How do you handle being a holiday hostess?
Holiday entertaining doesn't need to be a hair-pulling, teeth-grinding experience every year. Before getting overwhelmed with to-do lists, grocery lists and guest lists, take a moment to relax and gather some tips to get you through this hectic time of year.
For invaluable advice from real women, check out these entertaining tips to pull off an effortless-looking (and feeling) event:
“From a decade of PR experience in the hospitality and lifestyle arenas, I know how far the little things go when planning a gathering. Most importantly, I focus on my guests. I choose a guest list with chemistry, give ample notice of the party and make sure there's enough seating for everyone, with room for more.
Laura Serena, Vancouver, BC
“Preparation, preparation, and preparation is a must. The more you can socialize with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen, the better for everyone. Fondues make an easy way to get people together, it's a great idea for the guests to pick what they want to eat (especially if some have allergies).
Diane Belo, Brampton, ON
Potlucks are always easy for entertaining, as the host pick a foreign country and make that the theme of the meal. Male sure one person is designated a course of the meal (appetizers, dessert etc.), and don't tell each other what you're bringing.
We end up learning interesting facts about the country pertaining to the types of food normally prepared and why. This type of entertaining provides interesting topics of discussion as well -- tailor it for the holidays and you'll have a guaranteed hit.
Jill Martin, Brampton, ON
Make a detailed chronological list of things that need to be done up to a day or two in advance and stick to it. If possible, get someone else to do some of the work -- set-up, dishwashing, and clearing are all easy jobs to pay someone to do and it leaves you with plenty of time to spend with your guests.
Caley Pestl, Scarborough, ON
My first tip would be to have cocktails or a bottle of wine ready to go when your guests arrive, so they are occupied when you are finishing up in the kitchen. However, everyone will usually gravitate to the kitchen, so put them to work with small last-minute tasks. And remember to relax. Everyone is there to have a good time and having the hostess stress out is no fun. Enjoy the company; the details will fall into place.
Danielle Roy, Mississauga, ON
Well Vancouver is all about being environmentally friendly, the way of life is very outdoorsy because there's so much nature surrounding us. I think a neat theme might be to create a garbageless party. That way there's very little mess left to clean up and it leaves you feeling like you've done your part for the environment.
Alexis Tsobanos, Vancouver, BC
Most of my anxiety prior to entertaining is brought on when I haven't finalized what to serve. I find planning the menu at least one week ahead of time eliminates some of the anxiety and helps me create the shopping list. Plus, I always keep the menu handy for reference and to ensure that I don't forget to serve any of it.
Maria Lewis, Toronto, ON
In lieu of bringing a dish, ask a couple of attendees to come early and help setup up, and a couple to stay late and assist with any clean up. Don't forget to buy a very big garbage can with lid to avoid having to change garbage during your entertaining, and for little accidents keep the following items hands: Lysol quick wipes, Tide pens, paper towel, club soda, etc.
Laura Franklin, Ajax, ON
If you live in a house, park your car(s) on the street so guests can park in the driveway, and have the number of a local taxi close at-hand in case a guest is in no shape to drive home.
Judy Boyer, Scarborough, ON
Mix-up one special cocktail all night instead of just pulling out the wine and beer; make it in a pitcher and have some pre-made in the fridge. You'll find your guests will drink that more than anything else. Remember, you don't have to go overboard stocking a full bar, think outside the box and your guests will appreciate the thought and care that went into selecting the perfect cocktail for the evening.
Jennifer Matthews, Toronto,ON From
Create a timeline: Think of every little detail that you have to get done on the day of your big party. Leave lots of extra time to complete tasks, and put every little detail down on your timeline from lighting the candles to taking your shower and getting your makeup done. There's nothing like rushing at the last minute to jump in the shower and having your hair wet when the first guests ring your doorbell
Also, plan to have a "pre-party" with friends in the weeks leading up to your special event to create a few fun little Do It Yourself touches. From party favours to place cards there are tons of great projects that are fun and fulfilling to do. It will be these personal touches that make your event one to remember!
Crystal Allen, Vancouver, BC, owner of Crystal Weddings and Events
The littlest gestures make the biggest difference when you're hosting a party. One of the rooms that usually get forgotten in the rush is the bathroom, don't forget to clean the bathrooms and put out clean towels. Make sure you have toiletries and supplies in the most accessible place during the party.
Amanda Doherty, Edmonton, AB
I have a small blackboard in my kitchen (about eighteen inches square). I write the time in the narrow left-hand column, and the task on the right, like: "5:30 put roast in oven; 6:00 add potatoes to roast pan; 6:30 baste; etc.". It may not have made my cooking any better but, together with a timer, it calmed my nerves and meant that I could chat with my guests, but wouldn't forget to serve the fancy side dish I had prepared! With the board, I could have floury hands and onion-streaming eyes, but my schedule was always legible and reassuring.
Patsy Cunningham, Toronto, ON
The night before figure out what you're going to wear. There's nothing worse that scrambling on your party day for something you'll be comfortable and cute in at the same time. And on the morning of the party don't have a shower right away. Throw on some comfy clothes and make yourself a big cup of coffee, eat breakfast and lunch, which will deter you from picking tidbits of food all day. This way you'll be able to eat dinner with everyone else
Danielle Johnson, Vancouver, BC
All and all, nobody wants their hostess to be stressed out, so make sure you take the time to relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family this time of year.