A bit of planning leading up to a holiday party is the key to quelling any hosting anxieties. (An extra shot of rum in the eggnog can't hurt, either.) If a failure to plan is a plan to fail, here are some mini deadlines from etiquette expert Karen Cleveland to help leading up to your fete.

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  • A Few Weeks Before: Make A List

    Map out everything that needs to be purchased and get a jump on shopping and any prep work that can be done now.

  • A Few Weeks Before: Visit Your Neighbours

    If you are not inviting your neighbours, drop by with a bottle of wine and a note thanking them in advance for their holiday spirit in accommodating the louder than normal volume.

  • A Few Weeks Before: Do What You're Good At

    Embrace short cuts. If you can't bake, don't take on the stress of trying to master dessert for 12. Prepare what you're good at, and buy what you'd rather not tackle.

  • A Few Days Before: Plan Your Look

    Plan your own outfit so you won't wage war with your closet in the hours before guests arrive.

  • A Few Days Before: Decorate

    Simplify decor with white and tons of holiday greenery like magnolia, boxwood and holly. It lasts for ages and looks festive without being overdone.

  • A Few Days Before: Clean Up

    Give your pad a once over, paying close attention to areas of the house your guests will be in (ahem, washrooms).

  • A Few Days Before: Ask For Help

    Enlist a trusted friend to come over a few minutes early to be your first guest. Strength in numbers!

  • A Few Days Before: Get Excited

    A happy host is the best host, so plan ample time to freshen up, put on some fun music and relax before guests arrive.

  • The Night Of: Be Prepared

    Anticipate guests' arrival by having music on, some wine pre-poured, and a place for coats, bulky accessories and wet boots.

  • The Night Of: Step Away From The Kitchen

    Don't be a slave in the kitchen. Freshen up food and your guests' glasses throughout the night, but make a conscious effort to get out and enjoy your own party. As the host, you’ll set the tone.

  • The Night Of: Introduce People

    Introduce guests that don't know each other with some context, like how you met, or if they have something in common.

A Few Weeks Before:
* Map out everything that needs to be purchased and get a jump on shopping and any prep work that can be done now.
* If you are not inviting your neighbours, drop by with a bottle of wine and a note thanking them in advance for their holiday spirit in accommodating the louder than normal volume.
* Embrace short cuts. If you can't bake, don't take on the stress of trying to master dessert for 12. Prepare what you're good at, and buy what you'd rather not tackle.

A Few Days Before:
* Plan your own outfit so you won't wage war with your closet in the hours before guests arrive.
* Simplify decor with white and tons of holiday greenery like magnolia, boxwood and holly. It lasts for ages and looks festive without being overdone.
* Give your pad a once over, paying close attention to areas of the house your guests will be in (ahem, washrooms).
* Enlist a trusted friend to come over a few minutes early to be your first guest. Strength in numbers!
* A happy host is the best host, so plan ample time to freshen up, put on some fun music and relax before guests arrive.

The Night Of:
* Anticipate guests' arrival by having music on, some wine pre-poured, and a place for coats, bulky accessories and wet boots.
* Don't be a slave in the kitchen. Freshen up food and your guests' glasses throughout the night, but make a conscious effort to get out and enjoy your own party. As the host, you’ll set the tone.
* Introduce guests that don't know each other with some context, like how you met, or if they have something in common.

A marketer and writer based in Toronto, Karen Cleveland tackles all things etiquette, from the traditional to the taboo. Follow her at Mannersaresexy.com and on Twitter at @schoolfinishing.

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