The holiday season is in full swing, and whether you’re planning a get-together with friends and family or a party for the entire office, hosting your own holiday event can quickly become an overwhelming task. Though you can hire an event planner to help you plan larger parties, following these essential principles will ensure that even a smaller-scale event can prove successful.

Choose the Right Date

Your party will hardly be the only event filling your guests’ calendars during the holiday season. Businesses, schools, and churches all host events throughout the month — and that’s before you take other family and friends into consideration!

Realize that you probably won’t be able to find a perfect time that works for everyone. With this in mind, try to find a date and time that will still work for your key guests. The sooner you can pick a date, the more likely everyone will be able to fit you into their calendar. If planning a last-minute get-together, see if you can pull off a mid-week event, when people are generally less busy.

Pick Your Theme

No holiday party is complete without a festive theme! While there’s nothing wrong with a generic holiday event, you can make your party much more memorable when you choose a fun and unique theme.

Whether you’re hosting an ugly sweater party or “Christmas in Hawaii,” be sure your guests know the theme in advance — especially if they need to dress a certain way or bring items for a White Elephant gift exchange. You can further build on your chosen theme with related activities and decorations. The more you go “all in” on the theme, the more exciting the party’s atmosphere will be.

Don’t Forget the Food

It seems that guests pretty much always expect you to have food and drinks at your holiday party — and you don’t want to disappoint them! The type of food you should offer will vary depending on your party’s location, time, and theme. For a mid-afternoon get-together, snacks and appetizers are fine, but if you’re planning something during dinnertime, you’d better be ready to provide a full meal.

It can help to set expectations for your guests by mentioning if you will be serving food on the invitation. For extra festive fun, cookies and a hot cocoa bar make a great addition to normal party snacks.

Parting Thoughts

Hosting a holiday party can prove stressful — but it doesn’t have to be that way. With some advance planning that accounts for the complexities of the holiday season, you’ll be able to throw an event that all your guests will enjoy.