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How to Prepare for Large Holiday Gatherings

Dining room table set up with a cooked turkey, side dishes, and glasses of wine

Planning a large get-together for the holidays can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting. But with proper planning and preparation, you can minimize the stress and maximize enjoyment. Whether you are looking to get together with friends, family, or both, you want to have all the right pieces in place for a smooth and enjoyable evening. If you attend a large holiday gathering, your to-do list will be significantly shorter and not much beyond what to bring and what to wear. If you are hosting, however, the to-do list will likely be significantly more intricate. Here are some ways to best get ready for different kinds of large gatherings so you can spend your evening enjoying the party.

Create and Plan Your Menu

A dish with a cooked turkey and vegetable, a bowl of mashed potatoes, and a pumpkin pie

Often, choosing the menu can be one of the biggest tasks when preparing for a large gathering. There is a lot to take into account and organize, especially around the holidays. First, plan to integrate some favorite holiday dishes into your menu. For example, for Thanksgiving, consider a pumpkin pie. And for Christmas, opt for Christmas cookies. Incorporating seasonal celebrations into your menu goes a long way toward creating a festive ambiance. Even if you're hosting and asking guests to bring dishes, you can still provide the core plates that everyone expects to find at a party.

Don't be shy about getting too detailed with your menu planning. Cooking for a lot of people is a big deal. If you're taking on the role of the chef, write down the ingredients, shopping list, and recipes you plan to use, and be sure to calculate how much you need to make according to your guest list. If you are having your gathering catered or are outsourcing the cooking, you will need to be specific about what and how much food to order. That way, you know you are getting what you want.

Something else to take into consideration is different dietary requirements. While it can be challenging to please everyone, there are many vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free people out there that may be attending your soiree. You'll want to be sure that there are items on your menu that cater to them so that they have something to eat too.

Design and Decorate the Space

Dimmly lit dining room with dinning table set for dinner with candles lit

A well-designed space can make a big difference at any party, especially around the holiday season. Whether you are hosting a soiree in your living room or you've rented out space at the local country club, designing and decorating the aesthetic can do a lot to bring the whole holiday theme together. Especially around Christmas and New Year's Eve, people will expect to see festive decors, such as lights, fir, stars, candy canes, and other classic seasonal cheer. If you are hosting a large get-together in your home, it's always a good idea to clear out delicate, breakable, or valuable items so that they don't accidentally get damaged, lost, or broken. Roll up valuable rugs, put away that antique vase on your corner table, and lock up the crystal cabinet to keep a designated space and set boundaries for your guests.

Accessorize for the Theme

A plaid dinner napkin on a dessert dish with lit candles, pinecones, and berries in the background

When you're hosting a large gathering, chances are you'll need to stock your home with the basics, such as plates, glasses, cutlery, napkins, and even furniture. If you don't have tons of room at the table or enough chairs, you should plan to rent some to accommodate everyone. If you don't want to use your kitchenware, you can rent party accessories from a company or buy paper plates, cutlery, and glasses. Also, consider using seasonal or festive themes plates, napkins, and tablecloths to add to the holiday cheer.

Don't Forget the Music

Rolled up sheets of holiday music

Let's be honest: no party is complete without some stellar tunes. Depending on the size, nature, and budget of your party, you can choose to hire a DJ or simply stream music onto your speakers from your smartphone. During the holidays, you should plan to have at least some seasonally inspired music playing during the gathering. Depending on your crowd and personal taste, you can find Christmas music classics from icons such as Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby, all the way through the last century up to Mariah Carey. There is a Christmas tune for everyone, so be sure to add a little festive cheer into the mix when planning your music selection for your gathering.

Determine Your Approach to Drinks and Departures

Person pouring wine into wine glasses

Like food, most gatherings are expected to come with drinks, especially around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. You can plan for anything from a selection of wines and beers to cocktails and champagne to a hired open bar. Again, when determining how much to buy, think of your guest list and roughly allocate a certain number of drinks for each guest. Also, it's normal to ask people to bring a drink or a dish of food with them. This way, your guests can chip in for the booze by bringing a bottle of wine, liquor, or a pack of beer. If there will be drinking at your event, be sure that everyone is safe to go home if they are driving. Keep taxi numbers on hand and ask that everyone has a designated driver. That way, everyone gets home safely after the party.

Consider Recruiting or Hiring Cleanup Help

Person using a yellow microfiber cloth to dust wooden tabletop

We all know the worst part of a party is cleaning up. If you've rented a space for your gathering, chances are the price of cleanup is already included in the rental costs. If you're hosting a holiday get-together from your home, you will want to make a cleanup plan to avoid getting overwhelmed the day after. Either make a plan of attack with your household to tackle the mess the next day, or plan to hire a cleaning crew to get the job done for you. Either way, preparing your cleaning tactic will help take the stress off when planning a large Christmas party, New Year's celebration, or Thanksgiving dinner.

Large holiday gatherings are often a good time for all involved. But you can definitely make it even more fun by planning and preparing ahead of time.

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