7 Things To Remember Before Your Next Holiday Party

Jaclyn Johnson's party planning checklist is your secret to entertaining en masse — this holiday season and beyond.

party checklist
Becki Smith of Smith House Photo

Jaclyn Johnson has thrown her share of parties. This year alone, the founder hosted more than 1000 women in 7 cities for her acclaimed career conference. And while the agenda mostly aims to stoke guests' passions and fine tune their business acumen, it's not without a bit of socializing in between.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

To set the right mood for both her powerhouse panel of speakers (Gloria Steinem keynoted the event earlier this year and Kim Kardashian is lined up for the in LA), and the growing number of attendees, Johnson relies on these time-tested entertaining tricks:

1. Make yourself comfortable.

Yes, you read right. Your guests won’t ever feel comfortable if you’re not. Don’t rush around looking stressed. Don’t sweat the tiny details that no one will ever notice. Your number one goal at any gathering is to make people feel as comfortable as possible, and that starts with you. Reserve your judgment of everything that’s going “wrong” and focus on what’s going right.

party checklist
Becki Smith of Smith House Photo
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

A rustic dinner table set for speakers at the Create & Cultivate Seattle Conference in September.

2. Make sure there is plenty of seating.

Mixing and mingling is great, but if people can’t find a place to sit, you’re going to see immediate drop-off. You want people to cozy up in cute corners. Create space that encourages people to stop, sit, and stay a while. You don’t want people looking around wondering where they can park their bodies. Give them options.

3. Curate the right guest list and make guests sit next to unknowns.

Sure, there’s that surge of terror when you’re invited to a dinner party and you don’t have a one. Or when you SHOW up and see that you’re seated next to someone you don’t know. Stick to your guns on this! Be bold and place strangers next to each other. The more unique the place setting, the better. This is an amazing opportunity for people to get to know each other and for your event to hold a memorable place in their heart. What will guests remember more: A conversation with a friend that may (or may not) change their game. Or a convo with someone brand new? Start the night as strangers, leave as friends is our C&C motto.

party checklist
Becki Smith of Smith House Photo

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Place settings featured cane chargers and a pinstriped runner from The Mine.

4. Set an intention for the evening.

OK. OK. A dinner party isn't a yoga class, but setting an intention can help guide the atmosphere of the event. Do you want people to relax and enjoy themselves? (Well, yes, obviously). Do you want people to engage in deep conversation? Do you want a more playful vibe? Every event is different, as is every dinner. Setting the right intention can help guide that vibe. And that’s entirely up to you as the host.

5. A playlist is a must.

Music at an event is a non-negotiable. Radio commercials are a non-starter. It doesn't matter how gorgeous the decor is, how on top of it the staff is, or how tasty the morsels are, without music your event will fall flat, and your guests will u-turn out the door.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

6. You can’t do it all yourself.

You put the “art” in party, but like everything else, it takes a village. If you’re hosting a 50-100 person event for example, make sure you staff up right, from servers to bartenders to bussers. You don’t want guests standing around holding dirty napkins, empty glasses or plates. For 50-100 people you should have approximately 4-6 wait staff. It’s worth it.

party checklist
Becki Smith of Smith House Photo

Create & Cultivate founder, Jaclyn Johnson, and editorial director, Arianna Schioldager, toast to another successful event.

7. Use string lights.

String lights are used at events far and wide. From dinner parties to weddings, they create an intimate ambiance that’s totally Instagrammable, which is exactly what you want. If you’re throwing an event outdoors, I suggest using commercial grade string lights. The two most popular sizes are Commercial C9 and Commercial Medium. Both sizes are really popular (and can be used for permanent outdoor lighting, if that’s your thing.) Commercial C9 bulbs are typically used in smaller spaces, since the string is lighter weight and the bulbs are smaller.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Entertaining