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The ultimate holiday hosting guide plus DIY décor ideas

Last holiday season, limitations on social gatherings meant that many British Columbians were unable to celebrate with their loved ones. This year, while some regions do have restrictions and guidelines in place for personal gatherings, we have the opportunity to safely welcome small groups of close friends and family into our homes again.

If you’re feeling a bit out of practice as a host, don’t fret. We’ve put together a guide to help things go smoothly, plus how to wow guests with unique DIY décor.

Avoid stress: plan ahead

The best way to avoid being a stressed-out host is to prepare, prepare, prepare. The first step: make a list. Next, do as much as you can in advance, like setting the table and putting out festive decorations (see ideas below!). Here are some basic planning pointers:

Prepare your home

You may want to consider rearranging furniture to optimize your home’s layout for hosting. Don’t forget to clear space in the closet, so guests don’t have to squeeze their coats into a too-tight rack; create a spot for shoes too to avoid strewn about stilettos that could be a tripping hazard.

Christmas dinner table ready for dinning. Loft apartment is decorated for Christmas.

Clear the fridge

Two days before your gathering, make room in your fridge – you’re going to need the space. Shop for your groceries and beverages well in advance to avoid last-minute panic (as in oh no, the grocery store is out of eggnog). Think ahead for how you plan to keep beverages cold. A large bowl with ice is an excellent option if you don’t have a second fridge (yep, that means planning in advance to ensure you have enough ice!).

When to buy your food

Buy the leafy greens and fresh toppings on the day of your gathering. You can buy bread the day before, and meats and cheeses 1-2 days before. For all your dishes, see how much you can prepare a day or so in advance. It will help free up your precious time leading up to the gathering. Tip: don’t wait until the day of to check your recipes. Some may require advance prep or take longer to make than anticipated!

Your party day timeline

If you’re serving dinner at 7 pm, work backwards and time all your key planning moments. Helpful tip: set alarms in your phone with notes to remind you what to do and keep you on track (such as finishing setting the table, getting dinner in the oven, putting on your party outfit).

Comfort and safety tips

Your number one goal as the host is to ensure everyone has a great time and stays safe. Here are a few important considerations to help your gathering go smoothly.

People with Christmas presents and a wine bottle

Ensure your home is hazard-free

When it comes to liability, it’s essential that, as the host, you do your due diligence to ensure your space is safe and that risks are minimized. That means making sure there are no tripping hazards or slippery surfaces, keeping people at a safe distance from home improvement projects in progress, and informing guests of any potential risks, such as wobbly stairs.

Keep holiday safety in mind

It’s also crucial to be aware of seasonal elements that could impact your home’s safety. Here are a few tips to safeguard your home from the most common holiday hazards:

  • Icy exteriors. Clear outdoor walkways and doorways and apply salt if it’s icy to ensure safe entry and exit for all.
  • Lights. Holiday lights are great for seasonal sparkle, but while aesthetically appealing, they can also be quite dangerous. Our advice: make sure they’re not plugged into an overloaded outlet and use a surge protector to guard against the possibility of fire.
  • Heat. Keep space heaters away from flammable materials and check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re functioning properly.
  • Candles. While lovely for creating ambience, candles can be a serious fire hazard if not used properly. Keep candles away from holiday decorations or anything that could catch fire. Never leave a candle burning unattended if you aren't in the room, and always keep them out of reach of children or pets.

To help you prepare for a full(er) house, here’s our quick guide to household safety.

Shot of a group of young friends taking selfies during a dinner party at home

Alcohol and cannabis consumption

Anyone hosting a party and offering alcohol or cannabis to guests must ensure guests are safe when they leave, or they could be held responsible. If someone is intoxicated, you don’t want to let them drive because if they hurt themselves or others, you could be found responsible. Calling a taxi or ride hail service, or offering a ride or a sofa to sleep on are some ways to maximize alcohol or cannabis safety.

Check for food allergies, preferences or sensitivities

Once you’ve received RSVPs and assembled your guest list, ask each guest (privately) if they have any food allergies or restrictions. You don’t want to serve peanuts to the allergic or prime rib to vegans or vegetarians. Then plan your menu according to their preferences, and be sure to include non-alcoholic drink options.

