stress free party planning

Having people over doesn’t have to induce a mild anxiety attack. Here, we break down the top ten ways to prep for a party without blowing your cool; after all, the best host is one who actually enjoys their own party.

1. Simplify the guest list. The more people you invite, the more complicated you make your party, and the less opportunity you’ll have to connect with each guest. Invite close friends, a few people you’ve been meaning to reconnect with, and a few others you think would mix well with everyone else.

2. Start planning early. Pick a theme and send out invites four to six weeks before a formal event or two to three weeks before a casual gathering. You’ll also want to gather ideas for the menu and décor way in advance.

3. Create a budget and follow it. Figure out how much you can spend without breaking the bank, and set a limit on food, drink, entertainment, and other party essentials. If you can’t afford to hire a caterer, consider setting up a taco bar or another easy do-it-yourself station for food.

4. Make a checklist. Write down everything from “check RSVPs” to “set up self-serve bar.” Not only does it feel really good to check off to-dos, but it’s the only way to know for sure what still needs to be done.

5. Enlist help. If the thought of cleaning your house is too overwhelming, hire someone to clean it before and perhaps even after the party. If friends or family offer to lend a hand, let them. Delegating a few responsibilities to loved ones — say, picking up ice or putting out flowers — is a huge help.

6. Keep the menu simple. Make one or two items yourself (everyone has a specialty) and cater or purchase the rest. A host should never be slaving in the kitchen when guests arrive, so prepare dishes that can be easily heated up and buy crowd pleasers such as broasted chicken and frozen spanakopita.

7. Serve one specialty cocktail. You don’t want to be shaking martinis all day, so select one drink you can make in pitchers (sangria, spiked lemonade) and stock up on plenty of beer and wine.

8. Order what you can online. If it’s a particular size tablecloth or shade of serving tray you’re after, best to scour the web than drive all over town looking for it. After all, nothing’s easier than getting a package delivered to your doorstep.

9. Create a playlist. Music is essential at a party, and if your budget doesn’t permit a DJ, make a playlist from your own music collection or tune into an Internet radio service such as Pandora or iTunes Radio. Choose a few stations to suit the occasion and appeal to everyone’s taste.

10. Do as much as you can beforehand. Whether it’s decorating, setting the table, or preparing foods that can sit overnight in the fridge, getting things done ahead of time is key. Creating the right ambiance for your party takes time, so tackle decor a couple of days before.

NEXT: Get more party planning tips.

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