Planning to host a Christmas gathering? Preparing our homes for all those extra guests in the run-up to Christmas can turn messy, especially if you don’t get some basic need-to-dos out of the way in time.

Be they friends, colleagues, family, or all of the above – making sure you provide a memorable evening is not an easy challenge to take on. (If it were, chances are you wouldn’t be the one doing it). If this isn’t your first time organising a party during the festive season, then you may already be aware of what doesn’t always work out, like mixing different groups of people and delaying most of the work till the last couple of days.

If you’re a new homeowner about to entertain guests for Christmas for the first time or you simply have never gotten the chance to do it before, then the main priority is to make a good impression, make sure everyone has fun, and that this doesn’t take too much time. You may be hosting, but you still deserve to enjoy the holiday.

The tips below will really help you deal with the issues that can slow down a party’s momentum to a slow, painful crawl.

Be Realistic

Giving a thorough, deep cleaning to your home that goes over and above the ‘weekly tidy-up’ makes sense if you have the time, but if you don’t, then stick to the basics: tackle the rooms you’ll want the guests to stay in, such as the living area, organise the kitchen, check the Christmas decorations, and deal with the bathroom.

Make things easy

Write down your WIFI password on a paper and leave it on a spot that’s easy to get to, and prepare your drinks on a tray or table. You can offer 3-4 options: mulled wine, apple cider, eggnog, or rum punch.

Delegate

Yes, you’re the host, but that doesn’t absolve your guests from participating in making the evening a success. Task guests: Ask them to bring a drink (like a wine) they enjoy and want to share, send songs they’d want to listen to (you can easily ask them to collaborate together to create a playlist on spotify), and see if anyone can volunteer to give a lift. If you want things to stay on the safer side, suggest they book a van or a taxi so that getting a little tipsy won’t be an issue. Also, don’t forget about yourself: Pick a friend who likes to dress up and ask them to come prepare at your house (and give you a bit of a makeover)!

Start at the doorstep

Your doorway doesn’t just welcome guests, it makes a first impression and sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Hop to a garden centre and flank your front entrance with a pair of topiaries, and then get a pair of LED lanterns and let them sit by the entry or on the steps. You can also put a garland around the railings or along the doorframe and tie everything together with a traditional wreath.

Make sure things work in your favour

This is your opportunity to save a lot of cleaning and hassle later on. Clear hanging space so that they can take off their clothes with ease, and consider buying a set of cheap slippers (like the ones you get at the spa) for your guests. It is unlikely that your guests will complain if asked to remove their street shoes and slip into something more comfortable. You can use a basket, a tray, or any other surface to store their shoes.

Prepare the celebration space

This is where you want your guests to stay. Think sight, smell, and sound. When it comes to sight: you can keep it simple, a Christmas tree and scented candles can be enough, but if you want to go the extra mile, add stockings or other decor elements to the equation. Next, smell: the drinks you prepare will already work in your favour, and adding scented candles, wax melts that you can heat up in a bowl, or essential oils will really complete the mood. Finally, music: try to get a playlist made by your guests in the weeks leading to your event, or just trust youtube if they fail in this task – Mariah Carey always does the trick.

P.S: Just because it is Christmas, it does not mean that all of the songs must have Christmas in the lyrics. It can get old very quickly.

Shift the burden to non-essential rooms

Shoes and coats stacking up in the corridor? Move them to a spare room or any other room you’re not using for the night to keep it all hidden away.

Set up games

If you intend on inviting people from different circles in your life, a game is an excellent way to break the ice and get everyone interacting. You can opt for pictionary, charades, musical guessing games, or a round of two truths and a lie.

Prepare your food plan

Finger food and canapés help you make sure there’s something for everyone. If you don’t want to just rely on frozen foods from the store, a quick google search will give you loads of quick, easy recipes for food you can make in batches.

Flip the script and give a gift!

It is not wrong to expect that guests bring a small gift or a little something to help make the evening work, but it’s also nice to give them a token of your appreciation at the end of the night. This can be a thank you note, a couple of sweets, cookies, or any other small, inexpensive item, like candles or postcards.

Do you like hosting at Christmas? Any tips for fellow hosts?