We are about to make the annual leap from harvesting the grapes to ringing in the New Year, with a smattering of parties in between. All of these festivities will leave us spinning if we’re not careful. As you enter this next season with the knowledge that friends will be over, now is the time to fine-tune your décor. After all, the holidays are all about eating, enjoyment, and ultimately, entertaining. So, before you are smack dab in the middle of the busiest time of year, take the opportunity to set the stage for the gatherings you’ll be hosting. What can you do to be ready?

Do It Now

The best hosts make throwing a party look easy, and one secret to simplicity is getting the work done far enough in advance that you can sit back and enjoy the merry making with your guests. As you turn the lights out after your last trick-or-treaters, look around your space and begin to visualize the next couple months of dinner parties and holiday soirees. Begin the work of holiday decorating ahead of time, so you’re home is always party-ready.

Practice Your Way to Perfect

The best way to figure out if your home is warm, welcoming and fully equipped for a holiday party is to practice with a few friends first. Inching your way into entertaining will provide you with insight as you evaluate what works and what doesn’t. During each smaller gathering, pay close attention to how your friends react as they arrive, and strive to see your party through their eyes. Should you adjust your seating areas to improve flow? Would moving your drink station keep your guests from congregating in the kitchen? Read the signals of those first visitors, tweaking your décor and arrangements as you move on to host your next gathering.

Get Close for Comfort

When it comes to entertaining, floor plan is everything, so don’t be afraid to move things around. Furniture placement has the power to make your guests feel at home, and since you’re practicing early, try out a few different combinations. Can you change up the spaces that always seem to remain empty during parties by creating more intimate furniture arrangements?

Harness Your Creativity

The key to a beautifully decorated room is not an overabundance of decorations as much as a light dusting of holiday cheer. Use items that bring comfort, texture, coziness, and shimmer. Purchase (or pull out of your closet) these important touches, and have them displayed or within reach:

  • Lighting – lamps, candles, lanterns, strings of Christmas lights
  • Accents – cable knit pillows, and throws
  • Greens – wreaths, topiaries, fresh flowers
  • Drinks – crystal glassware, decanters, punch bowls, carafes, serving trays
  • Music – playlist of holiday favorites

As the days get shorter and the season of entertaining stretches out in front of you, take hold of the opportunity to start your planning immediately. As those first guests arrive, may the anxious, shoulder-shrug mantra of “Ready or not?” be for you a blissful “Ready and waiting!”