The holidays, what a fabulous time of year! The gathering of dear friends and family, cherished traditions, rich aromas of cinnamon and a crackling fire – yes to all, dear readers! The holidays also bring a pinch of stress for some, whether that’s pouring over countless cookbooks for the perfect popover recipe, or ensuring Uncle Tate and Cousin Tinsley don’t engage in an eyebrow-raising dispute during the meal! Whether you’ll be hostessing this holiday season or attending a friend or relative’s residence for the festivities, here are my tips to stay stress-free and sensational. Enjoy!
- Plan Ahead: To avoid at the last minute ping of panic, strive to plan your menu, shopping list, and table setting at least several days ahead so you can do your grocery shopping and not be scrambling to the store at the eleventh hour.
- Create a Schedule: Plan a schedule for the food (i.e., what time to prepare the potatoes au gratin and what time they will be finished; guest’s arrival time; etc.) This will help you have the food hot, cocktails ready when the guests arrive, and avoid unwelcome surprises.
- Utilize Place Cards: Helpful for both guests and hosts, place cards add order to holiday chaos, as they takes the guesswork out of where everyone will sit. Also, seat people with common interests next to each other and keep couples together.
- Orchestrate Conversation: Prior to the gathering, brainstorm topics to keep the dinner conversation flowing, and consider incorporating fun activities like “give thanks sheets” and party crackers.
- Enlist the help of others: Some hostesses love to do it all while others prefer the mantra “willing hands make light work.” If a guest offers to bring a delicious dish or bottle of bubbly and it truly would be a saving grace, by all means take them up on the offer.
- Greet Your Guests: While you’ll be busy putting the finishing touches on your meal or making sure the candles are lit, greet each guest as they arrive and engage them in conversation, even if it’s brief. As I always say, a host’s most important job is to make the guests feel comfortable!
- Bring a Hostess Gift: Rule of thumb is never show up empty handed so bring a small thoughtful gift for your host to show your gratitude. Here are some ideas!
- Offer to Bring a Dish: Even if you know the host loves to do the cooking, kindly ask if you can bring a dish, perhaps your great grandmother’s famous pecan tart. I guarantee the host will be oh so appreciative of the offer.
- Dress Appropriately: Inquire with the host about attire so you can dress appropriately, be it a formal or more casual dress code.
- Lend a Helping Hand: Whether serving the meal, filling up water goblets or washing the dishes, offer to help your host. They may tell you not to lift a finger, however they will dearly appreciate the offer.
- Write a Thank You Note: Within two weeks of the event, write a hand-written thank you note sharing thoughtful details and thanking your host for all of their hard work to make the holiday so special.