While the holidays can truly be the most wonderful time of the year, let's not sugarcoat it...they can also be the most stressful, hectic, or whatever you wish to call it—especially for those scrambling to host a holiday party somewhere within an already crazy schedule.
Few people know this better than actress Rachel Brosnahan who—ahead of the season 2 release of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (premiered Dec. 5th on Amazon) and amid endless interviews and events—hosted her first-ever Thanksgiving dinner. And survived. In a New York City apartment, nonetheless.
Obviously, this meant I had to hear all about her experience and learn exactly how she managed to make it happen. Here is everything she learned from hosting her first holiday party.
First and foremost, be yourself.
The tendency for others to Google *how to host a holiday party* is high, but why? When it comes down to it there is no set rulebook for hosting, so trying to be like someone else is a waste of energy. Rachel agrees and, in fact, she said this was her No. 1 tip for hosts, especially first-timers. "My biggest tip would probably be to be yourself—not feel a pressure to host like anybody else or live up to anyone's expectations. Add your own flair, do your own thing, and if you have fun doing it, everybody else will have fun with you."
Be resourceful and get creative.
Things are never ever perfect. Ever. But as long as you are ready to get crafty and figure it out, everything always ends up fine. Since Rachel's schedule "has been this constantly evolving beast over the last couple of years," as she puts it, getting to plan ahead isn't always an option.
"It's both a blessing and a curse because it means sometimes it's a little more stressful as you get closer to the date, but it also forces you to be in the moment and not get too attached to the idea of how something should be." Rachel adds that living in the moment "Forces you to be creative and resourceful and enjoy the process in all of the chaos."
For her, this meant making the most of a New York City apartment that was still under construction (though it was supposed to be finished before Thanksgiving.) Because of her lack of chairs, she had to get resourceful with her seating arrangements for nine guests. "I've since learned that anything can be a chair if you wish it hard enough. *laughs* So, I found ways to use poufs and back pillows and blankets or put a cute throw on top of a storage ottoman and that can be a chair, too." Between (arguably more comfortable than regular chairs) seating arrangements and board games to keep family and friends entertained, her party was a success.
Let guests get involved (when appropriate.)
"Enlist help if you need to," Rachel suggests. "I think sometimes guests like to be able to contribute, to be able to help out...I think because it was hard for one person to manage all the last minute planning that was necessary, I found a way to get the rest of my party involved and make it fun at the same time." As long as you are very familiar and comfortable with your group—and it feels appropriate, Rachel says involving them can actually be fun! "As long as it doesn't feel too chaotic for everyone else [and] you clearly thought out what role everyone might be able to play in a way that's helpful and also doesn't make you feel like work."
Plan a loose idea of what the party will look like so you can enjoy time with your guests.
Of course, parties are always unpredictable, but planning things like when you want your guests to arrive and when you will eat is key to ensuring you'll be able to sit down and spend time with your guests. "There's time in between where you can take the time to sit down for a minute, to have a conversation, to stop trying to make everything perfect, and to enjoy the company around you," Rachel shares. With even a loose mental plan on when these moments will be for you, it makes it a lot easier to do. "I think also that ensures that [guests] have a better time. Especially if people don't know each other."
But, go with the flow.
The key words in the tip above are "loose plan" because things are always going to change. "My advice would be to go with flow. Things are going to go wrong and panicking kills the vibe." So when Rachel forgot the vegetable stock for her vegetarian mother and realized she only had chicken stock, she grabbed her sister and they ran to the store—an impromptu trip that ended up being quiet time together that they may not have otherwise had, she points out. "Try as best you can to go with the flow, it's not always easy, but it will ensure that you and everyone else have a better time in the end."
Get cash back with your credit card.
Aside from time consuming, hosting can also be very expensive. Thankfully, major credit card companies offer incredible cash back options, especially around the holidays. Rachel partnered with American Express Magnet Card to take advantage of the 1.5 percent cash back they offer on any last minute holiday shopping. "I'm grateful to them for helping take the stress out of hosting."
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