Even the most daunting holiday get-together can be a breeze if you just know what to focus on—and when. Follow our holiday planning timeline to make it simple to pull your party together.
4 weeks before:
- Determine the date and time of your party.
- Create your guest list, and send your invitees the scoop. If you’ve got a big crowd, an online invitation service can make it easier to keep track of RSVPs.
3 weeks before:
- Start thinking about the menu.
- Decide on any special decorations—and start shopping for anything you need.
- Make sure you have enough plates, glasses, serving dishes and flatware for your party.
- Check that you have enough room at the table for everyone. Pick up folding tables and chairs if you need extra seating to accommodate everyone.
2 weeks before:
- Pull together your recipes and finalize your menu. Don’t forget to plan for the bar, too. Make one big list of all the ingredients you’ll need.
- Check your pantry against the ingredient list, and make your shopping list.
- Make sure you have all the equipment necessary to make everything on your menu. If you’re making things outside your usual repertoire, make note of any less-common tools you might need, such as pie weights or meat thermometers, and pick them up in advance.
- Order your turkey, if you need to pre-order one.
1 week before:
- Clear out anything old or unnecessary from your fridge, to make room for the party stuff. Try to “eat from the fridge” this week to use up what you have.
- Shop for your groceries, including anything you might need for the bar.
- Review recipes again, and figure out if any components (or the whole recipe) can be made or prepped in advance.
- Start thawing the turkey, if it’s frozen. Allow 1 day for each 4 pounds of turkey.
3 days before:
- Make a clean sweep of your house.
- Deck your halls with any special décor.
1 day before:
- Set the table so you’re ready to go.
- Choose serving dishes for each item on your menu, and figure out where they will go on the table or sideboard. Put a sticky note on each dish to identify which menu item it will hold. Put out trivets for the hot dishes.
- Cook any recipes that can be made in advance.
- Do any advance prep you can—like chopping onions or peeling carrots.
- Set up the bar (minus anything that needs to be chilled).
- Review the cooking game plan for tomorrow, making sure that you note what times dishes need to hit the oven or the stovetop.
The day of the party:
- Start your turkey cooking (in the oven, fryer or smoker).
- Take one fast cleaning whirl through the house.
- Cook or assemble any remaining dishes.
- Get dressed in your best.
- Put out your appetizers.
- Enjoy your party!
Print this out and put it on your fridge for reference: Printable PDF of Holiday Countdown.
What are your best holiday planning tips? Tell us in the comments.