Holiday Entertaining at Home

Each year you vow not to host another holiday gathering; but, you always do. It’s like a mother in labor saying or screaming she will never have another baby. But, then, she does. Okay, so maybe holiday entertaining at home is not as painful as giving birth, but, let’s agree that it can be nerve-racking. After all, it is the holidays. There is so much pressure to be perfect. Just how do you make holiday entertaining at home more of a pleasure than a pain? The good news is that it is possible to have a successful holiday party, even if you are the belle of your own ball, so to speak. All it takes is a little planning. Lucky for you, the holidays arrive at the same time every year. So, planning really is plausible and possible. You just have to know where to begin.

My years as a professional caterer and event planner taught me how to host holiday parties that I was actually able to enjoy along with my guests. I used my professional prowess to ensure that my private parties were stress free instead of stressful, memorable instead of mind boggling. And, although I don’t cater professionally anymore, I still hold fast to the principles learned while in the trenches.

Here are 7 tips you can plan to use to make your holiday entertaining festive and fun for you and your guests.

  1. Choose the holiday you can handle
  2. All holidays are not created equal. Some require more work than others in terms of decorating and food preparation. Be sure to pick the one that plays to your strengths.

  3. Set a realistic budget and stick to it
  4. Dipping into your savings account to throw a lavish holiday party is not a wise choice, especially in these economic times. Instead, establish an account specifically for your holiday entertaining. Squirrel away a little every month so that you are working with a dedicated sum of money for your soirée.

  5. Strategically invite guests
  6. Resist the urge to invite everyone you know. And, do not feel obligated to invite someone so that they will in turn invite you to their party. That would smack of insincerity. Instead, invite people you genuinely like and want to share the occasion with. It is also a good idea to consider the personalities and interests of your guests. The last thing you want is for your happy holiday gathering to be ruined by tension in the air so thick you could cut it with your kitchen knife.

  7. Use an engaging invitation
  8. Although we are in the age of emails and e-vites, an old fashioned invitation sent via snail mail still cannot be beat. Show your guests you care enough to spend the postage to send a tangible invitation. Remember, the invitation is the first glimpse of what your holiday gathering will be like. It is your opportunity to whet the appetites of your guests by creatively preparing them for the event to come. Make sure the invitation is appropriate to the style of gathering you intend to have. For instance, an engraved invitation would be a waste for an informal holiday brunch. Another word on cyberspace communications, computers have been known to crash taking with it your e-vite not to mention the in box so full that your e-vite is not read until weeks later. Your chances of having your invitation noticed and responded to are greater using the old fashioned method. Your invitation should clearly state the amount of people invited from each household and whether or not it is an adult party or if children are welcome. Also, save yourself a great deal of stress by placing calls to everyone who did not RSVP. You want to avoid preparing for 10 people only to have 20 guests arrive instead.

  9. Plan a menu you can make ahead
  10. Depending on the time of day your holiday event takes place, plan to prepare as much food ahead of time; even two to three days ahead, if possible. If you decide to assign dishes for your guests to bring, make sure your main course is not walking in three hours late. It is always best to ask guests to bring dessert.

  11. Make your holiday party memorable
  12. Your guests will remember your party. It is up to you to decide what they remember. Be daring and different. If you own a piano, why not hire a musician to play during the cocktail hour or during dinner? If guests have small children, why not hire a responsible teenager to watch them in an upstairs bedroom or in the family room? Hire a niece or nephew to pass appetizers, take coats, or load the dish washer. Decide ahead of time what you would like your guests to remember about your holiday gathering then plan to provide an atmosphere that will produce those thoughts. My husband and I renewed our wedding vows for our 10th anniversary. The celebration was on a Thursday which meant many of our guests would be arriving from work. We decided ahead of time we needed them to be able to enjoy the evening from the start not 1 or 2 hours after they unwound. So, we asked the staff at the reception hall to greet each guest at the door with a warm smile and to say “Welcome to the celebration.” In addition our guests were handed a glass of bubbly as they crossed the threshold. Days later, many guests shared with us that before they even sat down they were able to shake off the day and be present at the celebration. Even if your event is at your home, hire a couple of teenagers for one or two hours to do the honors. Feel free to try my idea.

  13. Give your guests a parting gift
  14. The best gift anyone can receive (other than a bag of money) is a photo of themselves. During your holiday party, take posed Polaroid pictures of guests. I know digital cameras are the rage, but if you take a Polaroid picture you will be able to affix a prepared label to the bottom that thanks them for attending with your name and the date. Every time they look at the picture they will smile and be reminded of your amazing holiday party at home.

Armed with these tips you can confidently embrace the holiday season. Now you know that a successful and stress free holiday gathering at home simply requires a bit of planning and creativity.

©Rena Bullard 2009
This article may be reprinted, in its entirety, with copyright information.

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