by Allie Cooper

The holiday season is fun and filled with entertaining, which can also be a busy and stressful with hosting family and friends. With all the cooking, cleaning and preparing to do, it is helpful to have a few shortcuts up your sleeve to help you get through another busy holiday season.

Firstly, always have a selection of new, unscented candles on hand. Why unscented? So that there is not another scent to distract guests from the tasty food you are serving. Why candles? To add ambiance and light which contributes to a cozy and well-lit space. The local dollar store is a good place to pick up some inexpensive candles and votives (or holders) that you can customize at home. A simple can of spray paint and you have a brand new votive! Use this technique to customize your candle holders for any event you are hosting.

Secondly, before guests arrive, be sure to clear out your front hall closet to make space for your guest’s coats and footwear. Temporarily move your coats to another closet in the meantime to allow guests to feel welcome and like they have a place in your home. This extra step will go a long way.

I always advise that swapping out your pillows, throws and small décor items seasonally will bring new life to your space. It is important to set the tone for any gathering by displaying pieces that coincide with each gathering. In the holiday season, make guests feel warm and cozy with a comfy throw and wintery hue pillows. This seasonal swap adds a dose of sophistication as well as consistency to your gathering.

If you are hosting a large or formal gathering, consider renting the glassware and plateware. This will not only reduce the amount of preparation and cleanup time, but you can ensure that you have all the matching pieces and a pattern to suit your event. The extra expense is nothing compared to what you save in time and your sanity level.

The last thing that I recommend is keeping fancy paper on-hand to wow your guests with customized place cards and menu cards. This additional detail will elevate your event and inform guests of the difference between say, a brie and a camembert. You can also purchase or make reusable labels, like these mini chalkboards, for a similar effect.

Remember that hosting loved ones does not mean you have to break the bank. Take good care of the seasonal items you purchase and wrap them up carefully for use next year. This will save you time and money in the long run.