It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m making little by little progress on a few Christmas preparations, but most of my to-dos are half done. I have Christmas cards but haven’t sent them, and our decorations are out of the storage unit but sitting around in boxes in our living room. Maybe next weekend I can actually check some things off!
Today I am so excited to be guest hosting with Sarah of Meet the Shaneyfelts and Victoria Strader for their annual link-up, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I’m a huge fan of both of these ladies and their blogs, so I was so honored to be included! Be sure to check out their posts as well as link your own using the button at the bottom of my post!
Of course, December is one of the most festive and fun months of the year for hosting, so here are my tips to create a memorable evening and minimize the overwhelm.
Votives and Tablecloth from Joann // Greenery and pine cones from Michael’s
Create a Tablescape that Welcomes Conversation
Without a doubt, my primary goal when hosting any gathering is that guests feel welcome and comfortable and that the atmosphere invites lingering and rich conversation. Here are a few ways I try to do that:
- One of the best ways to do this is to make sure that nothing on the table is obstructing views at eye level. Often, tall vases of flowers can be beautiful but restrictive. Lately, I’ve been really into these low garlands down the middle of the table. They are unexpected and leave the air space open.
- Next, mix formal and casual pieces. I love to go out for a formal meal as much as I love to throw together a casual buffet, but lately I’ve been playing with mixing the two. Here, I used our fanciest china and crystal with a flannel tablecloth and these wooden chargers. I think this is the best of both worlds for guests. They can feel both pampered and at home at the same time.
- Keep drinks on the table. I tend to serve plates in the kitchen because of our small space and small table, but I also like to keep water, wine, and eventually coffee on the table. That way, people aren’t getting up for refills as often, which also invites long conversation.
One of the best ways for you to relax and enjoy the evening is to do your homework ahead of time!
- If you like to host a lot, it helps to streamline your to-do list into a handy checklist. This takes the guess work out of your preparations. A few weeks before, plan your date and time, theme (if any), level of formality, and guest list. Send out invitations (even if these are just by email). By about ten days before, plan out your menu, the serving dishes you want to use for each item, your table setting, and any other decor. In the week leading up to your event, you can set the table, set out serving dishes and vases, and rearrange the furniture and such if needed. Then all you have left to do in the last few days is cook, arrange fresh flowers, and enjoy.
- This is in the same vein as my first tip, but it may be the most important! Depending on your menu, of course, a lot of your cooking can usually be done in advance. Desserts are great candidates for baking the night before, but also, you can do all your chopping, fill water and tea pitchers, and often make dressings and sauces in advance as well. It’s always a good idea to plan your menu around easier dishes that you know can be made in advance or don’t need to be timed perfectly. Then look carefully over your menu, and try to do as much as possible the night before!
- Plan to be Party-Ready a Half Hour Before Guests Arrive. If I have the decor and some food preparation done a few days in advance, then all I have to do the day of is the last-minute cooking. But sometimes I’ve been so focused on preparing the party that I’ve forgotten to get myself ready! There will always be last-minute details to attend to, so it’s best to aim to be ready and waiting about a half hour before guests arrive. That way, you can light the candles, pour yourself a glass of wine, and get in a relaxed mood to welcome your guests!
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The most important thing is to enjoy! Don’t worry about things being perfect. If you light a candle, turn on some music, and have a bottle of wine on hand, I promise your guests will be happy just to be hanging out at your place! Focus on them and everything will fall into place.
If you are sharing your holiday entertaining tips today, share your link below! I can’t wait to read everyone else’s!