Tips for Holiday Hosting

Happy Monday readers!

8 days...can you believe it? Christmas is nearly here!

Those who follow along on Insta know that we hosted my family for Thanksgiving this year.

While I've had a lot of practice hosting dinner parties, book clubs, and other gatherings, hosting your family for a large holiday meal is a little different. I picked up some tips and tricks this first go around and I thought I'd share today, given that you may be hosting your family in the coming week for a Christmas meal!

These aren't rocket science by any means, but I hope you'll find a tip you've never thought of before in today's post.

Choose your menu with preparation in mind. What I mean by that is to consider: What items can be prepared, or even fully cooked in advance? What are the various temperatures items need to be baked at? How much space is in the fridge for items you prepare in advance or need to be chilled? Are there dietary restrictions to be aware of?

For example, we chose to skip a turkey and the intimidation factor it brings. Instead we opted to get a honey baked ham (pre-sliced) that would just need to be warmed up and to roast a chicken. We also included baked brie as an app, homemade yeast rolls (recipe coming soon!), a brussel sprouts salad (recipe here), sweet potato casserole (recipe here), and French silk pie (recipe here).

The night before, we baked the pies, prepped the sweet potato casserole so all it needed was baking, and also shredded the brussel sprouts. The morning of, we baked the rolls so all they'd need was to be reheated at mealtime; the rest we were able to do in the afternoon before guests arrived at 5:00 pm (a time I chose so we'd have all day to prepare and not feel rushed).

We finalized this menu about 3 weeks in advance and shared it with my family, asking others to also bring a dish to share.

Staging is also key in advance of hosting. We live in a small cape cod, so figuring out seating, traffic flow, and food presentation took a little creativity. The day before we worked through a few different layouts and set the table. 

The first item we tackled was seating. The most we can fit at our dining table is 6, and that's a tight squeeze. We had 9 coming, so opted to flip our dining table lengthwise and add a card table at the end. I set both tables with white linens and a matching table runners to make the tables feel cohesive and put similar flower arrangements in blue and white on both tables. (Speaking of flowers, magnolia is your best friend for holiday arrangements. It is so easy and makes a beautiful statement!)

The next item to think about was bar and appetizer placement. I wanted to avoid too much traffic in the kitchen, as last minute cooking and prep would be happening, so set a bar up in the living room. This doesn't need to be fancy and really any old table will do. Bryce's nightstand is a drop leaf table, so I literally cleared that, brought it downstairs expanding the leaves, and threw a fall tablecloth on top (underneath the fall cloth, I first layered a padded water resistant cloth to protect the wood)! The bar was self serve with wine, lemon water, and some nuts. On the back patio, we had a Yeti cooler stocked with beer, soda, and LaCroix, again self serve.

Given our limited space, I opted to place appetizers on the card table. I staged the 3 place settings for that table in the sun room, as well as the folding chairs. A few minutes before it was time to eat, I simply cleared the apps to the kitchen and was able to quickly set the remaining three places and put the chairs out.

Finally, part of staging is also planning how you'll serve the meal. We opted for a simple buffet in the kitchen. Since we had prepped everything requiring our stand mixer the night before, we hid that in the pantry, and cleared the counter tops as much as possible putting serving platters out the night before. 

Another staging tip is to have a few versatile serving platters pulled out and handy in advance. I keep our serving platters in the corner cabinet of our dining room which was not the most accessible with the Thanksgiving table set up. Knowing that some of the "pot luck" items may need platters, I pulled a few out in advance and had them within reach in our pantry. One item I realized we were short on, in the moment, however was serving utensils! While people will sometimes come prepared with serving platters for the food they bring, many people don't bring serving utensils. We were able to improvise with wooden spoons and such, but I do plan to buy a couple more serving utensils between now and our next holiday hosting.

Have a clean up and leftovers plan. This may be a no brainer, but clean up as much as you can as you prepare the meal and also be sure to have an empty dishwasher in advance of your guests' arrival. One of my tips, that sounds silly, but I've gotten compliments on, is to have a pretty dish towel ready for whatever last minute non-dishwasher safe dishes you may throw in the sink. I didn't do this at Thanksgiving, but at other parties in the past, I've simply draped the dishtowel over the sink to hide the mess from guests. In terms of clean up, Bryce and I don't have a problem leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight (I know some folks can't sleep if a dish is left in the sink...this is not us!). We typically will do whatever clean up is absolutely necessary at the end of the night (ie: putting food away, loading the dishwasher, soaking dishes, etc), but then will tackle the rest, and putting dishes away in the morning. One of my favorite moments after hosting an event is sitting down on the couch with a glass of wine after clean up!

For leftovers, be sure to buy extra tupperware in advance, or do what I did and send a BYOT (bring your own tupperware!) message to guests in advance of the event. Also make sure you're stocked with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and ziplock bags. It's also good to have a few grocery or shopping bags at the ready in case people need to pack their leftovers.

The final tip is to enjoy yourself! The holidays are all about time spent with family, so do as much prep work in advance, and choose a menu that allows you time outside the kitchen with your guests. And at the end of the day, if you do have a recipe flop or snafu, it makes for a great story!

Have you hosted your family for the holidays?

What are your go to hostessing tips and tricks?

Have a great day!