Top 5 Tips for a Stress-Free Party

By Jill Gardiner , last updated January 20, 2012

Parties are supposed to be fun, right? So why does it always seem we’re running around just before guests are supposed to arrive (or worse, after they’ve shown up) vacuuming in high heels or frantically doing dishes with our ties flipped over our shoulders? It doesn’t have to be like that way. With some smart planning and practical prioritizing, you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do, which in turn allows your guests to enjoy it even more. Try these tips to ensure your next party is utterly stress-free; you’ll be a better host or hostess for it.

Make a Master List
Get it all down on paper, from big things like food and beverages to the smaller details like place settings and cocktail garnishes. This will help you both to remember everything (no last minute runs to the grocery store!) and get a realistic picture of what you hope to accomplish. Once you see 150 items on your to-do list, you’re more likely to prioritize and possibly cut some unnecessary extras.
Satellite Lists
Now that you’ve got the master plan together, start subdividing your tasks. Make extensive shopping lists that are divided by store: supermarket, liquor store, florist, etc. Unless you have a magic machine that stops time, delegate chores: it will dramatically increase the likelihood things will actually get done. Make lists for family or friends who have offered to help out. Finally, make your own to-do list and organize it both in order of priority and according to the day you expect to get things done. Try to leave as little as possible for the day of the party, especially things like cleaning or decorating, which should be done a few days before.
Stress-Free Food
Complicated dishes that have lots of components or that must be prepared at the last second are probably not the best choice for a stress-free party. As much as possible, choose foods that can be made in advance and that only require minor assembly or warming up the day of. Gather and wash all serving pieces well before the day of the party, then label with sticky notes so you won’t have your head stuck in a cabinet, hunting for bowls or platters while guests are asking where they should put their coats.
Self-Serve Serenity
Arrange a self-serve bar and have plenty of easy snacks, such as cheese and crackers or bread with dipping oil, so that your guests will have food and drink readily available should you end up running behind. A punch is a great way to have a signature drink that doesn’t require individual mixing. If a punch bowl is too staid for you, put in a chic glass pitcher and place in the bar area with a bowl of fun garnish beside it.
Let Go
Finally, once the party starts, you need to just let go. Whatever is done is done; whatever isn’t isn’t. That train has left the station. While it would be nice if everything were perfect, it’s never going to be, and holding on to the frustration will just ruin the mood of the party for everyone.
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