I love entertaining on the holidays; having friends and family gathered in my home has always been my favorite part of the season (along with the food... we can't forget the food). Early on I used to get easily overwhelmed however, over the years I have picked up a few tips here and there that have helped me to pull off the perfect holiday party without the stress! These tips for holiday entertaining will help you make sure that this holiday season actually is "most wonderful time of the year"...! (as opposed to the most stressful and overwhelming)
NO.1 GET A HEAD COUNT
This may seem obvious BUT it has been my experience that plans can change quite frequently leading up to the holidays- so make sure you have a good idea of how many people will be attending at least a week in advance of your party. I always like to plan for more rather than less just in case. I would rather have leftovers than not have enough! Also... who doesn't love Christmas party leftovers?
NO. 2 PREPARE YOUR MENU
Once you know how many guests you will have, you can start planning your menu! I like to divide this into 3 separate categories: appetizers, main course, & dessert.
A good rule of thumb for appetizers is to have at least four different varieties and about 6 of each per guest. A charcuterie board is also an excellent choice if you just want to have something out for your guests to pick on.
I prefer going traditional on the main course (whatever that may mean for you) and I like to include at least 3 sides. Christmas dinner at our house typically includes a whole roasted pig, cooked in the Caja China- a portable oven whose history goes back to the fifties in Cuba, when Chinese immigrants arrived in Caribbean lands and cooked meats underground. Later, they covered the food with a metal plate on which they placed embers and after four hours, they had a delicious and juicy meat. Seriously , it's delicious ! This is served with congri (a typical cuban rice made with black beans) yucca with mojo ( a creole garlic sauce) & I like to add a corn soufflé to the menu because I absolutely love it!
Dessert typically consists of what we call turron- which is similar to nougat and comes in many different varieties. I also make a cake (like from a box!) and white chocolate- raspberry scones with raspberry butter ( I got this from my best friend whose husband is British).
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to shop- do not wait until the last minute!
NO. 3 DON'T FORGET THE DRINKS
It's always fun to have a signature cocktail at a holiday party! This Cranberry White Sangria looks festive and is a tasty way to welcome your guests. A good bar with lots of variety is an integral part of any great party- I like to include: Champagne, white wine, red wine, vodka, tequila, bourbon, whiskey, and gin along with mixers and I always have club soda and tonic on hand. Also be sure to have some non-alcoholic choices for your younger guests and anyone who does not drink! Creating a signature mocktail to welcome them is also a great touch.
NO. 4 DECK THE HALLS
This one speaks for itself. Make sure your home is holiday party ready to set the festive mood for your guest to enjoy! If you need some Holiday Styling Tips check out our post on Instagram!
NO. 5 MAKE YOUR LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE
So now you have your guest list, your menu, your drinks are set, your home is decked out- what's next? Make a list of everything your are going to need! For example, will you need to rent tables and chairs? How many? I should stop here to note that if this a large gathering and you will be ordering a lot of items you should give yourself a month ahead of the party date to get that order in (especially now with all the shortages)! Do you have all the necessary china, silverware, and barware? Are you good on linens and napkins? Do they need to be dry-cleaned? Are you purchasing the centerpieces or creating them? Either way the key is to know exactly, the amounts you need and how far in advance you will need to buy, and order everything in order to give you enough time to sort it all and then put everything together while giving you time to spare before the big party!
NO. 6 SET IT UP
Everything has been ordered and organized- now is the time to set it all up and get it looking just right. I typically like to do the set up of the table itself the day before the actual party, this gives me time to handle any unexpected issues without stress! If I happen to be creating the centerpieces myself I will typically do that at least one week ahead of the party, again just in case I need to run out and get more supplies or there is an unexpected issue that pops up.
The key to any successful gathering is to plan ahead; if you do that you will be just fine! And remember, the idea is to always have fun!