Whether you are hosting a large dinner party or planning a meal for your extended family this holiday, what seemed like a good idea at the time (inviting a crowd) now may suddenly seem overwhelming (inviting a crowd???). Somewhere between concept and execution, things can get a little fuzzy. At least they do for me! Add in all the other holiday tasks and planning, and hosting can be a LOT. Are those visions of handmade place cards and glorious centerpieces once dancing in your head now replaced by visions of…take-out menus? Here are some helpful tips to put you back in the festive spirit and back on track. You CAN host a festive holiday meal and still feel…jolly!
If you’re also freaking out about gifts and shipping too….don’t! We have some great last minute gift ideas and shipping dates to keep in mind here.
#1) Choose A Theme
Decide on your menu or theme and then dial that back a few notches. People will be more likely to remember how they “felt” when they were at your home more than what they ate or drink. So, while all the festive trimmings are impressive, nobody expects an Ina Garten spread (except maybe you). Choose a menu that allows you to cook some things ahead. Keep it practical, warm and inviting (handmade place cards optional!) Prep using microwave or oven-safe pieces so your dishes are easy to reheat. Many side dishes and desserts can be made 2-3 days ahead!
#2) Easy Appetizers
If you are planning a lot of cooking for the main course and/or sides, keep your appetizers simple and free up your oven space. A meat and cheese board is a fantastic option and involves NO cooking. If you need some tips on how to create an impressive charcuterie board, we break it down here. You can have it ready when guests arrive and you won’t need to worry about keeping it warm.
#3) Simple Décor
For your tablescape, you can use greenery instead of flowers. You can tie simple ornaments, bells or pinecones around your napkins which also gives your guest a little something to take home. Since the rest of the house is likely already decked-out for the holidays, you can keep the table decor neutral and simple. Create levels with pedestals or cake plates. Candles are GREAT for adding ambiance but stay away from strongly scented ones that will conflict with the food you’re serving.
#4) Set Out Serving Dishes
Pull serving pieces ahead of time so you aren’t digging around at the last minute and you’re sure you have what you need. This includes serving spoons too. Space them out on the table to make sure everything fits.
#5) Drink Station
Set up a drink station away from the food. You can make a batch cocktail in pitchers or just have wine and pre-bottled drinks for ease. Be sure to have plenty of bottled waters and non-alcoholic drinks. And ice, (plenty of it), in a large ice bucket. I’ve linked a few drink chillers that don’t sweat. There’s nothing worse than a puddle of condensation–that won’t make you jolly.
Don’t be afraid to say “YES” when someone asks if they can bring something. Side dishes, ice, drinks, desserts—people love to help and if they offered, take them up on it!
#7) Say Goodbye To Perfection
Give yourself permission to not be perfect. I’ll say that again for the ladies in the back—it really is OK to not be perfect! Create a welcoming and cozy atmosphere. Don’t take on sooo much that you can’t even enjoy your guests. Consider semi-homemade and store-bought options. No time to make mashed potatoes from scratch? Buy some at the store and jazz them up with extra butter, a little cream, roasted garlic and some rosemary. I won’t tell. Don’t take on too much.
Do you have any holiday entertaining tips that help keep you stress-free? Share in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!
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