Planning Your Holiday Dinner or Gathering

Planning Your Holiday Dinner or Gathering

The holiday season is a time for catching up with friends and family, for celebrating the joy of being together. Attending holiday parties or dinners is always lots of fun, but hosting them at your own home is another story. There are a lot of responsibilities that come along with the event, but with the right amount of planning, you can ensure that you will have as much fun as your guests will.

First things first: Begin with a plan

Planning in advance is the most crucial thing you can do to make sure your party is fun and not stressful. Start with the type of gathering you want to host—will this be a sit-down dinner or a more casual mingling-style party with a buffet? Will it be a potluck where everyone shares their favorite dish? The scope of your party will dictate the rest of all the planning, so you will need to hammer down this detail first.

Once you settle on what type of gathering you would like to have, it is time to decide who you will invite. If you have a large extended family, you may not have room for more than just them. Or perhaps you are of “the more, the merrier” mindset and plan to invite everyone on your contact list. No matter who you choose to include, decide on this early in the process so you can create and send invites and plan your menu.

The real star of the show: Food and drinks

Though socializing is an important part of gatherings, the main attractions are the food and drinks that will be served. This is especially true around the holidays, when rich, lavish dishes and desserts dominate traditions. While you may be tempted to whip up dishes that will impress your guests, try to plan items that will be easier on you. Your food does not have to be overly complicated to dazzle everyone. To make sure you can enjoy your own party, try to prepare as much in advance as possible. Think about the manner in which items will be served. Steer clear of things that require your undivided attention when serving. Unless you are hosting a sit-down dinner, choose things that guests can dish up themselves.

The real star of the show: Food and drinks

These Potato Beef Canapes offer main entree choices in bite-sized pieces. The dish looks impressive, yet it is filled with familiar comfort foods. You can also prepare the meat the day before to save you time and energy on the day of the party. This Orange-Basil Baked Brie marries sweet and salty flavors to create a unique and palatable appetizer that can easily be prepared in advance. Finish off the night with a seasonally-appropriate treat that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Applesauce Spice Cake can be served à la mode, if desired. To make drink serving easier, consider setting up a self-serve drink station complete with fun and festive drink toppers.

Break out the fancy dishes and decor

While yummy food and good company are all you really need for a festive occasion, your decor, music and entertainment can really set the tone of the party. In many cases, your home may already be decorated for the season, making your decorating duties easier. Focus on appealing to all the senses when planning—do not limit yourself to only making your home look good. Place some fall or holiday scented candles or melting wax in different areas to really capture the feel of the season. And do not forget about the music! If holiday songs are not really your thing, curate a playlist that matches the mood you hope to create.

The big day

Before guests arrive, be sure to rearrange your space for the best party layout. Think about flow—parties should encourage socialization, so people need plenty of room to mingle and areas where they can sit and chat. The point is to create comfort, both for you and your guests.

Give yourself enough time to get ready, and prepare for the possibility of early arrivals. You do not want to hear the dreaded ding-dong of the doorbell while you hair is still dripping wet.

Make clean-up easier on yourself by running the dishwasher as you go along. Hire or designate someone as the cleaning person so it is not overwhelming at the end of the night. This will also keep your areas clutter-free as you move on to different courses and/or activities throughout the night.

The holiday season is fair game for gift giving, and sometimes this can result in awkward moments of gift exchanges that are not reciprocated. For this reason, consider having small, generic gifts—such as bottles of wine—on hand in case people bring unexpected treats.

Remember that, above all, holiday gatherings are about opening your home to loved ones and sharing in the joy of the season. Your guests will surely love all the effort you put into hosting them, but the best part of the night will be spending time with you!


How do you ensure a fun and successful holiday gathering? Let us know in the comments!


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Planning Your Holiday Dinner or Gathering

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