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How to Plan for a Gathering

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

With all the wonderful fall and winter holidays approaching, some of you may find yourself hosting a gathering or two. They may be casual get-togethers or carefully curated events. Either way, it’s going to take some planning to get it right, and that can put a lot of pressure on the host. So, here’s an organized approach that should help you get ready without feeling overwhelmed.



Plan Your Event Details Early Success starts with early planning. Start thinking about the event you want to host several weeks before you want to have it. If you wait until the day before, or even the week before, you’ll be rushed and much less likely to have it turn out the way you envision.


Put time on your calendar to think through your menu, guest list, theme, etc. Will you need to order special items? Think about the intangibles as well. Do you want this to be a fun and festive event…or quiet and cozy? Giving yourself extra time to think through what you want will leave more time for creativity and special touches later.


Create a Checklist Checklists are a great way to knock out to-do items and feel a sense of accomplishment as you work towards a goal. Creating one can help you stay on track with your preparations. It can be very satisfying to tick items off the list as you count down to a special gathering. It may be helpful to put dates next to each item, so you don’t get behind schedule.


Preliminary Planning:

  • Decide on a Time and Date

  • Set the Menu

  • Choose the Tone or Theme

  • Consider Special Items Needed

  • ·Make a Guest List


Detailed Planning and Execution:

  • Communicate With Guests: Give guests plenty of notice so they can put your event on their calendar. Be sure to let them know if you would like them to bring something and what the theme and dress code will be. Keep a list of any guest who commits to bring something and check in with them just before the event. Don’t forget to ask if any of your guests have dietary restrictions!

  • Create a Schedule: No matter what kind of gathering you are having, consider the “flow” of the event. It’s important to have at least a rough idea of how you want the day or evening to progress, so you have time for everything you want to do. Having a loose schedule will help you stay organized and keep things running smoothly.

  • Gather Décor and Other Supplies: Before your gathering, there may be some items you need to purchase. If something has to be ordered or booked in advance, take care of that as early as possible.

  • Plan Activities and Entertainment: For holiday gatherings, you’ll want to have something people can do besides eating. So, think about having magazines, games, or puzzles available for guests to check out in their “down time.” Or, if you want to do something with the whole group, plan it out.

  • Make a Playlist: Music is a great way to set the tone of your gathering. Not only does it provide atmosphere, but it covers awkward silences in conversation and can make people less conscientious when eating together. So, creating an appropriate playlist can be an important task. Or, see if any of your guests would like to offer their own musical talents!

  • Choose a Second-in-command: Designate a member of your family or a guest you can rely on as “second in command.” You’ll want it to be someone that would be willing and able to handle last-minute things that come up….like needing an extra chair for an unexpected guest or replacing the dessert that got dropped on the way out of the oven!

  • Thaw Frozen Food: If you plan to cook poultry or pie that has been frozen, be sure to note the required thawing time and move them to the refrigerator to thaw safely in advance.

  • Charge Your Camera: How many times have you reached for your camera and remembered that you never charged the batteries? Put that task on your checklist so you’re ready to capture all the special moments to come.

  • Send a Quick Reminder to Guests: A day or two before your gathering, send a quick message to guests, reminding them of the details.

  • Clean: Perhaps the biggest stressor when it comes to having guests in our home is making sure everything is clean and tidy. Determine when you can dedicate some time for cleaning that is close enough, but not too close, to the date of your gathering. Don’t put this one off or you may find yourself answering the door to guests with a broom in your hand!

  • Decorate: How early you decorate will depend on your personal schedule, but getting it done at least slightly in advance will take a lot of pressure off the preparations.

  • Pick Up Last-minute Items: Some things you need may have to be fresh, like bakery items. So, plan for a last-minute run to pick them up. Remember, it doesn't have to be you! Even if you have everything, leave some time in your schedule to get anything you may have forgotten about.


When you take the time to gradually prepare for a gathering, leaving plenty of time for planning and prepping, you and your guests are bound to enjoy it much more than something hastily thrown together. Not only will it give you time to get everything done at a more relaxed pace, it will also give you the mental space for a little creativity. Plus, and most importantly, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself when your guests arrive!

Let us know if you could use a hand preparing your home for a gathering. The Element of Fun Organizing team can be scheduled to come out to tidy your common areas to make them festive and guest-ready while you attend to other things. Contact Us to learn more!

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