Host a Holiday Open House

 In Media

Founding Planner, Geneve McNally was interviewed for Canadian Living Magazine on “How to Host a Holiday Open House”. Be sure to take note of these great tips when planning your next party.

By Adrienne Brown

Want to avoid the hassle of hosting a big holiday party? Enjoy more casual entertaining this season and show off your festive décor by hosting a fun, holiday open house for your friends and family.


December is usually a month full of good cheer, fun, holiday wishes and, most of all, packed schedules.

You can take some stress out of holiday party planning (for yourself and your guests) by hosting a more casual event, such as a holiday open house. Your guests can drop in at their convenience and stay for a short time before heading to another party or they can stay all night if their calendars allow.

Genève McNally, owner of Dreamgroup Weddings + Events, says you can host a holiday open house on any budget. How decadent or extravagant you get depends on how much you want to spend, but you can cover food, drinks and décor on any budget.

Give your holiday guests lots of warning!

According to McNally, the most popular weekends for holiday open houses are the second and third weekends in December. Ideally, you should send invitations three to six weeks in advance, depending on who you’re inviting. “The sooner the better,” says McNally. Although, if this is an annual event and people are expecting your invitation, two to three weeks may be enough warning. Always give guests a date by which they should RSVP so you can plan accordingly. “People won’t necessarily RSVP, because it’s such a casual event, but you do need to know,” says McNally. Plan to have to follow up with a few people.

Holiday open house food and drinks
When it comes to food and drinks, McNally suggests creating a series of fun stations, carts or buffets. If your budget allows, hire a bartender. Otherwise, it’s just as fun to set up drink stations and let your guests create their own concoctions. For the holidays, think an eggnog station, a hot drinks station with coffee, tea and hot cider (and liqueurs for those who want a splash of Irish cream in their coffee) or a bar cart with chilled micro-beers and vodkas (complemented with lots of ice and mixes or a non-alcoholic punch filled with cranberries that people can spike if they want to). In terms of food, McNally says open houses tend to be more cocktail oriented. Choose finger foods such as pigs in a blanket, mini quiches, spring rolls and sliders.

You want to have enough food that people can feel as full as if they’ve eaten dinner, usually about 15 hors d’oeuvres per person. However, if you set up a more substantial food station (such as a make-your-own pasta or stir-fry station) you won’t need as many finger foods. Similarly, your desserts need not be extensive. “Go for thoughtfulness and quality over quantity,” says McNally. “Have different options for different tastes.” Choose complementary flavors that will appeal to different people, such as one chocolate, one lemon and one cranberry dessert.

Set the mood for your holiday open house
Decorate your home as you would for any other holiday party, keeping in mind that different guests will come and go as the night goes on, so your numbers will fluctuate. “The nice thing about decor at Christmas is that a little goes a long way,” says McNally. Twinkling lights, candles, a Christmas tree and garlands are all you need — “and you have to have mistletoe!” she says. The music you choose will create the right ambiance. McNally says you can “build up the anticipation of a special event” by playing music by Buble or Sinatra for the first hour or so. It doesn’t have to play all night, but it can set the tone from the start.

How to Host a Holiday Open House with Canadian Living Magazine
Things to do the day before your holiday open house:
  • Clean your bathrooms and set out fresh towels.
  • Make room in closets for coats and boots. Instead of piling guests’ coats on someone’s bed, pile your own collection there and hang guests’ coats in your closet. This way nobody is roaming around bedrooms looking for coats in the middle of the party.
  • Tidy and clean up any area where guests will be mingling in your home.
  • Arrange activities for children if any are coming.


Safety First: McNally’s final advice is about safety. “You are liable as the host for anything that happens,” she says. Keep phone numbers for taxis near your front door so guests who are unable to drive can get a safe ride home.

“When people arrive, have them drop their keys in one bowl and their cell in another,” she says. This way, it’s up to the host to redistribute keys and everyone is forced to stay off their phones during the party!

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