risk of me running around with a towel on my head while dusting the bookshelves while grilling the shrimp while pouring the drinks and setting the table three minutes after the doorbell rings... that would never happen....

The weekend before I will do a good deep cleaning our home.  That ensures that on the day of the soiree I just need to do a quick pick up and vacuuming.  I will also head to the grocery store and begin to prepare items that can be made ahead of time.  I even like to set up the table and put out any decor items, to be sure I haven't forgotten anything and that I am happy with how it should all come together the day of the event.

The checklist is also great for a few of the other little things I like to do in advance, which I almost always seem to forget.  Things like washing serving dishes that have been stored away for a long period of time, charging my camera battery and creating a music playlist.  Again, by checking those items off of my list ahead of time, when the day of the gathering comes about, all that is left to do is pamper my toes, curl my eyelashes and pull the appetizers out of the fridge.

Get Inspired!

As much as the checklist is a partysaver, I added a few bonus items into the binder as well.  Behind a few pre-printed checklists, I added in clear sheet protectors, which I filled with party ideas galore.  I tapped into my Pinterest page and printed out inspirational photos of pretty themes, decor, invitations and recipes.  I also slid in some pages from holiday store catalogs and glossy magazines, which offered even more decorating and treat ideas.  Sure, we live in a digital world, but I am an old school gal who likes everything in one place.  And if I am sitting down to plan out a gathering, then it works for me to have some of my favorite ideas and inspiration right behind my checklist.

Keep it Simple!

We try and keep our appetizers and dinner menus fairly basic, and haven't had any complaints yet!  If you love to be a showstopper, create a single shining star menu item and let the rest act as back-up dancers.  Cheese and cracker platters as well as fruit and veggie trays are always a hit, and when displayed on pretty serving dishes they can still make a statement.

Help Your Guests Help You!

My last tip is not to help you prepare, but to help you clean up at the end of the bash.  Consider setting up self serve stations for snacks and drinks.  Make sure your trash and recycle bins are accessible and labeled so your guests can easily clean up after themselves.  Place a large, empty bin next to the sink for their dirty dishes, so you can keep the counter clutter to a minimum while you are hosting.  Stock the bathroom with paper products and clean towels to prevent awkward moments.  And keep a small cleaning kit with wipes, vinegar, club soda and salt stored in an easy to access location for those accidental wine spills.

We don't host a lot of parties, but it sure is nice to have ideas, a plan and reminders for when we do.  One of my top goals in 2014 is to make sure we are enjoying our home equally as much as we are working on our home, and I think that means cheers to more gatherings and cocktail parties at the Jones residence!

And here is the freebie Party Planning checklist printable for you to enjoy!

{click HERE to download a FREE Party Planning Checklist}

So how about you?  What tips do you have for organizing and throwing a successful, stress-free holiday party?  I would love to hear your extra helpful tips in the comments below!

And if you are excited to see more Party 101 tips, Target will be sharing a round-up of their Inner Circle posts on their A Bullseye View Blog.  You can also follow #mykindofholiday and #targetinnercircle on Twitter and Instagram and see all of the posts on this Target Inner Circle Pinterest board or by clicking the images below:

Party on my friends and....

As part of the Target Inner Circle team, I was invited to participate in their Holiday Party 101 posts, and was compensated with a Target gift card.  All opinions are my own and I fully support gold dot binders and party planning checklists.  

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