It seems like the holidays arrive earlier and earlier each year. Careful planning can help keep the stress out of organizing holiday celebrations. Creating detailed lists and schedules will keep the party planning on track and allow the host/hostess to spend more time with family and friends. When hosting a large gathering, it can be daunting to begin making arrangements, but by creating a manageable timeline and the selecting the ideal tableware and menu, Christmas holiday party planning can become an enjoyable venture.
Creating a timeline
2-3 Months in Advance
- Venue- Consider whether the event will be hosted in a home setting or at a banquet hall or restaurant. If hosting an event at a banquet hall or restaurant, make a booking at least 2-3 months in advance as there may be a lot of competition for the holiday party slots. Consider which date will offer the best chance for guests to be able to attend your party
Depending on the size of the guest list, a home setting may have seating constraints. If a home partyis the preferred option, consider hosting an open house with longer hours rather than an evening sit-down dinner party so that people can come and go throughout the day, allowing for more guests to attend without creating an uncomfortable crowd in the home.
- Caterer or Home Cooking- If the party is being held at a banquet center or restaurant, either the venue or a caterer will provide the food. Schedule a date with the company to go over menu options. Depending on the time of day and length of the party, determine if appetizers will be offered along with an entree, or if you will be serving only appetizers or only an entree. Consider possible dessert options including cupcakes or cookies with holiday accents, which are easy to eat in a group setting and portable if guests want to take a treat home.
If the host/hostess will be providing the food, allow time to begin considering recipes that serve large groups and can be prepared ahead of time. It's always nice to have a vegetarian option and a low-sodium option for guests who are vegetarian or have health considerations. Many recipes can be made ahead and frozen or prepared a few days to a day before the event allowing for easy day-of party preparation.
1 Month in Advance
- Grocery Shopping- It is handy to keep a file of all the recipes to be used so they are accessible when doing grocery shopping planning in the weeks before the event. Grocery stores often run sales in the month proceeding a holiday on beverages like soda and alcohol and items like snack chips, nuts, and candies that can be purchased ahead of time.
Meat can be purchased early and frozen. Stock up on items that will keep like the aforementioned foods as well as garbage bags, bath tissue, and paper towels for the party.
- Guest List/Addresses- When planning a guest list for your Christmas party, be sure to include special family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Invitations are usually sent one month before the event allowing plenty of time for guests to save the date at this busy time of year.
- Paper Party Supplies- After choosing the color scheme or theme around which the party will center, plan the winter holiday tableware and decorations to be used for the event. Be sure to order in quantities that will accommodate for some unexpected guests or spills.
In the Week Before
- Freeze Ahead- Prepare any dishes that can be made ahead and frozen like Italian beef. Also purchase bags of ice for the drinks if freezer space allows.
- Fresh Supplies-Purchase any fresh foods needed for party recipes. Consider fresh flowers for centerpieces or room accents.
1 Day Before
- Prepare Recipes- Bake any cookies, cakes, or desserts. Prepare dips. Chop vegetables for recipes and set out all needed ingredients for anything to be cooked the day of the event.
- Defrost any Frozen Items- Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator for food safety.
- Set Tables- Set place settings and tabletop decor as well as room decorations. This will save time the day of the event.
Day of the Party
- Cook and Heat Foods to be Served- Now is the time to cook and prepare the last of the foods to be served. Be sure to practice food safety by keeping cold foods cold with ice and warm foods warm with slow cookers.
- Enjoy!- Be sure to make time to enjoy the guests. Guests will feel relaxed if the host is relaxed and smiling. Mingle and chat to make all the guests feel comfortable.
Choosing Menu Options
It can be challenging when considering meal options for a large group, but hosts will find that many items can made into hearty entrees for large groups and some can be prepared ahead of time and reheated the day of the event.
Entree Ideas for Large Groups
- Italian beef
- Pulled pork
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- Fried chicken
- Sloppy Joes
Add a green salad and cold salads like potato salad and fruit salad along with some vegetables sides and plenty of bread and this large group will be well-fed.
For desserts, cookies, cake and other baked goods are always yummy. Set out bowls of assorted candies and nuts for guests to enjoy.
Consider the preferred look for the event when selecting tableware in solids or themes. Solid colors pair easily with other solids as well as with patterned tableware. Disposable tableware makes event set-up and clean-up a snap. For Christmas holiday parties, red, green, gold, silver, and blue provide an excellent foundation for a color scheme.
- For meals, dinner or banquet-sized plates or platters are ideally sized for entrees. Select a solid color plate and pair with themed dinner napkin or themed plates paired with solid color napkins for a stylish look.
- For appetizers, desserts, and salads, dessert-sized plates are a great option. Pair with beverage sized napkins.
- For entrees or other hearty foods, dinner or luncheon-sized napkins are nicely sized. Available in an assortment of solid colors as well as patterns, paper lunch napkins are convenient for guests and easy to clean up after the event.
- When serving drinks, appetizers or other small snacks, beverage napkins are the ideal size. Solid color napkins in several shades can be fanned for an attractive display on your buffet tables.
- For restrooms, coordinating color guest towels can be used in lieu of cloth towels or paper towels for an elegant look.
- If serving soda, punch, or coffee, choose disposable hot/cold cups in solid colors or with a holiday theme. Most guests will use at least two cups during a party.
- For alcoholic beverages, plastic stemware is an excellent choice. Plastic wineglasses, champagne flutes, and margarita glasses can be easily used without fear of breakage.
- Plastic or paper tablecovers add a pop of color and protect your tables. Tablecovers create a clean and cohesive look in your party space and offer a diverse way to add to your color scheme.
- Themed centerpieces add a joyful touch to tabletops. Pair with cheerful flowers or evergreen branches in vases tied with festive ribbon to finish off the decor in the room.
- Layered design adds interest to any tabletop. Introduce two colors with tablecovers layered with runners. Dessert size plates can be set atop larger banquet size plates in a contrasting yet coordinating color for an elegant look. Roll cutlery in luncheon napkins, layer with a different color beverage napkin, and tie with a coordinating ribbon for easy use on a buffet line.
Planning a holiday celebration is a way to share love and warmth with family and friends. Make the planning experience a fun one with organized timelines and lists so that the event itself is enjoyable for the guests and the host or hostess.