Stress Free Preparation

Good parties take some planning, but they don't need to be complicated. We're here to help with some time-saving secrets, planning tips and creative ways to cut corners. Be realistic with your time and energy, plan your approach, keep your sense of humor and most of all, have fun! After all, you should enjoy the celebration as much as everyone else.

Keep organized with Checklists

  • Make a timetable. Include time to shop, prepare foods, set the table and decorate.

  • Post a calendar on the fridge, with things to do marked on each day, for an at-a-glance reminder of key steps leading up to the big day.

  • Shop ahead of time. Buy everything you can except for perishables. Pick these up the day before or day of the party to conserve fridge space.

Realize that it's OK Not to Make Everything from Scratch

  • Don't do all the cooking. A dash through the supermarket can be really helpful. Order a pre-cooked turkey from your local grocer or restaurant. Grab a bagged salad, fresh bread and dessert from the bakery. There's even jarred turkey gravy. Once everything is served on your own dishes, it will all look and taste like homemade, without all the stress.

  • If guests offer to bring something, let them. A contribution of bread or rolls, a side dish or a favourite dessert is one less thing you have to worry about.

But if You Do Like to Make Everything from Scratch, Start Early

  • If you do the cooking yourself, plan to do as much as possible ahead of time, to avoid that last minute rush.

  • Enlist the kids to wash vegetables, roll out pie dough and set the table. Or keep them busy with craft ideas that make great decorations for the holiday table.

Plan an Interesting Menu

  • Plan your menu early. Choose foods and recipes that complement each other with colour, texture and flavour, and add variety by serving some hot dishes and cold ones.

  • Select your recipes and read them ahead of time. Check your cupboards for supplies and make a shopping list. Shop early for the staples and non-perishables, and a day or two ahead for the perishables and last-minute additions.

Serve Buffet or Sit-Down

  • For a family-style or sit-down meal, assign one person to help you clear and serve so that the conversation isn't interrupted between courses by everyone getting up. Set up a sideboard or table for the large platters and dishes to avoid a cluttered table.

  • To serve dinner buffet style, stack large dinner plates at the start of the buffet table and put the silverware and napkins at the end. This way, hands are free to fill up the plates. Be sure to have plenty of seating planned for laptop dining, and have someone pass a tray of drinks so guests don't have to juggle plates and glasses before they are settled.

  • Formal or family-style meals are traditional, but they also require a lot more space. If your table is tight, a buffet may be a good alternative.

Set the Mood

  • A few days early, check to see that your silver is polished, glasses and dishes are sparkling and linens are freshly washed and ironed.

  • Plan and lay out your serving platters and utensils ahead of time. You can even place bowls and platters on the table the morning of the big feast and put notes in each bowl indicating what food goes in it. This makes it easy for others to help, too.

  • Check out our Nature Walk Centerpiece or our cranberry crafts for easy and memorable cranberry accents to adorn your table.

  • Collect and arrange flowers, so they'll be in full bloom for the party. If ordering an arrangement, plan to place the order and pick it up ahead of time. Or have it delivered and save the trip.

  • Choose music selections that will delight guests of any age. Classical, jazz or oldies are good choices.

  • Make a CD mix of your favourite tunes, or load several selections into the CD changer that way you don't have to get up in the middle of dinner to change the music.

Engage your Guests

  • Have someone come a bit early to help with decorations, organize foods and pass appetizers. Don't forget to enlist help from the kids.

  • Assign people to bring foods; appetizers are fun and easy to bring along. So are desserts.

  • Friends love hanging out in the kitchen to lend a helping hand.

  • Have a "job jar" or list of ways others can help. Guests can pick a simple way to help out, from setting the table to pouring drinks.

  • Ask family or friends to pitch in. Older kids can help with simple decorations, clear away clutter or pass appetizers. Grandparents can supervise young children.

Set Aside Some Time for Yourself

  • Before guests arrive, take some time for a quick nap, bubble bath or to enjoy a favourite magazine. Just 20 minutes can mean the difference between looking frantic and feeling fabulous.

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