Although the gathering may be smaller and more intimate this year, many of us will be opening our homes to friends and family this holiday season. So, I’ve put together a guide of my top holiday entertaining tips to put you at ease and make your guests feel right at home.
Holiday Entertaining Tips
From having a place to put your guests’ belongings to picking out an outfit for you, this guide includes all the important details for holiday party planning.
Stress Free Holiday Planning
Planning ahead is your saving grace. It truly helps calm your nerves and set the tone so you can entertain in style.
Two weeks ahead:
- Decide if your party is going to be buffet style, family style, or plate style. Some of this depends on your space. If you don’t have a place to set up a buffet, set up a family style dinner. In my case, I’d love for the Potluck to be family style, but there’s too many of us to fit at one table. And, I don’t have enough serving dishes to set two to three tables family style. So, our Potlucks (and every other family dinner) is buffet style.
- Make sure you have enough silver ware, glasses and plates for everyone. Think about what you’re serving and the types of dishes it should be served in. Also consider how many courses you’re having and how many guests there are. If you need more dishes, try Dollar Store. Their dinnerware selection is really good quality for only a dollar.
One week ahead
- Pick something comfortable to wear. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty sweaty when I’m playing hostess. Between that and the inevitable bloating after dinner, I suggest loose, comfortable outfits, like a tunic top with leggings or a flowy dress. Being comfortable will make you feel more confident as well.
- Clean the house. If you don’t have time to clean, hire a cleaning service. Keep in mind, you don’t need to clean every corner of your home. I’ve really loosened up on getting the house ready to host. As long as the bathroom is clean and the house doesn’t stink, I close the bedroom doors, and call it done.
- Designate a place for everyone to put their things. Find a convenient spot, preferably by the front door. A bench, coat or coat rack are all good options. I have a coat rack by the front door. But, when that’s not enough space, I put purses and jackets in the guest bedroom.
The day before:
- Prepare table linens – Make sure you have enough napkins and placemats. Wash them if necessary. Iron your runner or table cloth if you’re using one.
- Set the table – Keep your centerpiece simple and low so that everyone can see each other and easily make conversation. If the party is family style, be sure to leave enough room on your table for the food. You can save money on a centerpiece by clipping vines or branches from outside and call it done. If you’re using place cards, go ahead and set those out, too.
- Set up stations – We serve tea, water and sometimes wine. I set the tea and water up with glasses and let guests serve themselves. If guests are bringing food or drinks, have a place for them. I use post-it notes to label where things go. I just tell guests to find their label and set the dish there. Desserts go on the command center desk which I use as a dessert and coffee bar when I’m entertaining. You may want to set up a to-go station as well with food storage containers and bags to carry them home.
30 Minutes Before:
- Have appetizers ready. If dinner time is later than arrival time, have appetizers on hand. You don’t have to make them. Just buy a party platter and set it out with appetizer plates and napkins. One time I opened a jar of olives and handed it to my Dad with a fork. He was happy. I was happy. Everyone was happy.
- Fill the ice bucket – You can use your sink, a large metal bin or traditional ice bucket so guests can put ice in their drinks. Be sure to have an ice scoop handy. You might also fill a cooler with ice and use it to keep canned beverages cold. If you’re serving white wine, put that in ice as well. Aerate the red wine.
- Turn on music – Music is great for setting the mood. You cannot go wrong with the Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Buble stations on Pandora. Keep the music low enough to just be in the background and not drown out conversation.
- Turn on or light candles – Use unscented candles so they don’t compete with the delicious scents of the food.
It’s party time! You did most of the work ahead of time. Now, it’s time to enjoy the holiday season with your friends and family.
- Greet your guests – If you’re not available, delegate this job to another family member. As you greet everyone, show them or tell them where to put their belongings, and point them to the drinks and appetizers. But, if you’d rather unlock your door and yell, “come in!” go for it. Either way works.
- Put people over perfection. This is my favorite party planning tip because it’s the most effective. If you’re at ease your guests will be, too. So relax and enjoy your guests. Mix and mingle. Be in the moment. Make memories and have fun.
- Take a few minutes to put away leftover food. Matt and I usually go ahead and load the dish washer and wash dishes after everyone leaves. It doesn’t take very long and before we know it, we’re sitting on the couch watching Netflix. But, if you don’t mind leaving dishes until tomorrow, go for it.
Remember, a holiday party doesn’t need to be perfect to be a success.
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