Throwing an elegant holiday get-together -- whether a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party -- doesn't have to be stressful. Here are a few tips for hosting a wonderful Christmas gathering without breaking a sweat.
First, determine whether you want a sit-down dinner or something more casual, like a cocktail party.
Buffets make dinner parties easy: You can get dishes out quickly and keep them warm while guests can help themselves.
For a stress-free cocktail party, stock the pantry and prepare hors d'oeuvres ahead of time. That leaves only an hour or two of prep on the day of your event.
Once you've decided what kind of party you're going to host, determine the date, time, guest list, and menu. Then put together a list of people to invite and decide how you're going to get the word out (you can send an invitation via email or post, or you can call guests). We suggest inviting your guests at least three to four weeks in advance if not sooner, as calendars fill up fast around the holiday season.
Make as much of the food and drinks ahead of time as you can. Of course, some things cannot be made beforehand, but try to get all of your prep work done as early as possible. If you're organized and have everything ready when the party starts, you'll be better able to attend to your guests.
For a pretty (and easy) presentation, use oven-to-table servingware to help keep food warm, rather than glass or metal baking dishes. If you don't have these serving dishes on hand, label what you are using ahead of time so you know exactly where everything goes when it comes out of the oven.
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