Top 10 Tips to Entertaining for the Holidays

By mark-slade November 10, 2011

As we turn the year’s bend and Thanksgiving approaches, followed by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and New Year’s to name some, it’s only fitting to start making preparations for your entertaining needs. The key is not to procrastinate, while getting your list together–not the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” one–to make things that much easier and also to create an opportunity for you–THE HOST–to also enjoy the experiences you put together for friends and family.

So, let’s start:

1. Candles, Candles and More Candles. Tea Lights are cheap and can fit into a variety of “containers” to add atmosphere that is consistent with your decorative style. Simple Glass Votive Holders work anywhere but are especially relevant to a more modern decorative style; whereas, rustic metal votive holders work with more ornate or antique oriented home designs.

I must stress that you use caution as to where you place these candles as we don’t want to end up with a fire hazard. So, if you are keeping guests, residents and animals away from a center staircase, then the picture above provide an incredible mood. If you are planning for a “full-house” then I recommend placing votives in punch bowls like featured above, to still provide atmosphere but in a safer context.

2. Mood Music. Ever since the iPod and its newer, faster, sleeker brothers, becoming your own DJ has become that much more fun and easy. It’s your party, so why not pick music you and your guests will enjoy to enhance their experience, as sound is one of the top 5 sensory experiences an individual can have. I actually suggest that, depending on the crowd, you can move through a variety of genres–lifting the pace from introductory mood music to Chic Hotel (these hotels make CD’s and iTunes Albums) with a little more vibe; of course, if you are planning your own rave, house dance music-a-thon, or 80’s rock retrospective, be my ‘guest.’

3. Prep isn’t just for Preppies. Have you ever had everything cooked to perfection, decorated to the 9’s and all your guests are raving about how wonderful a time they are having only to wake up the next morning and realize it felt like you weren’t at your own party? Prepping in advance can make such a huge difference and free you up to actually enjoy your party.

i. MAKE A LIST. yes, organize your thoughts on paper and organize in chronological order so that the flowers are ordered, food purchased, etc.
ii. set the table(s) in advance
iii. if using candles, have them set up in advance. This will also get your home’s residents more aware of where the candles will be in advance for safety’s sake.
iv. even better, try to chose foods that can be made in advance and simply reheated or put on warming trays. This will allow you to be less stressed leading up to the first knock on the door or doorbell ring.
v. consider buffet set up and style to minimize serving needs. This reduces set up efforts and also helps to cut down on wasting food in many cases so that your guests take what they will eat.

4. Flowers or other forms to decorative enhancement. Let’s face it, flowers usually rule the day for adding color and fragrance to freshen up your home. And, if your home has any lingering pet odors, flowers can help to minimize and mask them. A note of caution, if you follow the rule of K-I-S-S–Keep It Simple Stupid–you will be rewarded for simplicity and save money at the same time. I also recommend you chose vases that you already own or, if buying with your arrangements, choosing ones you plan to reuse in some way, shape or form so as not to waste $ and add to landfills.

5. Home GPS. GPS stands for navigation and your home may not be set up for easy navigation for a party. So, depending on your style of party–formal sit down to buffet to cocktail/dance party–you would be best served rearranging your furnishings to provide the appearance and traffic flow you would like to see rather than leaving it to chance. Is it a big enough difference and worth the effort, in a word YES. I still remember my first experience going through a museum, in my case the JFK memorial museum outside of Boston, taking its nautical spiral tour and spilling out to the beach to see JFK’s beloved wooden boat. Controlled flow produces intended outcomes, conversely, you could end up with a chaotic evening with “fender benders” and spilled drinks.

6. Chairmen of the Board. You buy your home, you move your furniture in and you get to sit back in comfort (hopefully) and enjoy your home as intended. Well, your home is generally a box that houses 2-6 inhabitants from kids to pets, etc. When you are hosting a party, this number usually doubles if not triples. So, do you have enough seating? Do you have room to add enough seating to accommodate your guests? Lastly, if your are adding any chairs, will they be comfortable enough for your guests to enjoy themselves or will your playlist have to be managed so everyone is playing musical chairs to win your beloved club chair? Simple solution: borrow, bring in outdoor cushions or buy some inexpensive cushions to fit whatever extra chairs you will be using (if you have the budget, there is nothing like using a nice comfy chair cover to convert the orange wood and metal chair into a not-so-shabby chic!

7. And while we talk about dressing up your extra chairs, what about your table? Let’s face it, nothing says HOLIDAY like having the right festive tablecloth or runner for your dining room table.

8. To be Flat or Not to be Flat, that is the question. So many people have flat screen TV’s in this day in age and let’s face it, put on a sports game will act like a magnet drawing those tv zombified guests to your flat screen like bugs to the bulb. So, here’s the trick: either set up your TV to act as a screening room for your most recent family vacation/party/event or find some soothing images to display, even consider buying a “fireplace” dvd to set the mood!

9. Doing the Dishes. Let’s say you are having 12 guest and that there will be appetizers, main courses and desserts being served at the very least. That translates into at least 36 dishes and 12 glasses (24 if you are serving drinks of any kind in addition to water). Unless your home has 2 dishwashers or you have hired help for the evening, the pile up at the end of the night will look like one of those horrific snow/ice storm pileups on a national highway. The best advice i can give is to take a moment at “half-time” and load up your dishwasher and run it. First of all, there is a good chance one or two considerate guests will help you rinse and load or later unload and re-load later. This will at least cut down the work by 50% and won’t leave you with as much as a bad taste in your mouth when the last of your guests have left.

10. My Last Tip is for you! Let’s just imagine you have done all the prep and set the stage for a great time. But, its 5 minutes till your “start” time and all of the sudden your anxiety kicks in: what did i forget? will my friends show? is someone allergic to Puss N Boots or Dudley the Dog? While you can’t control any of these you at least owe it to yourself(ves) to have a toast to one another or a wonderfully warm sip of wine to relax you and get you back into party enjoyment/fun mode! So CHEERS!

I hope you found this helpful! Enjoy your Holidays! Bottoms Up!

Mark Slade
Keller Williams

and if you need some party planning expertise:
Sandy Gold