7 Ways to De-Stress Your Holiday Planning

Planning your holiday event and breaking into a cold sweat? Relax. This holiday party cheat sheet will help you ditch the stress and enjoy your guests.

Pre-plan your table.
Drape a pretty tablecloth and set out plates and serving utensils a day ahead of time. Add a few seasonal decorations to the set up—think candy canes and berry sprigs—but keep it simple: The food is supposed to be the star.

Think finger foods.
No forks and spoons means less mess to clean up later. Assemble a few trays of party food favorites like sandwiches, chips and cookies or—for the simplest solution—leave it all to your Panera catering coordinator. If there’s a must-make dish you’re known for, feel free to include it—just keep it to one dish for simplicity.

Make it self-serve.
Serving drinks is much easier when you keep the bar simple. Serve big-batch punches in easy-to-pour pitchers so guests can help themselves or opt for a slow cooker of spiked hot chocolate with whipped cream for garnish and candy canes for stirrers.


Lighten up.
Want instant party atmosphere without a lot of effort? Arrange strings of clear holiday lights around a focal point (think the buffet or drinks table). For additional warmth, light a few pretty pillar candles and display them throughout the room—or opt for flameless candles, for even less hassle.

Contemplate your cleanup.
Empty your dishwasher before the party begins so it’s ready for dirty dishes afterward. And even if you delay doing any other cleaning after the party, be sure to pop leftovers in the fridge and take out the trash before you go to bed—your nose will thank you in the morning.


Keep the end in mind.
Have a plan in place to end the party gracefully: When you’re ready to send guests off, lower the music and announce a last call for the beverage table before starting to tidy up. Most guests will take the hint—and if they don’t, recruit them to help clean!


Give a simple send-off.
End your party on a sweet note by giving out a cookie at the door—homemade not required. Just tuck each cookie into a clear cellophane bag; tie it with a curly ribbon if you want to be extra fancy. Gingerbread men are classic, or try gifting Cinnamon Crunch Snickerdoodle Cookies for seasonal spice.