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6 essentials for an epic holiday party

Party planning can be stressful at any time of year. But during the holidays, when everyone is looking for happiness and good cheer, there can be a lot of pressure to make sure your event is absolutely perfect.

 So whether you're a holiday party pro or having your first big shindig, here's a list of the 6 essentials you'll need for a smooth evening:

Get your playlist ready – This is probably the easiest way to bring the holiday spirit to your soiree. It's also the cheapest since you can use your free Pandora account to access holiday playlists inspired by artists from Nat King Cole to Mariah Carey. Also, if you're a fan of holiday tracks from current chart-toppers, John LegendPentatonix and Jessie J have all released brand new holiday albums this year.

Find the perfect eggnog recipe – By a certain age, most people will have heard a story about someone who "drank too much eggnog" at a holiday party. Though you probably want to make sure your guests drink a responsible amount, you also want to make sure your eggnog is worth talking about. If you don't have a recipe up your sleeve, you can borrow the Amazingly Good Eggnog from AllRecipes.com. If eggnog isn't your favorite, Food and Wine has a list of the top 10 holiday drinks to give you a few more ideas. One item worth noting is the Coquito. Described as a Latin take on eggnog, the Coquito includes rum, coconut milk and cinnamon.

Plan for coats – By the time your holiday party comes around, winter will be here. That means that each guest will probably arrive with a coat. Depending on your space, you may not have enough room to hang this mountain of coats so, if you want to avoid the clutter, a temporary coat rack might be your best bet. For just under $20, you can snag a portable and expandable coat rack from Bed Bath & Beyond. Set it up in an unused area of your home and save yourself the trouble of searching for space for all of the extra coats.

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Choosing the right combination of games can make or break your holiday party. Look at your guest list and pick games that fit your group. (AJC.com/For the AJC)

Shop for functional décor – Holiday parties are known for seasonal dishes and beverages. But if your counter space is limited, it can be hard to find a way to lay everything out. Functional holiday servers, like the 2-tiered snowman server at Macy's can be a lifesaver when you've got more plates than counter space. You can also try the tiered gingerbread server from Kohl's. No matter which option you choose, holiday servers also double as decorations to make your spread look as festive as possible.

Decide on a few (reindeer) games – The hardest decision any holiday party planner has to make is choosing which games to play during the event. Oddly enough, there are tons of holiday games and each one is entertaining in its own way. 

Here are a few Christmas party game suggestions from Shutterfly:

    • For families: Pin the Nose on Rudolph is a holiday spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You can make the game at home using a drawing of your own or you can purchase the game online.
    • For adults only: Two Truths and a Lie gets a holiday makeover with Shutterfly's Christmas edition. Players think of two Christmas gifts they've received and then make up a third. Then the participants announce their gifts one at a time while everyone else tries to guess which gift is a lie.
    • For large groups: To play the Human Christmas tree game, you'll need to purchase some decorations that can be easily attached to a person. During the event, organize your guests into two or three teams and have them decorate one representative as they would a Christmas tree. You can add a time limit for extra fun and then pick out a judge or two to decide the winner.

Pick up some holiday to-go boxes. Toward the end of the night, you might look around and notice that there's no way your guests are going to finish the 10 remaining trays of cookies by the end of the night. So have a few to-go containers on hand; guests can take home some of their favorite party snacks. If you really want to wow them, the Lakeside Collection has an inexpensive set of disposable holiday goodie containers complete with holiday-inspired lids. If your budget doesn't allow for decorated containers, you can also spring for some resealable cookie bags from Amazon.

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