1. Write down a plan of action. Writing up a schedule listing each step, from grocery shopping to prepping ingredients, will help cut down on last-minute stress and hopefully curb the potential for forgotten details. Plus, planning a menu well in advance allows time to think things through, preventing any less-than-ideal ideas, such as a menu that depends on last-minute assembly, from becoming a reality.
2. Limit options. Apply this principle to everything from food to decor to drinks as this simplifies preparation and planning. Doubling up on batches of foods and drinks is easier than preparing multiple dishes, and makes replenishing empty platters and pitchers a cinch. Plus, sticking to a holiday cocktail and specialty beer or wine rather than offering a full bar should also cut help cut back on costs.
3. Plan for different stations. Spread the food and drink out at different stations set up throughout the party. This will prevent traffic jams and help shepherd guests along while encouraging mingling.
4. Set out serveware the night before. Prevent any last-minute scrambles to find an extra platter or replace a broken dish by taking inventory the night before.
5. Tend to the trash. Empty the garbage before your guests arrive and set out a clearly designated trash bin/garbage area to control the mess and make cleanup easier.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff. It's party time, and once the food's served and the drinks are poured, the only thing that matters is having a good time. No one will know the difference if something doesn’t turn out as planned — if the host is relaxed and happy, the guests will follow suit.