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How to Plan the Perfect Holiday Dinner Party

Updated on November 25, 2014

Plan Your Dinner Party Without Stress

So you've decided to host a holiday dinner party. Suddenly your mind is overwhelmed by all the little details that must be considered when undertaking such an endeavor. When you plan a holiday dinner party, it need not be a stressful activity. By planning a holiday dinner party in an organized, step-by-step manner, you can achieve a relaxing, efficient gathering without a lot of extra fuss and worry.

Decide Upon Your Guest List

The food is always the star of any holiday dinner party, and a tantalizing spread of culinary delight is sure to please, but before you decide on the food, you must first plan your guest list. Make sure not to invite more people than you are able to accommodate. An large gathering of friends or family for dinner is always a joyous occasion, but an overly crowded table can be an uncomfortable evening for your guests. If you find that you have more guests than your current dining table can fit, then look to borrow a portable table and chairs. But check to make sure that your dining room can hold the additional furniture.

Send the Invites

Once you have decided on your guest list, extend the invitations. You can choose to send formal invitations through mail or email, or make a simple phone call if such formalities are unnecessary. Be sure to leave your guests ample time to reserve the date and respond, keeping in mind that during the holiday season, dinner plans are sometimes made far in advance. Your guests may likely be invited to other holiday parties and dinners as well as your own.

Plan the Menu

Now that the guest list has been completed and the invitations made, it is time to plan the menu for your holiday dinner party. Deciding on the menu is always fun, but be careful not to attempt more than you can handle. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to prepare and cook the food, and make sure you have all the necessary cookware and bakeware beforehand. You may have family and traditional recipes that are a yearly staple for holiday dinners, but you might want to read the food section of your newspaper or pick up the holiday issues of popular food magazines. You'll find interesting variations of traditional holiday food and useful tips on preparation and cooking, enhancing the overall flavor and appearance of your meal.

Preparing the Food

Often, food can be partially or completely prepared and cooked well in advance of the holiday dinner party, saving you lots of time and stress. Check the recipes to see what you may be able to prepare beforehand, so that you can approach cooking at a more leisurely, relaxing pace, rather than rushing to complete your meal plan all at once.

Check your fridge and pantry to see what you might need and do your food and ingredient shopping early in the week, saving you the hassle of having to return to the grocery store at a later, inconvenient time. You don't want to be in the middle of preparing a dish and find that you've run out of a crucial ingredient.

Decorating the Table

Decoration is also an important factor for a holiday dinner party, and decorations also add a festive air to the party, as well as contributing to your own peace of mind, helping to lift your spirits as your work hard. You'll likely already have some decorations up around your house as the holidays near, but you don't want to neglect your dining table or your kitchen when having a holiday dinner party.

Craft stores will often have several beautiful centerpieces representative of the fall harvest or Thanksgiving, and winter and Christmas centerpieces. You can keep the d├ęcor simple or turn your dining room in a remarkable display of holiday celebration. Be sure to decorate your kitchen as well, since guests invariably wind up in the kitchen during dinner parties.

Serve Food on the Table or Buffet Style?

An option you may want to consider when planning a holiday dinner party is serving your guests buffet style. If you have the room, you can set up a series of hot plates with your prepared dishes. This will allow your guests to easily serve themselves and keep the table clear of extra clutter and dishes. Cleanup is also simpler as you'll have less platters to clear and clean, and leftovers can be stored within the tins and put directly into the refrigerator. If you choose the buffet option, be sure to place the food line-up in an area that wont be congested by your guests, so that they can move easily down the line and return to their seat to enjoy their meal.

Serving Drinks

Remember to also have ample amounts of wine, alcohol, and other beverages on hand to accommodate your guests. A delicious holiday punch or hot mulled cider is always a crowd pleaser. You can find many recipes for holiday punches and beverages on the internet or in the paper as the holidays draw closer.

Getting Help

If your holiday dinner party is especially large, you may want to consider hiring some help. Catering halls and other establishments offer services for dinner parties, from a simple bartender to someone who will assist with the cooking, serving, and cleaning. Whether you hire help or not, try not to overdo yourself, so you can have time to sit and relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family. Celebrate your success and enjoy the holiday!

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