Host a Fabulous Event with This Event Planning Checklist

How thoughtful kitchen prep can be the biggest party pleaser.

Written by:Angela Johnson
Top-down view of five people holding various drinks over a Cambria Brittanicca Gold Warm quartz countertop.

Cambria design shown: Brittanicca Gold Warm™

Hosting a special event or holiday party is so much easier with a bit of advanced planning and a checklist. It’s also the perfect time to evaluate the flow and function of your current kitchen design and determine what you might want to include in any future kitchen upgrades.

Start Planning Early

Maybe you hate when department stores display holiday-themed décor months in advance. But you’ll stress less if you start thinking through your party plans well in advance of your event. So, go ahead and pick a date, create a guest list, and select your menu. Then use the following kitchen prep checklist to tackle tasks early so you don’t get overwhelmed by having too much to do in a time crunch.

Checklist for 4–6 Weeks Before Your Event:

  1. Make a list of all necessary menu ingredients and determine what you already have on hand and what you’ll need to purchase. This is a great time to purge your pantry of expired products.
  2. Clean your oven and refrigerator.
  3. Start making space in your freezer for the eventual need of extra ice or frozen recipe ingredients.
  4. Book a caterer (if needed).
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Cambria design shown: Torquay™

Décor Galore—Make a Plan for Decorating

If you have adequate hidden storage, then get creative with festive décor on open shelving or behind glass cabinet doors in your kitchen. A silver, gold, or monochromatic color scheme can give a modern twist on kitchen décor. Consider the following eye-catchers in your kitchen before your next event:

  • Seasonal greenery on open shelving or as a countertop centerpiece, or tie a holiday-themed ribbon around your kitchen herb pots.
  • Fill some stemware or bowls stored behind glass cabinet doors with colorful holiday baubles or pinecones, or place a bowlful of ornaments on your kitchen island.
  • Swap out wall art for holiday or party-themed framed or canvas artwork.
  • Flameless candles with timers on windowsills and open shelves add a bit of atmosphere.
  • Let your food be decorative with holiday-themed serving pieces, iced cookies, and cupcakes, or the unending possibilities of themed charcuterie.

Checklist for 2–4 Weeks Before Your Event:

  1. Pull out those plates, platters, and serving pieces from your cabinets to determine which menu items you’ll want to serve in which specific dishes and with which specific spoons, servers, or tongs.
  2. Do you have enough cute bowls and little ladles for dips? Do you need tiny tongs or cheese knives for charcuterie platters?
  3. Now is the time to dig out that tiered serving stand or chafing dish you forgot you had. Don’t have one? Can you borrow? Or should you shop?
  4. Place a sticky note on each serving dish to indicate which menu item will go in or on it until all your menu items are accounted for. Then, make a plan to supplement where you might be lacking. Shopping for pretty pottery bowls or a wine carafe is so much more fun when you have time to peruse your favorite shops rather than when you’re in a panic the night before your party.
  5. If you’re hiring a caterer, most serving dishes will be supplied, but confirm. And if you haven’t booked your caterer by now, you may be cooking. But you can still make a few calls. Caterers often hire seasonal staff, so someone might be able to accommodate you.
  6. Aren’t you glad you started early?
Kitchen featuring a counter and island with Cambria Skara Brae quartz countertops and siding.

Cambria design shown: Skara Brae™ Photo by Laruche Photo

Checklist for 1 Week or Less Before Your Event:

Food prep is best done in zones. Determine where all the chopping, mixing, cooking, and assembling will happen in your kitchen. Fruits and veggies on the kitchen island? Meats near the stove? Mixing bowls by the sink?

  1. Make a schedule to determine which items should go in the oven in what order and at which temperatures. This is where double ovens in your kitchen or a countertop oven in a butler’s pantry can be a big help when it comes to timing the readiness of food items.
  2. As you work, make mental (or written) notes of where you might like these or other amenities—like additional counter space—for any future kitchen remodel. Or check out our renovation checklist.

Day Before/Day of Event Checklist:

  1. Retrieve pots, pans, and most all ingredients before you begin cooking to help keep things humming along once you get started. Out-of-the-way countertops—perhaps in a butler’s pantry—or a kitchen table is the perfect staging area to stack that soon-to-be-used cookware and recipe ingredients—freeing up your food prep zones for the actual cooking.
Counter with two shelves featuring various glasses and a base counter featuring a Cambria Skara Brae quartz countertop.

Cambria design shown: Skara Brae Photo by Laruche Photo

Drink Stations

  1. Think through the flow of guests from the moment they enter your home. Once they’ve shed a coat, where will they go next? People tend to gravitate toward the kitchen, especially in open-concept spaces with inviting kitchen islands and counter seating. You can space out your crowd while you cook by setting up drink stations outside of your work zones. If you don’t want everyone in the kitchen at the same time, stock a home bar or bar cart in another room with a pre-mixed signature cocktail, a few bottles of wine, and some NA options for any teetotalers.
  2. Make sure there are plenty of places to set down drinks, along with party-themed beverage napkins to protect your tabletops.
Top-down view of various drinks on top of a Cambria Inverness Bronze Matte quartz countertop.

Cambria design shown: Inverness Bronze Matte™

Planning to install a built-in bar one day? Cambria quartz surfaces come in stunning designs to complement any décor and they’re food safe and easy to clean so spills don’t become stains.

Now, not only are you ready to party, you’ve also begun the process of planning for those kitchen upgrades you deserve to gift yourself in the new year. For inspiration, checklists, and expert tips, download our complimentary kitchen & bath design inspiration planner.


[Updated on 12/05/2023]

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