Top 5 Holiday Party-Planning Fails (and How to Avoid Them)

The holidays are here and the relatives are swarming -- the last thing you want is a party fail. And the best way to learn how to avoid mistakes? By talking to people who've been there, in the depths of holiday despair!

So we asked our savvy community of home cooks at FOOD52 and rounded up 100 of their best holiday entertaining tips to include in our Holiday Recipe & Survival Guide for iPad. Here are the top 5 potential snafus and how to avoid them.

Have snacks on hand to keep your guests happy.Have snacks on hand to keep your guests happy.

FAIL #1: You don't have enough food on hand for unexpected (or unexpectedly hungry) guests.

FIX: Be smart -- stock that freezer.

"I make chili in the winter in large quantities and freeze it. I keep cheddar cheese, salsa, greek yogurt, and tortilla chips in the house so I always have the makings of an impromptu chili supper. I also always have different kinds of nuts and good chocolate in the house. And I make biscotti and keep them in the freezer. If someone pops by after dinner we make espresso or cappuccino and biscotti." - drbabs

>> RELATED: Get 3 Fast, Festive Cookie Recipes on Shine.

Secret CookiesSecret Cookies

FAIL #2: You wait till the last minute to buy everything.

FIX: Buy everything but ice days ahead (and make someone else pick that up if you can).

"I shop for produce two or three days in advance so I avoid the last-minute-ers; that way, I'm not sorting through dregs, driving around to several different markets, or even changing a menu because something is sold out." - boulangere

>> RELATED: See 7 Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfasts on Shine.

Make-Ahead Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast PuffsMake-Ahead Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Puffs

FAIL #3: You try to do it all yourself.

FIX: Put your guests to work!


"I usually press guests into: napkin folding (the fancy way; give them printed directions); writing out and decorating place cards for the guests (I have markers, glitter, glue, and holiday-themed items such as leaves or little pumpkins on hand. This is particularly good for kids. Can you tell I used to be an elementary school teacher?); securing the candles into the candlesticks and lighting them; wiping smudge marks off the good crystal; ricing the potatoes; walking the dog." - wssmom

>> RELATED: See 8 things to assign to guests who can't sit still.

They can do the dishes, for starters.They can do the dishes, for starters.

FAIL #4: You force an elaborate ice-breaker on your guests (or don't plan one at all, and nobody's chatting.)

FIX: Keep the conversation simple (and natural).

"I always ask how guests met one another. While it is not an organized "activity," it makes for an interesting opening gambit and everyone has a story (sometimes a juicy one!)" - lorigoldsby

Seating arrangements are your friends.Seating arrangements are your friends.

FAIL #5: You let people pick their own seats, and they huddle in cliques.

FIX: Be a little bossy.

"I believe in seating arrangements. Put the funniest guest in the middle of the table, separate couples and friends, and with bigger parties, have guests change seats after the main course, so everyone has a chance to meet more people, or escape someone boring. But you don't have any boring friends, right?" - Amanda

Holiday Recipe & Survival GuideHoliday Recipe & Survival Guide
Get the FOOD52 Holiday Recipe & Survival Guide for iPad here.
• 75 tested & perfected recipes (from the perfect dry-brined turkey to insanely great waffles)
• 100 minutes of HD how-to video
• 100 crowd-sourced tips to save you from holiday nightmares