Must read tips for stress free Holiday Hosting and Guesting.
Thanksgiving has come and gone and the Christmas season is finally upon us! (Praise Hands!) This is a glorious season full of love and hugs and gifts and parties and… Ugh! Parties can be stressful. Yes, indeed, from planning to prepping to executing, parties can take their toll on both guests and hosts, alike. Though small scheduling hiccups, hostess snafus and awkward social encounters are unavoidable, there are ways to reduce them and – when they do arise – mitigate the damage that they cause.
TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAY HOST
Prep. Prep. Prep!
Free up as much day-of time as possible for cooking and hosting. If I had to guess, I’d say that your home was trimmed for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving (if not before). If that’s the case, fortunately, you won’t have to spend much time decorating. But, save more time by making pies and freezable desserts the week before your party or event. Prepare signature cocktails and set your tables the night before. Opt for no-cook appetizers that can be assembled quickly (crudités platters, charcuterie trays, cheese boards are relatively quick and can be absolutely gorgeous.)
Host a Gathering not a Gala.
This is a season for gathering, for celebrating and for reconnecting. It is a time to love and be loved. Give yourself some grace. If you have the energy to serve a four course meal, by all means! Do it. But if you’d rather make time to sit and visit with your loved ones, you should feel comfortable setting a buffet and preparing self-serve cocktails.
Delegate + Chill.
Aunt Karen and Uncle Bob need to feel helpful. Let them. Spend a few minutes – just before your guests arrive – thinking of little ways that your relatives can assist you without getting in your way. Pick nonessential tasks for which you can accept “less than perfect” results. When they ask, be ready with “you could check the drink station and let me know if you think we have enough of everything” or “you could help so-and-so find the coat room” or “I saw little so-and-so running through the dining room a few minutes ago, perhaps you could walk through there to make sure everything is as it should be?”
TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAY GUEST
Come and go on time.
Arrive too early and you’re in the way. Arrive too late and dinner gets cold while everyone waits on you. For big holidays, you’re allowed 10 minutes of grace on either side of the suggested arrival time. So don’t be late. Or early.
Respect the RSVP!
As antiquated as it may seem, your RSVP is critical for the host. How else is s/he to know how much food to prepare or how many bottles of ___ (insert favorite spirit here) to buy.
Don’t be an Eddie! Dress like you care.
This doesn’t mean you have to put on a tux or a ball gown! If your family will gather in the evening around a formal table, wear a blazer. If yours is a daytime affair, perhaps slacks and an oxford will do. Just be considerate. And, when in doubt, ASK!
Mind your manners.
Bring a gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive – in fact, it probably shouldn’t be – but it should be thoughtful. It should say, “I see that you have made an effort to create a special event for me and the rest of your guests and I want you to know that I am grateful.”
Silence your Phone.
If communication is an absolute must – turn off all notifications, turn your ringer to vibrate and stick your phone in your pocket. Pools of ink have been spilled exploring the degrading effects that our smart phones are having on society at large. The most common theme among the myriad articles: we’re so busy checking in on our phones in the digital space, that we’ve checked out on our friends and family in the real world. Take this opportunity to make meaningful connections with the human beings around you. To not do so would certainly be rude, but it would also be a shameful waste of a wonderful opportunity.
Help! But not too much.
Most hosts have planned their gathering with military precision. Overly helpful guests who pop off with suggestions and recommendations, run the risk of derailing the host’s mental minuet. That said, offer you help! But be delicate about it.
Express your gratitude – in writing.
In recent years, the handwritten Thank You Note seems to have gone the way of the RSVP. Fewer and fewer people report expressing their gratitude in writing, opting instead for an email or a text. Thanks is thanks, so an email or a text is definitely better than nothing. But, the time required to pen a note, put it in an envelope, stamp the envelope and walk it to your post box sends a clear message; it says, “You matter to me and I value you.”
ABIDE BY THE RULES OF (civil) ENGAGEMENT
Last month we published an article that encouraged readers to carefully avoid social landmines and controversial conversation topics. Our article wasn’t meant to discourage engagement. On the contrary, it was meant to encourage thoughtful and careful engagement.
If you think about it, each one of these “tips” listed in this article and the “rule” outlined in that article is rooted in the idea that everyone – hosts and guests (even those awkward members of your spouses extended family) – deserves a little respect. They deserve to be treated the way you’d like them to treat you. Keep this in mind and your Holiday Party season will be a smashing success!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from us and ours! – Billy and Connie McCoy