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10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

Do you like to entertain? I love having parties. But as you probably could gather from how simply I do things, most of my parties don’t involve fussy decorations, excessive effort or stress. That might be why I actually enjoy entertaining and try to do it regularly, I give myself permission to do it MY WAY!

With my business, a family and a lot of volunteer work, I don’t have a lot of time to do extra things. A party could totally stress me out if I wasn’t careful. I am selective about where I invest my entertaining effort or I might opt out of hosting events for fear of the amount of work involved. I don’t want to set such a high standard that I am cranky about it.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

But that doesn’t mean I don’t do anything special when I entertain, I just like to be deliberate with my choices and find simple doable ways to make parties feel festive — without the fuss.

Here are my favorite and most practical party hosting tips:

1. Host regular parties or get togethers at your home. The more you host, the more practice you get and the easier each event becomes.

2. Clean the house (not perfectly, mind you, but clean enough to make your home pleasant to be in). If you keep up with general housework, getting ready for a party isn’t that big of a deal.

3. Collect or create reusable pieces for serving and decor, rather than using cheap themed decorations or disposable paper products.

I don’t have room to store a lot of excess decor or dishes that are only used for entertaining, and I don’t like to buy cheap decorations or disposable stuff if I can avoid it! Collecting items that can serve multiple purposes is the way to go!

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

Case in point: I repurposed my cute blue and white teacup collection by turning them into a sweet teacup garden that I can enjoy on my window sill this spring! But I was also able to use them as part of the spring table party decorations! Affordable, easy and so sweet. And if the plants die, the cups are still pretty decor or useful for serving tea or coffee. If a new dish is going to come home with me, I make it earn its keep by using it as decor on a wall, or on open shelves and in glass cabinets when it isn’t busy serving food or adding to the festive decor at parties.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

4. Plan ahead to include a few festive touches like a handmade reusable cloth banner or fresh flowers and plants to make the event feel special. 

5. Reduce party day stress! If you love to cook and bake, prepare food the day before if possible to cut down on stress from the last minute mess. If you don’t love to cook and bake or just don’t have time, find a local source for good party food! In our area Costco always has delicious and attractive food that is perfect for parties.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

6. For simplicity and flexibility for you and your guests, plan a simple buffet style event rather than a formal sit down dinner. A serve yourself style buffet provides guests options to accommodate various dietary needs and restrictions, as well as takes away the stress of unexpected meal fails or wondering how many people will show up for dinner. (For a similar cheese board, see my Amazon store!).

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

7. It is fun to set up a separate drink station (and a dessert station!) with an ice bucket and a couple of choices of beverages. Include tags and pens so guests can label their own drink glasses!

Not only do labels cut down on the amount of drink glasses you’ll need, but the process of choosing drinks and labeling glasses makes the drink station a festive part of the party. Trader Joe’s has some really cute bottled drinks and I found striped straws  at Michaels Craft. My girls cut the labels out of stiff paper. I avoid serving beverages in punch bowls as they tend to be really sticky and messy. I found the mason jar glasses at World Market.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

8. Serve food on a variety of pretty plates, bowls and cake stands. They don’t have to all match, most of my dishes are a mixture of whites or colors and patterns that mix and match! A variety of plate sizes is fine too, some people prefer smaller plates and some people like the big ones so options are fun! Cake plates add height and importance to ordinary food items.

I love to look for interesting shaped or patterned dishes! My favorite dishes have scalloped edges, raised polka dots, pretty patterns or are just plain fun like a slate cheese plate or mason jar glasses! Collect affordable serving pieces and dishes over time as you find ones you like, I love to be on the lookout for unique dishes at places like HomeGoods, TJ Maxx and Macy’s. And as I mentioned in a previous tip, make sure new dishes earn their keep with more than one purpose.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

9. Think through serving table traffic flow and possible bottlenecks if you are going to serve a larger group. I like to remove chairs to open up traffic flow around the table and then set up the chairs in other rooms for extra seating and to create conversation areas.

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

10. Provide a convenient but reasonably attractive place for guests to dispose of trash.

Because I prefer to use real dishes for events in my home, the amount of trash generated during a party is pretty minimal so we can fit all the trash from a party in just one bag. I like to set a trash can in a convenient or central location to make it easy for guests to dispose of trash. My festive party version of a trash can is to use a cute white can from IKEA, lined with a trash bag (PS the GLAD® ForceFlex tall kitchen bags are stretchable and fit great inside the can!).

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

What are your favorite tips for simple entertaining?
Share tips and your favorite go-to party ideas in the comments!

10 Simple Tips for Hosting Festive Parties

Find more inspiration in my book, Simple Gatherings!

42 Comments

  1. Cynthia

    Great tips and very useful. I use them all when we throw parties. I am a list maker for our gatherings. I love your topiaries. Did you make them??

    Cynthia

    Reply
  2. Tina

    Great ideas! Are those real eggs in your flower vase?

