Recently, I met David Tutera, the savagely tanned event planner, author, and host of My Fair Wedding with David Tutera on WE TV.

The goal: to help make holiday entertaining painless--or at least minus the pain of frequent heartburn, which can be caused by stress, among other things. And if party throwing isn’t stressful, then I don’t know what is.

The bottom line: Everyone wants to enjoy a party, but “no one wants a hysterical hostess,” says Tutera. “The goal: the doorbell rings and you become a guest at your own party.” His party pointers will help you avoid any last-minute freak-outs.

First, create a plan
“Dissect it,” he says. Think about every last detail of your party. For example, how long should it last? “I think two to two-and-a-half hours is good,” he says. “There's really no need to keep people hostage in your house for longer."

Keep the food simple
“The host shouldn't be stuck in the kitchen for the whole party,” he says. One way to avoid this is to pre-plate what food you can.

The same goes for your décor
“You want the guest to experience the party with all five senses,” says Tutera. “It makes them really feel like a part of it.”
--Pick one color to splash here and there (ribbons, ornaments, linens).
--Go for lots of candles to set the mood. One he likes: Bath and Bodyworks Fresh Balsam Small Candle ($10;, which smells delightfully like a just-cut Christmas tree.
--Add a plant of some kind in each room—-a wooden box of fragrant paperwhites tied with a ribbon or an amaryllis in a pot.
--Program or borrow an iPod playlist. Make sure it’s long enough, so you can press play and never look at it again.

Start early
Don’t let anything wait until the last minute, or even the last day. Do whatever you can beforehand, whether it’s freezing appetizers to re-heat the day of the party. Tutera likes to set his table the day before a party.

Give a goodbye goodie bag
Tutera likes to hand out some giftie to departing guests (a good way to make sure no one lingers!). “The experience starts when you set foot into the party and, when you set foot out the door, you leave with something in hand,” he says. “Guests usually bring something, so it's nice for them to leave with something.”

These somethings could include, for example, “the dry ingredients for some cookies you served or an ornament or some boxed-up food like jam or pickles.” If you’re crafty, he says, buy fabric and make a pretty package. This should happen (you got it!) two weeks before the party.

“A party is like a book,” he says. “The invite is the 1st page and the gift is the period at the end.” And don’t stress yourself out (and bring on all kings of agita) by trying to be perfect. “There is no perfection in putting together a party—bringing people together is what's perfect,” says Tutera.