Most Important Essentials for First Time Holiday Entertaining
I’ve never entertained for a major holiday and I think I’m in way over my head. Can you give me some tips on how to make my first foray a success?
–LB, Portland, OR
No worries. Here's a check-off list.
* Invitation List: About a month out, find out from a few of your favorite friends and family if they are able to attend on the date you've chosen. If one date, doesn't work, try another. Build on your party core of guests well in advance.
- Choosing the date: Better yet, say that you're thinking of one or two dates, and ask which would work best for them.
- Personalize your invitation to reflect the season, occasion, or place (location) where you're holding your party.
- Mix and match, invite a diversity of friends: Choose from varying ages and different backgrounds -- people whom you know from the most important arenas of your life.
* Don't turn down help. If a guest offers to bring a festive dip, side dish or dessert or do something to pitch in say, YES. They'll be more committed to showing up when they receive your invitation if they're contributing to the festivities. But do confirm two days in advance to give them a final head count of attendees. And to find out exactly what they're bringing, and how they intend to help out.
- Delegate: They say they want to help, so let them bring appetizers, play bartend and bring a bag of ice, light the candles and/or fireplace, pass canapés, etc.
- Keep a list of who is doing or bringing what.
- Have backups: start bagging ice cubes into your freezer, stocking up on nuts, olives, and cheese and crackers to put out. If the friend who is bringing the appetizers is late, at least you'll have snacks for your guests.
* Ahead of time, prepare as much as possible.
- If you don't cook, investigate ahead of time where you can buy prepared foods, which you can always personalize with parsley and colorful garnish. Nobody cares if you've bought the gluten-free apple crisp because you're serving it with really good vanilla ice-cream.
- Don't experiment when hosting. Use your tried and true recipes.
- Clean out the fridge to make room for the turkey and trimmings. You need icepacks and a cooler to keep everything that needs to be kept cool. Such as wine, beer, the uncooked turkey.
- Cook the turkey or ham the day before.
- Set the dinner table and children's table (if you're having enough kids) ahead of time..
- Chill the wine and beer. Figure out if you need coolers.
- Ask someone else to make an appetizer.
*Have a good time with any children in the house and let them make pumpkin pies to scent the house with holiday spices.
- Encourage kids to be creative by making decorative place cards.