1. Pick a date and location.
2. Make your guest list.
3. Send out a save the date email or message.
Things tend to get crazy busy from Thanksgiving on and I want to make sure my guests have the exchange on their calendars. I decided that my cookie exchange will alwasy be the first Sunday in December.
3. A month before the event, send out an invitation. I do an Evite because I ask guests to share the cookie they are making in their response. That way everyone can see what others are bringing, which will hopefully prevent duplicate recipes. You also need to decide on the rules for the swap.
Here are my rules:
4. Plan the party. What will you serve? I usually keep it simple because guests will eating lots of cookies. I make a few appetizers. This apple pie dip is always a hit and these brie bites were delicious as well. As for drinks, I make one festive alcoholic, Shirley temple, egg nog and water. I always make sure to have extra wine on hand just incase. Then, I make extra sweets that people can snack on. This included chocolate covered pretzels, M&M pretzels and bowls of candy. Since your guests will be eating lots of cookies, keep the other food light.
5. Buy decorations. If you know you're planning on hosting a cookie exchange each year stock up on decorations after Christmas the year before. If you're looking for decorations for that year, check out the dollar store, the dollar section at Target and Oriental Trading always has a great things for a good price.
6. Create a ballot for guests to vote on which cookie was the most unique, best tasting, most appealing and best packaging.
7. Compile all the recipe the guests send you into a recipe book. I printed them out and gave them to my guest to leave with. You could also make a book and email it out to the guests to save on printing costs. I just wanted my guests to have the recipes of their favorite cookies from the day.
DAY OF PARTY:
8. Set up a table for all of the cookies. I had extra plates available for guests if they didn't bring one. I numbered the cookies so that when guests were voting, they just wrote the number. I made sure to include plastic knives at each table for guests to cut the cookies if they didn't want to take the whole thing.
9. Have another table set up for guests to place their packaged cookies.
10. Have guests vote as they are tasting the cookies and mingling (make sure to have pens). About half way through, tally the votes. Announce the winners. I have little gifts for the winners (bottle of wine, holiday oven mitt & spatula, candles).
11. After the winners are announced, call everyone around the table with the packaged cookies. IT'S TIME TO SWAP! I had guests draw numbers to see who goes first. The guest with #1 went first and grabbed the cookies she wanted, then #2 and so on. We did this until there weren't any cookies left. I provided reusable holiday bags for guests to take their cookies home in.
That's it. It's the perfect way to kick off the holiday season....great friends and sweet treats!