How to Host a No-Stress Holiday Dinner Party

Hosting a dinner party can be stressful, but hosting a holiday dinner party can be even more tricky, since it often involves inviting relatives which gives you much less control over the guest list. With the holidays just around the corner, you may find yourself hosting a dinner party or two in the next couple of months. So check out some of the following tips for ways to help you become a more relaxed host and maybe even enjoy your own dinner party!

Layout Your Game Plan at Least a Month Ahead

As OCD as it may sound, you can almost never start planning too soon. No football coach would ever send their team out onto the field without a game plan and you shouldn’t host a dinner party without one either! To help get you started, first envision exactly what kind of an evening you want to create. If you’re drawing a blank for ideas, do some searching on the internet for dinner party ideas and table themes. Once you have your vision in place, next break your ideas down on paper with a well-planned strategy for staging your party.

Plan Out Your Guest List

Planning a guest list for a dinner party is similar to a game of strategy. In other words, you should try to choose a balanced list of guests who you believe might be interested in each other, but without being too top heavy in any one area.

However, when hosting a holiday dinner, you don’t have as much control over who’s on your guest list. So your next best weapon to creating a successful holiday dinner, is to carefully assign table seating. For example, if you know that Aunt Jane doesn’t like Uncle Marvin, make sure you seat them far apart from each other at the dinner table. Holidays are a time when emotions can already be running high, so you don’t want to further inflame family situations that are already troublesome.

Write Out Your Shopping Lists

Plan out lists for what you’ll need to set the table and decorate your home, in addition to your grocery list. Set out everything you’ll need for your dinner table at least a week in advance and do your grocery shopping at least 2 days in advance. If you’re ordering a fresh turkey or other items that might need to be special ordered, check in with your local butcher well in advance to make sure your order gets placed on time. Buy all wine and liquor at least a week in advance and make sure you have all your dishes and glassware clean and ready for your event.

Plan a Simple Make-Ahead or Potluck Menu

If you find it difficult to be a relaxed host who can enjoy your own party, learn to focus on keeping things simple. Keep in mind the most important thing about a holiday dinner party is about getting everyone together and doing so in a way that doesn’t create a lot of unnecessary stress for everyone.

Serve foods that can be made well in advance and choose dishes that don’t require heating or only need to be reheated. That way, when your guests arrive you’ll be a relaxed host who can enjoy visiting with them and not running around stressed out in the kitchen.

Or consider making at least part of your holiday meal a potluck theme where everyone brings a dish. If you’re concerned that you’ll end up with too many desserts and not enough veggies, outline a potluck menu on your invitation and specifically designate items you would like your guests to bring.

For example, state on your invitation that you would like one dish of green veggies and one dish of starch veggies and ask your guests to commit to bringing one of these items at the same time they RSVP to you. Make sure you state a deadline for your RSVP, so their replies will arrive in time to be helpful to you and not the day before your event! For guests who are unable or might have difficulty cooking something, you can offer easy potluck items on your list, like a bottle of wine or some sweets prepared from a local bakery.

1-2 Days Before Your Event

You’ve already completed all your shopping, so these two days can be devoted to cooking and cleaning up afterwards. You can also set your holiday table ahead, so if you already have out of town guests staying with you at this time, these are perfect tasks for them to help pitch in with.

If you want music at your event, choose which of your playlists you’d like or choose a holiday themed station from Pandora to keep things simple.

Choose your outfits at least a day ahead for yourself and your kids. Fighting and tears on the day of your event will not make you a relaxed host!

The Day of Your Event

The table is already set, all your food is already cooked and you already know what everyone will be wearing today…..whew, most of your work is already done. Make sure all your wine and drinks are chilled and do a last minute check on your table settings. Set the ovens for any reheating, get dressed, start the music and light any candles at least 15 minutes before your guests arrive.

Congrats! You’re on your way to a being a relaxed host today so you’ll be able to enjoy your own event.

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