Parties are work, too.

Parties are work, too.

Six tricks for a successful (and stress-free) soirée.

Congratulations on your decision to host a party. Don’t stress. Deep breath. Repeat after us…“I am very popular and hospitable.”

Good. Now that you’re in the right mind space, here are some secrets for stress-free party planning. Just some tips and tricks that will help you relax and present your best self.

Cater it. If you’re hosting at the holidays, chances are you’re already stretched thin on time. A caterer will work with you to plan the tastiest spread and figure out the right amount of food to serve. With Panera® Catering, a Catering Coordinator can help you choose and customize a delicious menu made from select fresh, wholesome ingredients—plus they’ll deliver it right to your door, providing you told them the right door to deliver it to.

Make a list. Not just any list—a detailed list of nouns you need. People, places, things. What to buy, what to order, what to borrow or set up, what to clean. You know…things. Then group the items by when they need to happen: two weeks before, a week before, the day before and the day of.

Cheat on cleaning. No one’s going to check for dust under the upstairs bed or look to see if all the laundry’s put away. Give the entertaining spaces a once-over, and the day of the party, clean the bathroom that your guests will use. Otherwise, feel free to sweep clutter behind a closed door and tuck mail and papers into a drawer.

Create a signature drink. No time to stock a full bar? Don’t. Come up with one signature drink and make a big batch that can be poured throughout the night (think sangria or punch). Then get a few bottles of wine and some sparkling and still water, and have plenty of clean glasses and ice on hand.

Size up your space. Eye your furniture layout. Consider bringing in a few extra chairs from other rooms and arrange everything for maximum flow and comfort. Clear tables and shelves of frames and breakables, and spread coasters or placemats on surfaces for drinks. Roll up rugs you don’t want either stained or tripped over.

Prep for success. A few small steps can make things a whole lot easier for you during party time. Set your oven on a low temp to heat dishes or keep others warm. Fill the sink with soapy water to hold used dishes in the kitchen. And have a stain-removing stick handy in case of spills.

And…go party!