Tips For Stress-Free Holiday Hosting

The season of celebrations, festivities, and gifting is filled with cheers and fun – and often a lot of stress, too – especially if you’re doing the holiday hosting.   Even when it’s a relatively small gathering, it’s a lot of work, so how do you remain calm and relaxed and still put your best foot and best food forward?

This holiday, host a fun and stress-free party that you and everyone else will love and enjoy by using these tips:

Plan Ahead

One of the biggest mistakes to make when it comes to holiday hosting is over-focusing on the food and under-focusing on the planning.

The key to hosting a stress-free holiday event is planning ahead – and it starts with creating a list.

Write down all the things that need to be done and assign a date/time of the day when to get the shopping, cleaning, decorating, and cooking done.  Be strategic about when and how you plan to do each task, paying attention to the best time to do the shopping (preferably during the least busy times), and do as much as possible ahead of time.  The less you have to think about the day-of your holiday party, the better.

Make your life easier by preparing dishes that get tastier with time or can be served at room temperature, This way you won’t stress about getting things to the table as soon as they’re done, and you’ll be able to take the time to greet your guests while the dishes warm up back in the kitchen.

Soups and stews are great winter and holiday food, and can be made ahead of time.  You can make a side dish or dessert that’s freezer-friendly several days before, make one or two things the day before the party.  Space the remaining tasks throughout the day of the event, so that there’s only one dish you need to focus on right before dinner is served.  Some of the dishes to make ahead are braises, lasagnas, roasted veggies, quiches and tarts, and things like mashed potatoes for which you can use your slow cooker to keep warm until dinner-time.


This season, if you want to host a party that will make you feel more excited and less stressed – simplify.

Rather than trying new dishes that you don’t know will turn out well, stick with the recipes you’re great at – knowing you’re serving a sure thing will take some pressure off.

Also, if you always host more formal sit-down dinners, consider doing the buffest style.  It’s more casual and may be a better fit if you’re hosting a large group, since buffets are the most efficient way to serve a lot of people.  Pull the table away from the wall so that there are four sides available for easy access to food and to prevent guests forming a long line, and put drinks on opposite side of the room to keep things moving.   

Instead of making an extra stop while shopping to get supplies for your floral centerpiece arrangements, go to your yard, clip greens, and arrange them in a pretty vase or other vessel, then add a few sparkly ornaments to the table.   You can also add some greens to your railings, and, with some candles, to the mantel and around the dishes or drinks on your kitchen island.

The best holiday party is not necessarily the one in the world’s cleanest house – rather than spend extra energy and time on detailed cleaning, make sure the common areas are clean and welcoming, and just close the door and turn off the lights in more messy rooms.  Consider keeping one cabinet or drawer empty to sweep any clutter and papers into, until you have more time to sort it out after the party.  


Take inventory of everything you will need for the party: pots, pans, serving dishes, silverware, napkins, glassware, burner space, oven space, and ingredients for food and drinks.

The last thing you want is searching for a large sauté pan on the day of hosting, or realizing you need an extra baking pan.  Take into account everything that’s needed to make, serve, and enjoy what’s on the menu. 

Before you start cooking, set up your kitchen for easy cleaning.  And if someone offers to help, gracefully let them!

Make sure there’s enough paper napkins for drinks, kitchen/paper towels for easy clean up, a few bar cloths near the drinks for wiping down drippy bottles, and a bin nearby (but not too close to your elegant dinner area) for trash disposal.  To free some fridge space, set aside a tub of salted ice water to quick-chill your drinks.  For beverages, stock up on soda and mixers, and keep your bar stocked.  Make sure to have coffee (regular and decaf), cocoa, cider and a selection of teas, as well as enough drinking water.

If you are hosting a sit-down dinner, it’s usually a good idea to assign places, and doing that ahead of time will mean one less thing to worry about when guests arrive.  When planning seating arrangements, how about doing it with more fun and harmony in mind – seating couples separately usually inspires more conversation, and seating outgoing guests next to those who are shyer can help them open up.  

Create An Hourly Schedule For The Day Of Hosting

On the day before your event, write out a full hour-by-hour schedule of what needs to be done: when does the turkey or roast go in the oven?  How long will it take to warm up previously made dishes, or bake new ones?  When do you take the drinks out, do the last-minute decorations, and still have enough time to shower and dress before the first guests arrive?

You want to wake up knowing exactly what you need to do and how long it will take.  Instead of feeling stressed and disorganized, ensure everything flows smoothly on the day of hosting your holiday party.


If you have dimmer switches, dim the lights until the space feels warm and cozy, especially after the dinner.  Instead of switching on all the glaring overhead lights, use the softer glow of under-cabinet lights, floor lamps and candlelight.  Subdued lights will enhance the ambience, make guests feel more at ease, plus take away focus from any features in your home that are outdated or need repairing/replacing.

Another wonderful way to set the atmosphere is with joyful sounds – choose a playlist of holiday songs or go for relaxing and sweet sounds of cocktail party music.  Unless it’s time to dance, remember to keep the music low enough, so that conversations can easily be held. 

Use Pre-Made Items

The biggest source of stress when hosting a party is trying to do too much – no holiday host or hostess can be expected to create everything by himself or herself from scratch, clean and decorate, and be rested and relaxed. 

Focus on a few dishes that you know you can successfully make, and consider picking up some pre-made things that you only need to re-plate or re-heat.  You can get many high quality, delicious pre-made appetizers, side dishes, and desserts from a supermarket or local restaurant.

Say No

Play to your strengths, and don’t be afraid to say no to hosting an event that is just not your style, or you have no time or resources to undertake.  For instance, instead of an elaborate, formal sit-down dinner, host a cocktail party, potluck, brunch or open house.

And when you host, don’t be afraid to give your guests a few rules, such as telling them in advance the party will need to end at a certain time.

Ask for Help

To stress and overwork yourself less – delegate.  Know what you’re capable and comfortable doing and ask your family members and other guests to help.

During the holiday party, designate one person to be in charge of refilling drinks, replenishing snacks or anything that takes some of the burden off you.  You would be surprised how many people like to be involved in making a party a success.

We hope you all have a wonderful and stress-free holiday season!

And if you need a helping hand for any repairs or improvements – our proficient and friendly team of contractors at Home One Services is ready to assist you this holiday season and beyond.  For all your home renovations, home improvement, and home maintenance in Lancaster, PA, contact us today.