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.
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What Kind of Party?
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.
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Put Together a Guest List and Invitations
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.
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Easy Menu Ideas
Now that you know what type of party you're going to host and you have a guest list, it's time to pick what you'll serve. If you're having a dinner party, use one of these easy menus, or pick and choose which recipes you want to use and create your own holiday menu.
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If you've decided to host a cocktail party, put together a list of the appetizers you'd like to serve. We suggest using recipes that can be made in advance, which will save you time and energy on the day of the party.
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The last thing you want is to spend your own party fixing drinks. Set up an easy-to-make cocktail bar with precut garnishes, infused vodkas, and cocktail recipes so your guests can help themselves.
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Make a List
At least a day before, make a list and schedule of what needs to be made and when. Make sure to leave at least an hour before the party starts for any last minute emergencies, and, of course, to get ready and relax before your guests arrive.
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Decide on Decorations
When it comes to decorations, think small. Save space for food by displaying low arrangements of blooms in lieu of a large centerpiece. Use small accents, such as gilded nuts, to fill any empty spots on the dining or buffet table.
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Prep Ahead of Time
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.
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Set up a separate station (in another room or area if possible) for drinks. Stock it with both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverage choices, ice, cocktail napkins, and appropriate glassware.
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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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Last but not least, enjoy yourself! If you are having a good time, your guests will have a great time as well.