The Holidays are here and perhaps by luck of the draw, it’s your turn to host Christmas dinner. Oh great…such a busy time of year and now this is added to your plate, pardon the pun. Fear not, have a plan to make everything run smoothly and you’ll be more relaxed whether it’s Turkey dinner or your colleague’s going away party.

First of all, the comfort of your guests is top priority and the reason why planning ahead is so important.  Decide what type of event you want to host.  Will it be a small informal dinner with friends or a Champagne party before Opening Night at the opera? Or something else in between?

After determining what type of event, what is the purpose of the get-together?  Is it a birthday/Christmas, a fund-raiser, a going away party for a business colleague?  This helps determine the best type of party to plan, for example the going away party for a business colleague may best be celebrated after work with cocktails at a restaurant near your office so that everyone can attend.

Next is your guest list…who should you invite?  Think of people who are enjoyable to be around and can mix well or perhaps those who you owe an invitation.  In the delicate case of family, maybe consider having two separate smaller events over the Holidays if getting certain individuals together results in lots of sparks!! Your job as host is to help everyone interact well together!!!

Greeting at the door

If you have decided to be cook as well as host, the meal needs to be timed in such a way that you are able to greet guests as they arrive, if possible.  Have helpers put coats in a central place; take care of any host/hostess gifts that may be presented.  You are not required to serve any alcohol or food that was brought by guests.  If you choose not to serve, then thank them and mention looking forward to enjoying the dessert or wine at a later time. A guest book is a good idea of keeping track of who attended and brought which gift making sending out Thank you notes much simpler in the case of a birthday or wedding shower celebration.

Offering libations

Offer drinks and indicate where hors d’oeuvres are being served.  Consider having a friend as the bartender mixing drinks so guests aren’t helping themselves to alcohol.  Have plenty of juices + pop, too.  To avoid excessive alcohol consumption, close down the bar one hour before the end of the evening.

Mingling

Plan to spend some time with each of your guests not only those you’re closer to. Be sure to introduce those who don’t know each other.  Say something about each person you introduce to ignite some conversation.  Remember to hold your drink in the left hand to keep the right hand ready for handshakes.

Dinner is served

If the dinner will be served, as opposed to a buffet, summon your group for the meal.  Cocktails are not allowed on your beautifully decorated table as they detract from the general ambiance and should be placed on side tables or counters, instead.

If there is a Guest of Honor, escort that person to the table.  He or she will sit at your right.  If you and your spouse are co-hosting, sit at opposite ends of the table.  Split up couples and alternate women and men for an interesting seating arrangement.

As soon as you are seated, place your napkin on your lap for everyone to follow.  As soon as the wine is poured and a blessing said, offer a short toast, for example, “To my wonderful friends & family who came to make ___________ such a special celebration”.

Pace the meal…don’t eat too fast or slowly.  Pass platters of food to the right if the meal is not a plated service.  Relax and be comfortable.  Enjoy yourself and your guests will do likewise.

After dessert has been consumed, rise from the table after the last person has finished eating placing the napkin to the left of the plate. Move to another room to continue visiting.  Guests should be taking their leave within a two hour time frame after the meal.

As everyone begins to depart, station yourself at the door to accept their gratitude for the evening and wish them a good drive home.  Don’t apologize for any catastrophes that may have occurred. We’re all human.

Practice makes perfect…the more you organize similar events, the more confident you’ll feel.  Gatherings are wonderful times to reestablish bonds and to create new ones.  Happy Celebrating!!


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