If you have a large family and lots of friends, the temptation is to have one big party for everyone. Big parties are lots of fun, and if that is what you want to do just remember to give yourself plenty of planning ahead time. I find smaller, more intimate gatherings to be fulfilling because I have more time as a hostess to visit longer with each of my guests.
- Time: Give yourself enough planning time. This is key to avoiding that overwhelmed feeling. Shop early for ingredients and decorating items, and make dishes ahead of time when you can.
- Food: Know what food you are going to have; from light hors d’oeuvres to a full dinner it is important to have your menu planned out and written down. Menus can even be used as a decorating element. Menus. Having the food written down also helps as a basis for your shopping list to help you make sure you have everything you need for a dish. Think about color and taste as you plan your menu; include salty and sweet things to give your guests a variety to choose from. WARNING: Use recipes you have done before. Do not experiment with a new recipe on your guests. Trust me. Always do a trial run of a recipe before serving it.
- Décor: The good thing about holiday entertaining is that your home is probably already decorated. You can decorate your table inexpensively but elegantly using natural elements. Pine cones are free for the gathering under pine trees and for those in the south, magnolia seed pods and greenery are readily available for gathering and are a traditional decorating element. If the natural look of pine cones and pods is not to your liking, you can always use spray paint to liven them up to suit your décor. Magnolia pods lightly sprayed gold look quite elegant. If you are planning a sit-down affair, remember to keep your centerpiece low enough for people to see each other across the table. It is frustrating to try to talk to someone who seems to be hiding behind a bunch of flowers and candles.
- Enjoy: Remember it is the group of people that is your main ingredient for a good time. Don’t stress too much on the stuff, and concentrate on your guests. Spend time with them, help them to feel welcome, and share your joy. If you have an informal gathering, invite your guests to help in the kitchen, or uncork the wine. Some people feel at ease helping out and will relax more if they feel they have contributed. This is also a good time to invite people to bring their favorite holiday food, if they have one. It will save you time in the kitchen and allow them to share in the experience.
Remember, a little advance planning and organization can help you through the hectic holidays and allow you to enjoy entertaining your family and friends.