Last year was the first time I hosted a Holiday Cookie Exchange and I had a blast!!! This year, I am excited to host my 2nd Annual Holiday Cookie Exchange and all of my invitees are excited as well! It’s gonna be a blast!

The month of December is rapidly approaching and if you are thinking about hosting a Holiday Cookie Exchange, now would be the time to start planning for it. Keep in mind that Cookie Exchange Week starts on December 6th and ends on December 12th. This may be a fun theme to incorporate into your Holiday Cookie Exchange. Here are a few helpful hints on how to start planning your Holiday Cookie Exchange.

Four Weeks Ahead:

(1) Start a planning folder. This is where you’ll keep your invitee list, activities to have during the Cookie Exchange, and any other relevant information involving the event.

(2) Call friends to check on their availability. I found it easiest to host the Holiday Cookie Exchange at the beginning of December, before the days start getting hectic with holiday parties and family activities. My Holiday Cookie Exchange this year is going to be during the day on the 7th. You may prefer a week night or a day on the weekend. It’s all dependent on your schedule and the availability of your invitees.

(3) Finalize the date and time. Once you have the date and time finalized, start spreading the word about the event and share your excitement for the event as well.

(4) Reserve a space for your Holiday Cookie Exchange. If you are not planning on holding the Cookie Exchange, you’ll need to reserve a space as soon as possible, as the holidays tend to fill up quickly with other parties and events. In my case, I reserved a room to hold the event for December. So, if you are planning to host a Holiday Cookie Exchange at a place other than your home, be sure to reserve the space ASAP.

Three Weeks Ahead:

(1) Draw up a theme. Do you want your Holiday Cookie Exchange to follow a particular theme? Think about how you want your Cookie Exchange to go.

(2) Buy or create invitations. Be sure to have your guest list finalized so that you know how many invitations to buy or make. It is helpful to have a physical invitation and then follow-up with an email reminder and phone call shortly before the event.

(3) Send invitations by mail or email. You can mail the invitations or personally hand them to your guests, depending on your situation. I personally prefer an invitation I can hold in my hand, but that’s my personal preference. Choose whichever is best for you.

Two Weeks Ahead:

(1) Prepare a menu. What drinks or food items do you want to serve at your Holiday Cookie Exchange? I actually started working on this more than 2 weeks ahead of time, but 2 weeks should allow you enough time to prepare for the event.

(2) Survey your cabinets for serving and display pieces. If you find that you are lacking in this department, ask around and see if you can borrow serving pieces. This is especially helpful if you are on a tight budget. If you are renting a space, find out if there are serving pieces available on the premises. This may make for easier setup and cleanup.

(3) Shop for holiday decorations, placecards, and tabletop embellishments. Wilton has an entire Cookie Supplies collection in their shop online. There you can order lots of fun goodies for your Cookie Exchange. If you are planning your Cookie Exchange for December, I would actually start making your purchases on Wilton’s site now, as holiday items tend to move quickly. There are so many fun items available for your Cookie Exchange on Wilton’s site, from Holiday Boxes to Parchment Paper and more!

(4) Purchase prizes for your Holiday Cookie Exchange. If you are planning on having games or cookie decorating contests, now would be the time to start purchasing prizes for the event. Guests love Christmas Trivia Games and Cookie Decorating Contests during the event. You can also have a friendly competition for the cookies your guests bring, including: Best-Dressed Cookie; Best Christmas Character; Best Use of Chocolate; Best Overall Presentation; Best Sprinkles in a Supporting Role; Best Ethnic Recipe; Best Icing Design; Best Shortcake Production; Best Buttery Taste; Best Color Combination; and Most Festively Iced. The categories are endless.

(5) Bake cookies and purchase supplies for your decorating station. If necessary, you can bake and freeze batches of cookies ahead of time. Then you can defrost them a day or two before the party and add icing and decorations. I personally prefer to bake my cookies the day before the event, so they are as fresh as possible.

(6) Purchase folders or albums for guests to take home all cookie recipes. Be sure to email your guests and ask them to email or give you a copy of the cookie recipe they will be using so you can compile the recipes beforehand. If you collect the recipes at the Cookie Exchange, you can make copies and mail or personally deliver them to your guests.

(7) Make award certificates.

One Week Ahead:

(1) Double-check with invited guests to make sure they’re planning on attending. If the number of expected guests changes, adjust cookie count. Call guests to tell them they’ll need to bring fewer or more cookies.

(2) Decorate your house. I’m sure that since the Holiday Cookie Exchange is in December, I would already have my house decorated for the holidays well ahead of time! If you are hosting the Cookie Exchange in a place other than your home, this will be changed for the day of the event. If you have a small window of time to decorate, enlist the help of a few friends.

(3) Finalize your menu. What finger foods and drinks do you want to serve?

(4) Create cookie-inspired decorations.

(5) Bake your cookies for the exchange. Store and wrap them.

The Day Before:

(1) Make as many appetizers/entrees as possible and refrigerate. Items may include Deviled Eggs, Salad mixture for finger sandwiches, cut up fruit or vegetables, and dips.

(2) Set up tables for cookie exchange, buffet, cookie-decorating, and favors. In my case, I will be setting up the morning of. I also have friends who will be helping me set up for the Cookie Exchange.

(3) Decorate tables and set out serving dishes and display stands. Check at the Dollar Store for inexpensive, festive plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloths. You can decorate the tables with confetti and chocolate candies. Red Carnations are also a festive flower to place in the middle of your tables.

The Day of the Cookie Exchange:

(1) Finish foods and beverages for the buffet. Fill sandwiches and cut into bite-sized pieces.

(2) Set your cookies on the exchange table. Write up place cards with the name of your guests and the names of the cookies they brought.

(3) Greet your guests and enjoy the day. Since you will be hosting the Cookie Exchange, you may even consider asking someone who likes taking pictures to take pictures throughout the event.

This guest post courtesy of Shannon Gosney, a Wilton Mom Ambassador. Shannon is the owner/author of the blog The Mommy-Files, where she talks about motherhood, family fun activities, and kitchen tips and recipes.