The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, but it's especially hectic if you’re in charge of the big party.
If you find yourself in that coveted (and often crazy) position as the host, you’re in luck. TODAY Home tapped two party planning pros to offer their best tips just in time for this year’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and everything else parties.
Jessica Latham knows her way around a party. After being a director of special events for Vanity Fair, Latham teamed up with friend Amy Griffin to start Social Studies, a company that helps people throw festive, entertaining and unique gatherings without hiring an expensive party planner or creating unnecessary waste.
Described as Rent the Runway for events, the company offers the amateur host a curated event in a box dropped off at their doorstop for whatever occasion they are hosting. The cute concept has even caught the eyes of Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow, who are investors in the female founded and mostly female funded project.
“You're in charge of the baby shower or the engagement party or your friend's 30th or 40th birthday party and we're living in this age of Pinterest and Instagram where what is considered sort of an acceptable baby shower (has) become this over-the-top thing that's really hard to pull off,” Latham told TODAY. “I just thought if we can make this really disjointed process easier on people and help people entertain with convenience and ease, then we're doing something good.”
Social Studies is now available in the metro New York City area with plans to expand to the rest of the country in 2020.
Latham and Griffin are sharing seven holiday party planning tips to give your event a little extra sparkle and to help you stay sane.
1. Stock up on gifts
Have a few universal gifts on hand throughout the season for that old friend who stops by at the last-minute or to help those who may have forgotten theirs at home, Griffin says. If you're a guest and gifting the host, skip the bottle of wine and get something more unique, like a plant or a gift certificate for a post-holiday massage or manicure.
2. Make one really simple meal
If you are hosting a full house and need to feed everyone for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, make at least one meal as simple as possible. If you’re doing an elaborate Christmas lunch, for example, consider something really simple (like chili and cornbread) for Christmas Eve, Griffin suggests.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate
Don’t take on everything yourself! Make lunch or dinner a potluck and set the table together the night before (this is a great way to get kids involved, too). People like to feel involved and a part of the process, Latham says.
4. Make traditions
Incorporate meaningful traditions throughout the holidays when possible. "Ever tried a peppermint pig? I can thank my mother for this one," Latham shared. "Check out Saratoga Candy Company. After your holiday meal, you pass the candy pig, break off a piece and share something from the past year you are thankful for and also what you wish for in the coming year. It’s one of my favorite things. So warm and fuzzy."
5. Bartend in bulk
Put someone in charge of a specialty cocktail and create batch cocktails in advance so guests can serve themselves. "We love Moscow Mules for adults and, for the kids, a hot chocolate bar with pre-batched hot chocolate, whipped cream, marshmallow and candy canes," Latham said.
6. Plan it out
Pull out all your serving dishes and label them with Post-It notes beforehand so you know which dishes are going where, Latham suggests. That way, you won't be scrambling at the last minute.
7. It’s the little things ...
Creating a festive environment often comes down to the details. Fill your vases with water and cranberries before putting in flowers for a fun touch or call your local florist to order some holly and greenery and sprinkle sprigs on everything. Even just adding a few pomegranate seeds to Champagne or another cocktail will make it feel extra special.