We know it feels like you have all the time in the world before the holidays are in full swing, but in reality they’re almost here. If you’re considering throwing a holiday party this season, save yourself the stress and start planning well in advance. Making a game plan will allow you to have more fun while planning — and during the actual party too. Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together a cheat sheet, so you can get on to the more important tasks like, ahem, holiday cocktail testing. Grab a pen and paper and scroll through our ultimate party countdown.

5 Weeks Before

Set the date for your party. Pick a theme, if you’re having one. Make your guest list.

4 Weeks Before

Send invitations (via email is totally fine) and set an “RSVP by” date. Enlist help for the day of the party from friends or family members, and a babysitter if need be. Plan your menu, gather recipes, and make a detailed grocery and prep list to help you stay on track. Brainstorm how you want to decorate — and don’t forget to log some hours searching for inspo on Pinterest.

3 Weeks Before

Take inventory of your dishes and cutlery, serving dishes and utensils, linens, chairs, and general party supplies. Borrow or shop for anything additional that you need.

2 Weeks Before

Make your playlist. Wash and iron any linens you’ll be using. Order meat from butcher, if necessary. Visit your local wine or liquor store to purchase your booze. Decide how you’ll set up the party (where you’ll have drinks, place the serving station, put guests’ coats, etc.). Write down a detailed action plan for the day of the party and 2-3 days prior.

1 Week Before

Clean your house. Start clearing out your refrigerator to make room for groceries and drinks. Chase down any straggling RSVPs. Start your first round of grocery shopping and any possible food prep.

2-3 Days Before

Set your table (if feasible). Put out and label serving dishes so you know where food is going. Finish grocery shopping and continue food prep. Set up any decorations.

The Day Before

Do a once-over cleaning of the bathroom, kitchen, and social areas. Pick up fresh flowers. Finish any cooking that you can. Chill wine and beer.

Day of the Party

Buy ice if needed. Unload your dishwasher and empty the garbage. Set out food or appetizers. Finish cooking.

Immediately Before

Light candles. Turn on lights and music. Pour yourself a glass of wine, greet your guests, and enjoy!

Want for more party planning ideas? Follow us on Pinterest for menu ideas, decorating DIYs, and seasonal recipes.

(Photos via Cathryn Lavery/Unsplash, RawPixel/Unsplash, Brooke Lark/Unsplash, Brooke Lark/Unsplash)