Summer entertaining is always the easiest sort: throw together a salad, lay some meat over some fire, shove your guests into the backyard with a cooler full of beers and call it a day. But the fall and winter holidays require roasting, planning, and a little more effort. Here’s how to pull them off without going crazy before the new year.
Make a Playlist Early
It should be something you’ll enjoy getting ready to—a soundtrack for chopping carrots and trussing a bird—but also something that can seamlessly transition into your guests’ arrival. (So maybe avoid the “pump up the jam” genre.) Go for the classics like Fleetwood Mac or Bruce Springsteen, or something moody like Bossa Nova.
Tidy the Day Before
The number one rule of dinner parties is that preparation always takes longer than you expect. Don’t expect yourself to clean the house the day of—give yourself a little extra room to get your space ready. While you’re at it, set the table ahead of time too. Do this a day or two beforehand, and you’ll feel super prepared. You’ll also feel like your dining area is already in the dinner party mindset—like dressing for the job you want. (Here’s a handy cleaning checklist to run through before guests come over!)
Cheese Platters Are Always a Good Thing
It’s never a bad idea to have a cheese platter ready on the table when guests arrive. Include a soft cheese, a hard cheese, and a third wild card cheese to keep things interesting. Throw your favorite jam or chutney on the board too along with some raw or roasted nuts and your favorite olives (we love the green Castelvetrano ones). Have your cheese plane and cheese slicer waiting on the board too so guests feel invited to dig right in. Cheese platters immediately solve that what-snacks-should-I-serve dilemma and will save your butt if the main course is taking a little longer than expected.
Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
Holiday meals are often big to-dos—there’s a lot of roasting, a lot of dishes on the table, and a lot of guests. So ask people to bring dishes, or do some work in the kitchen when they get there; they’ll be happy to contribute more than just a bottle of wine.
Pour Yourself a Beverage Before the First Guest Arrives
We’ve all been there: your first friend knocks on the door, you’re still in your sweats, your teeth haven’t been brushed, etc. Build in some time for yourself to sit and relax and have a glass of wine (or a mocktail!) before the rush begins.
Don’t Forget the Teetotalers
Some of your friends might not drink alcohol and some might only want a few glasses of wine. Keep some fancy sparkling water on hand (or ask someone to bring it) for those looking for something between a glass of water and five glasses of pinot noir.
Don’t Feel Obligated to Crowd Your Home with Pumpkins and Turkeys
Yes, a bit of decor is nice, but you shouldn’t have to go all-out on a tablescape if that’s not your thing, or not within your budget. A nice seasonal tablecloth and some tall tapered (unscented candles!) will go a long way.
Stock up on To-go Containers
Leftovers can be a burden on a host if your fridge is already feeling chaotic, so grab some SNAP containers to send your guests home with something for tomorrow’s lunch. You’ll be lightening your load while reminding your guests how delicious that party was.