Checklist for Organizing a Successful Holiday Event

Checklist for Organizing a Successful Holiday Event

By Debbie Williams

Any event worth doing is worth doing well. And the biggest inside secret to organizing is.... PLANNING.

Ask anyone who has ever successfully hosted a party, sponsored a community event, or thrown a children's birthday party, and they will tell you their secret was in the list. Not Aunt Mabel's famous sugar cookies, not the special sprinkles on the cupcakes, and not the high-dollar caterer.

So where do you begin? Even if you are not a list-maker, you can plan and pull off a successful event by using the infamous KISS method: Keep It Simple Sweetheart. That's not to say that you should make a half-hearted effort by tossing a few opened bags of chips on the table and telling everyone to help themselves to the drinks in the fridge! Just don't make things so complicated in your efforts to make an impression on the guests.

To keep stress at a manageable level, as well as your blood pressure, try these 3 tips for simple holiday planning:

1. MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE. Make this as detailed or brief as your little heart desires. If one word jogs your memory, that's all you need on your list. If you are into details to keep you afloat, then by all means write everything down. We each have a different communication style, and isn't writing and reading just one more way to communicate, even if it is with ourselves? (Besides, you may get lucky and pass on one of those items to someone else to do!)

Include refreshments, serving ware, decorations, tables, chairs, tablecloths, favors (optional), entertainment, eating utensils, and anything else necessary for your events' success.

2. THE OUTER LIMITS. Don't underestimate your abilities, but don't be too eager to go outside your comfort zone if you're already going to be stressed. If you don't cook or bake, then hire a caterer. Can't afford one? Then order a party tray from your favorite deli or grocery. There is something for every budget imaginable. Don't know how to make fancy centerpieces? Call your florist, visit your local craft store, or call in a favor from a talented neighbor. Candles, cut greenery, and candycanes placed strategically around the house or banquet hall are colorful and have impact.

3. CALL 911. Yes, to all you overachievers out there, it IS perfectly ok to ask for help from friends, family, and professionals. Most people are very willing to help out with assembling trays, decorations, picking up tables & chairs from rental stores, etc. Not enough room in your home for an assembly line? Divide the list, assign tasks, and let your helpers HELP. Don't micromanage, don't worry. If things are not the way you would do them, that's fine. You're only one person, remember?

It's showtime! Everything is in order, and it's time to be the best host or hostess you can possibly be. Relax, take time for yourself, change your clothes, grab an ice cold drink of something refreshing, and have fun. Can't be in more than one place at once? Not a problem, just enlist someone to fill the buffet plates, refill the ice bucket, tend the bar, take coats at the door, etc. From age 3 to 93, I'm sure you can find someone to do these jobs - just ask! And after the party, be sure to take a moment to make notes to ensure next year's planning is even easier. Happy partying!

Copyright 2000-2001 Debbie Williams

About the author

Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist, freelance writer, and founder of the online training community . She is the author of Home Management 101, available through Champion Press at


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