The secret to a great holiday party

It’s the holidays. Prime party time. If your inbox is like mine, it’s crammed with emails warning you of dire party mistakes you could make (without even knowing it!) or setting an unattainable bar for party perfection. Forget all that. I’ll let you in on the secret to great parties.

You should have fun. Stay with me, I’ll explain. When you think about hosting a party, you picture everything you need to do for your guests so they have an unforgettable time. Suddenly, you're in a pressure cooker of expectations. It's time for a change in perspective.

Step one: Imagine a party scene that appeals to you. I don’t care how unconventional it is, if it gets your imagination going, you can turn it into something totally fun. It’s like that movie, Field of Dreams. "If you build it, they will come." In this case, if you come up with a concept, let your creativity run wild, and just go for it then it will come together. 

Step two: Commit to having a fantastic time. Have you ever noticed that if you put an untouched cake on a table you practically have to use cattle prods to get people to try it? (Unless my mom is there. She’s a cake trailblazer. Love you, Mom!) But if you cut a slice and put it on a plate next to the cake, people dive in.

The same thing goes for a party. If you’re having fun—chatting, dancing, laughing—everyone else will follow your lead. How do I know this? I learned the hard way. I threw a corporate holiday party a few years ago with a dance floor and great music. And, like the cake, no one wanted to be the first person to dive in. So, I grabbed two friends, walked out on the floor, and started dancing. In front of a hundred and fifty people. It felt like the most intense 5 minutes of my life as I waited for people to join in (deeply grateful they did). But then we had a full-on dance party that lasted for hours.

Step three: You are not Martha Stewart. And you don’t need to be. I used to believe that I had to create every piece of food from scratch and ensure no one lifted a finger as I raced around trying to be the ultimate host. Then I realized I was having technically perfect parties that weren’t all that fun. I was exhausted and stressed and no one else got to be involved.

Here's the big aha. The people coming to your party want to pitch in. Everything will be more fun when you let them help. Someone wants to bring something? Great! It doesn’t correspond with your party theme? Who cares! Notice a friend in the kitchen busting the suds? Don’t stop them. Hug them and get back to the party.

OK, you’re in on the secret. Now it’s time to throw that party. But like any good secret, it’s no fun unless you tell someone else. So pass this along to a friend and while you're at it, tell us your secret to a good party. 

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Check out my Home for the Holidays board on Pinterest for beautiful decorating ideas.

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