Hosting the Holiday Dinner: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Better St. Nick

This is your first year hosting the holiday dinner. You want it to be the talk of the family for years to come, and not because it was a failure, but because you were such a dynamite host.

There are the invitations to send, the menu to put together and the seating to organize. There’s knowing which aunt to seat next to which cousin and which china goes best with which runner. In short, there’s a lot to being a host! Here are some tried and true methods in creating a festive holiday atmosphere without burning the candle at both ends.


What’s the Big Idea?

Though Martha Stewart can be a bit of a perfectionist, she does make some good points when it comes to hosting a holiday dinner. Martha advises that before you send out the invitations or do really anything else, you need to decide what type of holiday vibe you’re going for. Is the dinner going to be buffet style, or will it be a more formal occasion? Is it an hors d’oeuvres and cocktail party, or is it a 3-course meal? The devil is in the details, so you must root him out before inviting anyone else into the mix!


Deciding the Theme of the Dinner

After you have decided what type of dinner party you are hosting, (let’s imagine it to be a sit-down affair) it’s time to write up the guest list, your naughty and nice list as it were. Once you have decided who the invitees are, it’s time to write up the invitations.


The invitations should be mailed, and they should be the same color scheme as the holiday décor that will grace the table. Haven’t decided on a theme just yet? Take look at a DIY table setting on websites like Pinterest, A.C. Moore and Michael’s. They offer original (and highly affordable) ideas in holiday décor. You can mix and match selections and create your very own holiday display right on the table! For an understated yet elegant look, stock up on some large glass vases, pine cones, twinkle lights, twigs, and white ceramic deer figurines displayed on an ornate tablecloth and simple runner. You can display these items in whatever figuration you wish; it’s your dinner—decorate as you see fit!


The Seating Arrangement

After sending out the invitations and learning who is coming to the dinner, it’s time to devise the seating chart. There are those who argue that seating guests at a round table makes for a more intimate and inviting atmosphere, but a round table will make your formal dinner quite informal, and all that work and preparation will be for not.


Consider, if you will, seating your guests at a modern rectangular table like the Calligaris park table sold at design retailers like Lumens and Wayfair. This type of dining room table will remain perfectly hidden and act as a sort of frame or easel for all of your fine décor items at the holidays, but once everything is gone and packed away, it’s an elegant, sculptural anchor in the dining room throughout the rest of the year. Every room needs to have a special statement piece; your rectangular dining table could be that.


The Conversation Starters

Things can be a little awkward when you haven’t seen a lot of the guests (your family) you’ve invited for the better part of the year, especially if said family members have been arguing over Facebook or some other social media site. To try and curb the cynicism and frustration, play a game of TableTopics. Questions range from asking about your favorite birthday dinner to how you would handle a nuclear threat as president. If the questions seem a little too politically charged, you can always remove them from the stack before playing, wink, wink.


Just keep in mind that the whole point of hosting the holiday dinner is to gather friends and family to share in good food and to have a good time; really, that’s all that matters.


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