Hosting your first big holiday meal is intimidating for even the experienced entertainer because you’re not just throwing any old party—you’re cooking a meal for the people you love most in this world, and you want to impress each and every one.
While you might be feeling the pressure, try not to stress. These six tips will help you put on a memorable and successful first holiday meal.
1. Prep Your House Weeks Ahead of Time
In the days and even weeks leading up to the meal, it’s easy to get caught up in planning the menu and grocery shopping and forget about decorating other preparations. Instead of waiting until the last minute, start now. Look around your house and make a note of what you need to make your house more inviting—consider everything from seating and table space to your front door wreath and centerpiece. All of these small touches will make your home more comfortable and inviting for guests.
Tip: You don’t have to buy expensive decorations, look to the outside elements for an affordable way to decorate—greenery adds the perfect holiday touch.
2. Make Sure You Have Enough Place Settings
In addition to decorating, it’s important to have enough place settings for everyone at the table, including all utensils, serving spoons, wine glasses, coffee cups etc. Realizing the day of that you don’t have enough for all the guests attending can be stressful and costly.
The day before, wash anything that’s been sitting in your cabinets since your last big get together—think glassware or extra silverware—and properly set your table the day before. Extra steps taken ahead of time will free up your to focus on preparing the meal.
Tip: If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy extra place settings or all new flatware, consider mixing and matching from other family members. It can be a meaningful gesture to have pieces from different families, just make sure you label or keep track of whose is whose.
3. Don’t Buy All New Appliances
Hosting a holiday meal is expensive; don’t make the financial burden worse by buying new appliances or kitchen gadgets when you can borrow a lot of the things you don’t have.
More than likely, close friends or family members in town will have something that you can borrow—just ask them ahead of time. Take inventory of what you have and what you think you’ll need. If you think you’ll be hosting holidays in the future, you could invest in a few quality items; otherwise, borrow what you need.
Tip: If you’re worried that your oven is too small, plan a cooking schedule ahead of time—you’ll feel less stressed if you need to bake four different items on the day of. You could even ask your neighbor to pop something in their oven.
4. Let Pinterest Do the Work!
Remember that you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. Pinterest is a great source for creative recipes, innovative decorating ideas and even money-saving tips. Don’t be afraid to turn to the Internet for the ultimate holiday inspiration. Look for:
- Serving size guides
- Table etiquette
- Grocery lists with staple ingredients
- Conversation starters
Tip: A few weeks before the event, narrow down all of your ideas (it’s easy to get carried away with Pinterest!) and be realistic. Don’t assume you’ll have time to master a difficult recipe the day of.
5. Be Smart When Stocking the Bar
Alcohol is expensive, there’s no way around that. Luckily, you can make it a bit more manageable without feeling like you’re not doing enough. Here are three simple ideas:
- Don’t cater to every single guest’s preference; you’ll just stress yourself out. If people are extremely picky, they’ll likely bring their own beverage of choice.
- Buy in bulk especially when it comes to wine and beer. Browse grocery stores, liquor stores and even online vendors for the best deals.
- Offer a signature holiday liquor drink instead of buying a bunch of different liquor.
- Make a batch of you favorite festive cocktail along with offering two types of wine and a few types of beer.
Tip: Liquor stores can often order wine by the case from their distributor, making it cheaper for you. Just ask ahead of time, as sometimes they only get weekly shipments.
6. Go The Extra Mile
There are many ways to take your holiday meal to the next level, and you don’t have to be over the top to make it memorable. For example, did you know that each year we waste 1.78 billion pounds of turkey in the U.S.? Purchase cute or festive to-go containers for your guests, make holiday labels for them and send everyone home with a goody-bag of leftovers. Little gestures like this can go a long way in making your guests feel special.
Tip: DIY party favors are always a big hit and make it easy for you to leave a lasting impression without breaking the bank. Check out these cute favors from HGTV.