6 Common Mistakes Not to Make When Hosting a Holiday Party

Overhead view of a holiday dinner table

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The holidays are already a joyous season, but a little extra thought and care will make celebrations even more special for your family and friends. If you're in the process of planning a holiday get-together, you'll want to read this list of common hosting mistakes first. Below are six common mistakes to avoid, according to entertaining and event experts, along with what to do instead to ensure that your seasonal gathering is a major hit.

Putting Up Greenery Too Early

Sure, you're probably super excited to deck the halls with plenty of time before your big holiday bash. But this putting up live greenery is one instance in which the early bird doesn't get the worm. Greenery is quick to dry out, after all. "Buy and place greenery garlands the day before or day of the party so that it is all looking fresh," suggests Anne Hepfer, designer and author of MOOD. "You can also purchase some sprays to help with wilting." Other seasonal plants require some TLC, too. "Magnolia leaves especially tend to turn brown very quickly indoors if they aren’t in water," Hepfer adds. "And of course, don’t forget to water your live Christmas tree!"

garland on mantel

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Not Keeping Guests' Comfort in Mind

You want guests to relax and enjoy the excitement of the season — so make sure they can actually do so by addressing potential causes for concern ahead of time so that your friends and family can eat, drink, and be merry. First things first, carve out a space for guests to set their belongings once they arrive. "We have a drop zone for coats, boots, purses, so guests can have free hands," notes Elise Handler of Keen Events. "And we always ask about allergies ahead of time." Informing friends about animals in the home is also thoughtful. "We also like to warn new guests of our dogs' bark and will keep a lint brush handy to keep our guests' velvet black pants looking fresh all night," Handler adds.

Not Being Prepared for the Festivities

You won't want to spend the day of your party scrambling. There are a few simple tasks that you can complete ahead of time to make things as seamless as possible, though. "Set the table the night before, make a holiday playlist, and shop for items prior and prep them — for example, have lemons and limes cut," urges Allison Welch of As You Wish Colorado.

table set for party

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Not Setting Out Backup Gear for Your Ugly Sweater Party

Looking to host a classic ugly holiday sweater party this year? That's great—but it's always thoughtful to keep your guests in mind and set out a few extras! "We’re all pressed for time and money," says Tracey Rezak of Pomp Parties. "If someone doesn’t have time to search through racks for the perfect ugly sweater, give them a 'make at party' option." This is super simple and fun and is something Rezak has offered in the past. "Have plain sweaters in various sizes hanging on a rack for guests to choose when they enter, and set up themed stations for them to create their very won version of ugly," she suggests. "We had a kitchen station, with plastic utensils, plastic kitchen gloves, ugly napkins, spice containers and worn oven mitts," she explains. "Another with assorted board games pieces, cards against humanity, and fuzzy dice." Better yet, you have a built-in party activity that will appeal to guests of all ages. "Your guests will have a ball creating something outrageous on the spot, unlike anything they’d ever find at a big box store," Rezak explains.

Hosts should always have backups on hand for parties with set themes (besides ugly sweater) or games. That way if a guest forgets to wear a Santa hat or bring a White Elephant gift, you have something they can use.

knit sweaters on hangers

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Forgetting These Steps at a Cookie Exchange

Cookie exchanges are also popular around the holidays — make them even more special by encouraging guests to share the story behind their recipe. "The best think about the holidays is the traditions they bring us back to and the memories they dig up," Rezak says.  "If your great aunt’s nut cake is to die for, get a black and white picture of her and type her recipe underneath. Have guests bring a photo of the person who gave the the recipe, a snippet about what makes it special, and the recipe," she adds. Rezak suggests placing these photos on the table by each plate so that guests can soak up some history while they snack. On a related note, Rezak reminds hosts and bakers alike to be mindful of guests' allergies and indicate the contents of their baked goods, too.

reindeer cookies

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Not Thinking of the Kids

Maybe your party is primarily for adults but some of your friends will have little ones in tow. Be sure to keep their best interests in mind, too, by setting up some simple activities for kiddos to enjoy. "Give them something magical to do while adults are mingling," Rezak suggests. "Create a reindeer food station where children can fill a bag with everything they think Santa’s reindeer will need for the big night," she suggests. "Glitter (flying power), oats (energy to get through the night), cinnamon (warmth), flour (to douse Rudolph’s nose when it gets too bright). Have them write a card to Santa and attach it to the bag as a take home gift they can use on Christmas Eve."