Be COVID-sensitive

Attending gatherings is still an adjustment for some. Help your guests feel comfortable with simple steps like considering a plated meal instead of potluck or family-style. Avoid beverage mix-ups by providing ways for guests to mark their glasses.

man holding hot oven dish in kitchen

Go at your own pace (and it’s okay to get a helping hand)

For many of us, it’s been a while since we’ve hosted friends or family in our home. Remember, you’re meant to enjoy yourself too, so go slow and stick to what you’re comfortable with. A few ideas to help simplify the event:

  • Keep your gathering small. Let’s face it, your social muscles may have atrophied a bit, so it’s okay to ease back into it and start small.
  • Don’t do things that aren’t fun for you. If you don’t enjoy baking, don’t bake dessert. If you love to make the main dish, make that. You can save a lot of stress by relying on dishes that you make ahead of time. Avoid foods that require last-minute work and perfect timing. Instead, try more forgiving dishes like brisket or lasagna.
  • Consider outsourcing your main dish. Think about the local restaurant you love that makes an incredible BBQ chicken, a scrumptious leg of lamb or a delicious vegetarian dish. If you can afford it, you can always buy the main dish from someone who’s already an expert at making it, taking the pressure off you so you can focus on simpler side dishes.
  • No need to overdo it. You don’t need four types of snacks and five side dishes. It’s costly, wasteful, and so much easier to limit options so people can focus on what matters – seeing you face to face.

DIY décor ideas

Nothing sets the stage for a festive and fun holiday affair like a beautifully decorated home. It’s all in the details! So, here are some ideas to inspire, with many of the materials easily sourced around your home or yard.

Porch with wooden doors and a threshold with Christmas decor

Welcome wreath

Sure, you can welcome your guests with a store-bought wreath but where’s the fun in that? Make your own wreath with fresh evergreen clippings, floral wire, jute rope, rustic bells, wood beads, berries, ribbon, and a glue gun.

Popsicle stick snowflakes (kid-friendly!)

Your kids will love to make these popsicle stick snowflakes. You make them with glue and dollar store popsicle sticks -- and you can keep them hanging through January and February.

DIY decorative fireplace cover

If you have a fireplace that isn’t being used, here’s a project that’s aesthetically pleasing and practical. Reduce drafts and cover up a sooty, cavernous empty fireplace with this beautiful DIY fireplace cover made from dozens of wood slices. The result is an attractive centrepiece for your living room.

Coffee filter garland

Forget about popcorn strands. Make a decorative coffee filter strand to hang over your fireplace or your cozy fireplace YouTube channel.

Gingerbread Cookies and snowflake decoration

3D paper snowflakes

You’re likely not hanging mistletoe this year (we don’t even recommend air kisses). Instead, hang up 3D paper snowflakes. They’re pretty, easy and quick to make by following YouTube tutorials here, here, here or here.

Christmas character goodie bags

Want to send your guests home with some goodies? This is another great project to get your kids involved in – they’ll love making these cute Christmas character treat bag toppers. To bring these characters to life, follow this cheerful, helpful tutorial.

DIY stockings

Another personal touch to wow your guests? Surprise them with DIY stockings filled with personalized treats. Don’t use your old wool socks, though -- the treats will fall out the inevitable holes in the toes. Instead, decorate your mantel with some of these 30 adorable DIY Christmas stockings including ice skate stockings, woodland creatures and burlap stockings.

Eco-friendly stocking stuffers

Now that you’ve created your stockings, here are 50+ eco-friendly stocking stuffer ideas and 40 eco-friendly stocking stuffers that won’t cost the Earth. And you know what makes a lovely stocking stuffer? The gift that keeps giving all year long, a BCAA Membership with 24/7 Roadside Assistance and more! Plus, for a limited time you can save $20 on a Plus or Premier Membership.

Find more eco-friendly craft ideas here.

Protect everyone and everything you love

Be sure to safeguard your home and holiday mementos all year long with BCAA Home Insurance; Members can save up to 20%. And have a safe and happy holiday season!