Holiday Hosting Tips

22 November 2023

Hosting a holiday dinner, lunch, buffet or any kind of party can be a challenge. If you are hosting events through the season, here are some tips that may come in handy.


Start with a head count. You may want to double check with your invitees to be sure they are still able to come or whether their plans changed of if they will only be attending for a specific time period. You should also plan on extra people, just in case there is a surprise significant other or someone you just realized would otherwise be alone.

If you will have overnight guests, it will take a bit more planning. There will be extras for coffee in the morning and a challenge to fit everyone’s schedule into the bathroom(s). This is in addition to sleeping accommodations and possibly the need to borrow transportation. If they are around for more than a couple of days, consider whether they would like to use your laundry facilities.


Plan what you want to serve. Whether it will be a sit-down or buffet. Decide how much you want to provide and what, if anything, you would like others to bring. Again, if there are overnighters, plan on extra grub for lunches and snacks.

If any of your family have food allergies, especially if they are life threatening, you should accommodate those needs either by not serving them, or by clearly identifying which dishes could affect them. Other dietary concerns are your choice.

Often there are ethnic, cultural, or traditional dishes that you may want to incorporate if you are preparing all the food. If friends are bringing their own creations, be prepared for something out of the ordinary, at least as far as you are concerned.

There are two theories on who is bringing what. The first theory is that people either tell you or sign up for the dish they want to bring. There are some very easy online apps that make it simple. Then you know that you won’t be inundated with pumpkin pies but there are no green bean casseroles coming. The other, more casual, version is that each guest brings what they want and everybody makes the best of what is on the table. Either version works, base on your attitude.

If someone is not especially talented in the culinary arts, have them bring ice. or to-go containers for the leftovers. or beverages.


Santa’s not the only one who should be checking things off. A comprehensive list of what needs to be done and when is essential to an event with less stress for the host. Start with a general list including shopping dates and preparation days. For the big day, it should be quite detailed detailed, including hours on the clock, when things need to be into or out of the oven or on or off the stove. Prepare items in advance whenever possible and be sure to allow for thaw out time, if appropriate.

Backtiming is really easy. A dish needs to be out of the oven at 3 p.m. and it takes one hour to cook. Preheat your oven at 1:50 p.m. so that the item can go into a hot oven at 2. Do this with every item you need to prepare the day of your gathering. Place everything in chronological order and watch the clock.

Clean the freezer

Do this in advance so that you will have space for those items you can make early. It will also leave room for whatever leftovers the guests do not take.


If this will be a sit down affair, you may want to consider place cards to avoid crazy cousin Martha from sitting next to your brother-in-law and have them argue politics during the entire meal. Another choice would be to set out small tables or bistro type stand ups to allow people to come and go and chat with everyone.

Even if it is not sit down, be sure there are enough chairs, sofas, etc. so that no one needs to balance a drink in one hand and plate of food in the other.


If possible, make sure that all the appliances are in good working order. That includes the mixers you will need as well as the garbage disposal and dishwasher.


If you don’t have time to deep clean the entire house, be sure that you have at least the kitchen, living and dining areas, and particularly the bathrooms. Have all the bathrooms in the house available, if possible.

Entertaining can and should be fun. However, it might take some patience along with pre-planning.

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