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Girls' guide to throwing a party

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

How-to: Throw a great party

Planning a Christmas or New Year's party shouldn't turn you into a stressed mess, especially when you're organizing it in the season's spirit for your friends and family.

Happy woman at NYE Party

Create a guest list

One of the first things any party planner should do is create a guest list. Knowing who you're going to invite and, via RSVP, how many people are going to attend, will help you plan your budget and your affair. Are the majority of your attendees used to mingling and munching? Then you may want to opt for a cocktail party. Is your party intimate and only for close family and friends? Then why not serve a sit-down dinner?

Time and length of the party

Your party's time and length depends in large part on who your guests are and on what day of the week your party falls. Most sit-down dinner bashes happen on Saturdays or Sundays and start around 5 p.m. Cocktail parties typically start later (and run later) on any day of the week, though most people prefer Thursday through Saturday because of work schedules.

Know your budget

Throwing a holiday party isn't cheap, so it's important to know how much money is available to spend on your affair. If you have money saved up, asking for help from a catering company will ensure you have time to relax. If not, there's no harm in asking your friends to bring a bottle of wine or to pitch in by bringing their favorite potluck dishes.

Pick a theme

Instead of just an ordinary holiday party, a themed party is easier to plan and more fun for your guests. After a busy week and a hectic holiday season, consider a relaxing, inviting theme and turn your party into your very own lounge. The great thing is that you can completely control the tone, decor and music -- and best yet, there aren't any creepy guys hitting on you and your gal pals! Stock your bar with luxury liqueurs like a chocolate liqueur. Keep the chocolate theme going with chocolate covered strawberries or a dark chocolate candy bar. Deck your halls with deep browns and burgundies -- toss a few throw blankets over the arms of your chairs and add satin pillows. Bonus -- after the party's over, you have a romantic new hideaway to escape to after a busy week!

Feeling Asian-fusion? Then buy red accessories and choose a menu of dishes that contain similar ingredients (which will cut down on your shopping and cooking prep time). Want to stick with cocktails? Great. All you need is to create a spread of beverages and appetizers to which people can help themselves.

Take Stock

Don't forget to inventory the glasses and dishes in your cupboards. Sure, it can be kitschy to serve everything on throwaway dinnerware, but it's not very classy or environmentally friendly -- so make sure you have enough of everything. (Also, be sure you have enough dishes in which to serve your food.) If you don't, ask your friends iif they can bring some empty dishes along.

Give a sweet goody bag

Decidedly un-child like, goody bags are a memorable way to wrap up any party. Say thank you to your guests with a chic reusable bag full of ingredients to make a sinful après-dinner drink, like a heart-warming chocolate liqueur, or stuff it with sweet surprises like velvety chocolate bars or gourmet truffles.

More party planning tips on SheKnows

Girls' night in party ideas
10 Quick party appetizers
Hosting a gift exchange

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