    Reply
  3. Danielle

    Great tips! I’m planning a dinner this weekend, so your timing was perfect. I love to have people over, but I get so stressed that my husband always asks why I even bother. I’ve thought the same thing as you mentioned in one of your tips, “host more parties to get used to it!” Wise words :)

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thanks Danielle, I hope you have fun this weekend! :-)

      Reply
  4. Ellen

    We have the same taste! However, you get it done..and I don’t..but I do get inspired!!
    Thanks for the great ideas and blog..gotta plan a party!

    Reply
  5. teresa

    Love your tips…. and the party looks so beautiful…like a spring Day!

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thank you Teresa, it was a fun day!

      Reply
  6. Alison

    Great job Melissa! Loving the mason jars

    Reply
  7. keith

    Your first photograph really threw me. As I scrolled down the page I was convinced it was a table layout. When my screen caught up and I saw that they were plates on a wall it really took me a few minutes to catch up.
    Great work. How do you get your ideas for what to photograph? You make the mundane look astonishing.

    Reply
  8. Sara

    Super great ideas!!!! I am hosting Easter so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thank you Sara, glad it was helpful!

      Reply
  9. Tracy lewkowiez

    Your stained glass is beautiful. Do I see the 10 commandments? Did you salvage from a church or synagogue? Or maybe your home was one in the past?

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thank you! Yes, those are actual vintage stained glass windows salvaged from from a real church! We’ve brought them with us from house to house. I love the colors and uniqueness of them, plus they help hide less than perfect views :-)!

      Reply
  10. Tiffany S.

    Is your rolling console from World Market? It may just be the touch of industrial we need in our new place.

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Yes, the cart is from World Market. I love it!

      Reply
  11. Juliane at Modern Mural

    Beautiful! I love the drink cart. I may be obsessed with them in general. ;) Your party looks so cute and fun. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for some of those reusable party items!

    Reply
  12. Kelly

    I just love everything about this! Great ideas. I’ve been itching to host a get-together in our little apartment lately. Also, I walk by all those things at World Market and fall in love every time!

    Reply
  13. Meliss Thomas

    These are some great tips! Especially the prep food the day before, great way to reduce stress.

    Reply
  14. Autumn

    Do you happen to know the paint color of the wall with the white dishes on it?

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Hi Autumn! Yes, it is called Studio Taupe {Behr All in One}!

      Reply
  15. Jordan

    Hi Melissa! Thanks for the hosting tips! I think that often times we get so focused on the cute details of pastries and table cloths that we completely forget about the basics of hosting i.e. optimal furniture placement and simple dishes that please the masses. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
  16. Sandy

    Love your tips, Melissa! Yay, you have wheatgrass. It’s the easiest tabletop, I love it! Hugs from Oregon!

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thanks Sandy :-)

      Reply
  17. Sara Silver

    As usual, great ideas and you make each step so easy to follow! Will definitely come in handy for all future get togethers….thanks for posting!

    Reply
  18. Elaine

    gREAT TIPS . I HAVE TO SAY ONE OF MY TIPS WOULD BE TO HOST A DESSERT NIGHT. I AM NOT REALLY A COOK BUT I CAN BAKE SO i HOST dESSERT NIGHT FOR MY FRIENDS. I OFFER 2-3 DESSERTS- MINIMAL STRESS BUT ALWAYS YUMMY.

    Reply
  19. laurie

    Lovely post. Very practical and inspiring too!
    Thank you

    Reply
  20. Kayla

    I love these ideas!!! It makes me want to entertain more than I do!!! Now, I just need a solution for what to do with my crazy dog who barks and jumps on everyone:)

    Reply
  21. Brandie

    I LOVE the tagged mason jars! What a sweet idea, definitely doing that for my next party. So fun!

    Reply
  22. Betsy Cherepko

    If you’re going to write a sponsored post, this is the way to do it. I love that you have real-life, attractive advice with just a nod to the sponsor in the appropriate spot. Well done! I might just figure out a little party to throw for my friends.

    Reply
  23. Leigh

    Great ideas! I love to entertain and will definitely use some of your ideas for my next event. Thanks!
    Leigh

    Reply
  24. Kerry

    This all looks so inviting and makes total sense! I love hosting gatherings and welcome all the tips I can get!

    Reply
  25. nicole

    I am in love with your wood table on wheels. Did you make it? Buy it? Where did you get itit?!thanks!

    Reply
    • Melissa

      Thanks! It’s from World Market! :)

      Reply
  26. Lisa

    What a great party! There are definitely some great tips in here I would use at our next family get together. I love the idea of having guests write their names on a tag so that everyone knows whos drink is whos. The slate with cheese & meat is also something that I would do as well. And on a side note – your floors are beautiful:)

    Reply
  27. Delina

    Where did you get your Mason jars with handles?

    Reply
    • Melissa

      They are from World Market!

      Reply
  28. April @ illistyle

    I love our tips. You obviously know how to help your guests have a great experience. The thing that kept catching my eye was your table. I too painted my DR table white but did not paint the leaves! lol. Now whenever I entertain I what a wood grain “runner” down 1/3 of my table. I love it, but not sure how to guests take it. What has your experience been with this?

    Reply
  29. Mandy

    Salami not salame………

    Reply
  30. Heather

    These are great ideas! I love buffet style dinners over a traditional sit-down. And cooking the day before is always a great option just in case something goes wrong. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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