Once again the holidays are upon us. Planning a party or a family get together in honor of the season? Keeping organized is crucial to keeping your holiday-stress-o-meter in the ‘calm zone.’ A few simple tips can keep you from burning out and help you plan a fun get together that is virtually stress free.

Holiday Party Planning 101

Consider the following questions when planning a holiday party.

What type of party is it? You may want to have a formal dinner party, or an informal buffet-style get together. Your party might even be something in between these options. It is important to determine so that when people ask, “What should I wear?” you will know what to tell them.

How much space is available? Location is important to plan, even down to the room where most of the guests will be spending a majority of their time. For dinner parties, don’t overbook your seating. If your table seats 8 comfortably, don’t try to cram 12 guests. If it is an informal get together, a few extra people probably won’t matter, but do consider where people will sit if they get tired of standing.

Who will you invite? A range of ages is always appropriate for the holidays. Make sure your invited guests get along with one another and have similar interests. Arguments can create unwanted tension at a party, and it would only add to your stress, and spoil the mood for your guests.

What will everyone do? Planning some activity, and an alternate activity is a good idea. You never know, for one reason or another your first plan may not work out. Give yourself options so that people will stay engaged and enjoying themselves.

What will everyone eat? Plan your menu and make extra food for potentially large appetites. Consider your guests and any food allergies they have. If you are having a potluck, plan to cover parts of the meal that might be forgotten. You may want to have filler dishes for items that don’t feed everyone.

Will there be alcohol? Make plans for delivering your guests home or accommodating a sleepover if they are unable to drive. Plan on serving alcohol and most of your guests drink, make your guests aware ahead of time.

Party Preparation 101

Make a list: Write down a shopping list with everything that you will need for the event. Consider everything from meal planning to decorations when you create your list.

The food: If you are cooking, make simple meals that aren’t too much trouble. Use a nutcracker to open small bottles of ingredient bottles, like vanilla extract. There are options besides cooking yourself, like having the party catered, purchasing pre-cooked meals and desserts from the store, or having others bring food. Keep it simple, and have two dessert options as opposed to six.

Avoid lines whenever possible. Go shopping in the morning during a weekday if you can. This will save you the mental stress of wasted time standing around.

Employ the children. If they are old enough to walk and talk, they can probably help you. Find little tasks that they can help you with, especially when it comes to keeping the house organized, and decorating for the party.

A really cool thing to do during your party is to ask each friend to write a letter that describes his or her personal wish for the coming year and seal it in a self-addressed envelope. Write this task into your schedule now and store these cards with your holiday decorations. Next year they will magically appear at the right time and ready to mail! Then surprise your friends by mailing the letters next Christmas or New Year’s.

This special treat only requires a few envelopes, paper and pens gathered in advance and grouped into a basket. Many of your friends will meet or exceed their goals next year and you will be amazed at the many thank-you calls and stories that come back to you from the letters!

Remember, it is important to enjoy your party and the holidays. If you are comfortable and relaxed, your party guests will be as well. Plan ahead and consider problems before they happen. Stay organized from start to finish, and you will have a stress-free holiday blast!