This article could also be called, “How to Trick Your Guests into Creating the Perfect Holiday PartyFor You” … because that’s exactly what we’re going to share. And “trick” in a nice way, of course! In a way they’ll be totally down for.

We’re removing the stress of holiday party planning and giving you party ideas that make the most of your awesome friends and family. Ready to be the ringmaster? Here we go:

Outsource your feast. This time of year, everyone’s in the giving mood, and it feels nice for your guests to show up with a “gift” in hand to contribute to the festivities. Ask your guests to bring their favorite side dish, wine or dessert.

This accomplishes a few things:

  • You’ll have an instant conversation topic with that awkward cousin you only see once a year: “So tell me how you made this soup! It’s delicious!
  • You can focus your culinary prowess (and time!) on one, grand main dish, rather than having to freak out curating an entire menu.
  • Less dishes left in your kitchen at the end of the night. Yes!
  • A gorgeously bountiful looking table that won’t need as much decor, since you’ll set as many of the dishes as can fit right down the center of the table to pass around family style.

Open the Floor. Have a friend who plays violin and sings? Ask if she’d be willing to play a song or two at the party … and don’t tell anyone else. The unexpected live music will add an element of surprise and your guests will be talking about it for days.

Put wildcard guests to work. Have an uncle who’s always excited to start a raging debate? The kind that would kill the vibe of the party? Put him in charge of something that’ll keep him busy, whether it’s YouTube deejay-ing the party, or asking the grandmas to help fill in a family tree, or even orchestrating the parking outside as guests arrive (to make sure no one’s blocked in.)

Use your guests as decoration. No need to stress about decor. Let your guests take center stage! This tip can play out two ways: with photos or with your dress code.

  • Option A: print out photos of all of your party guests (bonus points if you have pictures of several guests together) and display them in little 4X6 frames up and down your dinner table and around the room. It’ll be a happy little surprise for each guest to find themselves! Plus, reminiscing about how you took that photo on the cross country road trip that summer will spark a lively night of storytelling around the table. You can also use photos of individual guests as place cards at your table! Just make sure not to leave anyone out! Not sure if a guest will come? Have their photo ready, just in case.

  • Option B: choose an easy-to-implement dress code that’ll do the decorating for you! In a room full of red sweaters, who needs flowers?

Make something together. Use your collective power to make something fun. Here are a few ideas:

  • Instead of getting 15 gingerbread making kits, grab the supplies for one giant gingerbread mansion and let your guests know that everyone should swing by the table at some point to add a little. And at the end of the night, take a group selfie by it!

  • On the drink table, set out some colorful notecards and pens. Have your guests write the recipe for their favorite winter-time drink (or cocktail!) on a notecard. At the end of the night you’ll have a whole stack! After the party, take a picture of each one, upload it as a Facebook album and tag all of your guests.
  • Grab coloring book for adults from the bookstore and tear out a few pages. Adult coloring pages tend to be super intricate, so leave 3 or 4 out on a table with lots of colored pencils and guests can stop by and color for a few moments. At the end of the night, they’ll be beautiful. Plus your shy guests will thank you for an activity that doesn’t center around being outgoing.

Hope these tips gave you fresh ideas to harness your tribe to throw an incredible holiday party. Have fun!