Don’t head off to the market without a list, and plan to shop well in advance, Birnbaum adds. Fresh ingredients will stay that way purchased two days ahead.
And don’t forget to designate help. Putting on a party alone is foolhardy. Birnbaum said ask yourself a few key questions when planning, like who will set the table while you’re finishing off the meal? How much time do you need to shower and dress? Have your help arrive at least several hours in advance.
Whipping the house into shape for a party is always stressful. Giuliani suggests stocking up on votive candles to “give a little warmth without going crazy,” especially if you forgot to leave time to buy and arrange flowers.
Dana Bowen, executive editor of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, says avoid buying decorations intended solely for the holidays. “Look around your backyard for pine cones or tree branches and turn them into centerpieces,” she suggests.
Or try a tip from design guru Nate Berkus and reuse scraps of wrapping paper to cover your vases for a more festive feel without spending money.
At the table, especially if you’re on a budget, get funky with a mix of vintage from thrift stores or flea markets, Bowen said. “Vintage china and silverware is a great idea, and you can get it for pennies. I walked out of a bag sale with two armfuls of champagne flutes that I pull out every New Year’s Eve. Who wants to drink from plastic cups.”
Loulie Walker, an event planner for the rich and famous in Manhattan, is also a mix-and-match fan. “For tableware, take an anything goes approach, such as family heirloom china next to big-box store plates, and mixing up linens and glassware,” she said. “This also makes it easy to add an extra setting at the last minute.”