With so many ways to entertain, the open house is my favorite way to celebrate the holiday season. No fancy sit down meal to plan, just a casual get together that makes it easy for loved ones to come and go as they please. Here is how to plan your holiday open house this year.
Pick an Optimal Window
If you are including a lot of families with kids; late afternoon or early evening are your best bets and a four-hour time frame allows for people to flow in and out. Send out invitations at least 6 weeks in advance. It may seem early for a casual get together but people make their holiday plans far in advance so get on the calendar before the madness begins. Use an online invite like Evite - it's the easiest way to manage RSVPs and invitations can be sent to email or via text.
Make it Casual
Let your guest know that the only dress code is, there is no dress code. Whether they are stopping by in between Christmas shopping or making your party the main event, anything goes. We host an annual Christmas Eve open house and I am always sure to stress that our guests are welcome to stop by for a quick drink in between other plans to or stay for the whole evening. The point of an open house is to allow people a flexible window of time in which to visit.
Set up the Bar
Set up a DIY bar with wine glasses, an ice bucket, bottle openers and beverage napkin. I love to add a few small bowls of mixed nuts as well.
It is not necessary to stock a full bar-beer, wine, and one specialty cocktail is plenty. I love this easy Cranberry Mimosa. For non alcoholic options, make sure you have bottled water and soda. A slow cooker full of hot mulled cider is easy to throw together and always a festive treat.
Plan the Menu
Think buffet-style food that can be served at room temperature — or, if served warm, can cool to room temperature and still be appealing. Four or five items are enough and try to stick to finger foods as much as possible. Everything should be prepped in advance and ready to go. You don't want to spend much time cooking in the kitchen while your guests are there to visit with you. Prepare the buffet a few days in advance, laying out the serving spoons, platters, baskets and bowls that will hold the food with notes to label each platter with what it will hold and . , and put the serving utensils on top of each dish.
Easy Decorating Tips
Chances are you already have many holiday decorations to work with. Pick a few favorites and incorporate them into your buffet. I like to use clippings from our Christmas tree, ornaments and holly berries when setting up the food.
Music & Entertainment
Don't forget the music! A holiday party would not be the same without some Christmas music playing. iTunes has some great holiday playlists that you can use or compile a list of your own favorites.
Keep the kiddos busy
I love a card making station to keep the kids busy. Provide some simple craft supplies like paper, markers, glue, ribbon and other embellishment and cover the table with Kraft paper that can be folded up then tossed for easy cleanup.
Don't forget about coats! Set up a coat rack in the garage or spare room or use a bed, but designate a place for people to hang up store their jackets.
Make cleanup easier. Place several trash bags around the space so that it is easy for guest to dispose of their garbage.
Stock the Powder Room. Place an amenity basket in your bathroom with things like bandaids, breath mints, floss, a sewing kid, stain stick, etc. so guests can easily solve little problems without having to ask.