Holiday dinners are a great chance to reunite and catch up with loved ones you haven’t seen for a while. Life is so busy that you may not get to see your friends and family as much as you’d like, so picking out a date that works for everyone is essential to throwing a great get-together. Once you have that date figured out, you’re ready to start planning a party that will keep your loved ones gushing about it for years to come.
1. Select a Theme
The one thing you’ll continue to come back to throughout the party planning process is your theme. You may choose to base it on an upcoming event or holiday, or you may select more of an umbrella theme like fall or winter.
Whatever the case, make sure you stick to the theme, as well as any specific colors or decorations you have planned. If you plan to host a New Year’s Eve dinner party, you wouldn’t still want your Christmas decorations hanging around. Make sure everything is cohesive to give your guests a put-together feel when they attend your holiday party.
2. Send Out Invitations
Whether your event is formal or informal, you want to send out invitations. They give an “official” feeling to your dinner party, and your guests will more than likely put it on their calendars if they have to RSVP to your event.
If your event is informal, consider creating a survey form for guests to fill out and send it to them through text, email or social media. If you are inviting older folks who don’t have access to the Internet, consider calling them. For formal events, though, you’ll want to design and send out cards. The way you ask people to RSVP reflects the tone of your event.
Having an RSVP option will give you a headcount on food. You can also use this response as a tool to see whether any of your guests have any dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance or low-sugar lifestyles.
3. Overestimate the Guest Count
Once you know which of your loved ones are attending your holiday dinner party, you can plan how much food you’ll need. Remember, the more appetizers you create, the less food you may need for the main course, as people tend to fill up on them. Still, creating many different dishes may take more time, so you should balance your to-do list effectively.
Even if you know exactly how many guests are coming, you can never be sure how many people will show up in your home. Couples may bring children with them, or some people could forget or not attend the party without saying anything to you. As such, it’s best to estimate for guests to eat around one pound of food — so take the resulting number and add to it with as much leeway as you see fit.
4. Pick the Right Menu
Make sure your possible menu adheres to your theme. This is key to a successful dinner party. Collect any additional nutritional information from the responses on your RSVP and ensure they line up with everything you had planned.
If you’re planning to have alcohol at your party, make sure it complements your food well. For holidays like Thanksgiving, picking the right wine as an accessory to your menu could make or break a meal. Wines with added spices or richer flavors are great for fall dinner parties.
Analyze your menu once again before you finalize it. Is it realistic? How soon will you have to start cooking or baking to keep it all fresh but have it finished before guests start arriving? Can you make all the food yourself, or will you have to call in help? Having the answers to these questions is vital, as it could affect the time your dinner party begins.
5. Plan a Strategic Setup
If the dinner party takes place in your home, you’ll have to find an effective way to keep the flow of traffic moving. Before you set dinner on the table, consider placing appetizers around your home to get people walking around and talking to one another. If you’ve decorated your whole house, luring people to different areas is a great way to show it off.
6. Find Some Entertainment
You can’t just have a sit-down dinner and nothing else. While it might be nice to catch up with guests, they deserve to have a little excitement, too. Plan holiday-themed games and activities for people of all ages to enjoy. If your group is more reserved, consider opting for something they can play from their phones. Either way, you’re bound to have fun while getting to know one another better and making memories that will last throughout the magnificent holiday season.
7. Build a Playlist
One of the elements of a party that you can’t forget is the music. You’ll have to analyze your guests to understand what kind of tunes would resonate with them. Would they appreciate songs pulled from the top of the charts recently, or would a throwback playlist be more fitting? Playing music can also fill in any awkward silences, as people may feel less pressure to talk while eating or enjoying themselves.
Music can add to the atmosphere of a party, too. Your whole mood can change at dinner, depending on what you’re listening to. Upbeat music can cause people to eat faster, which isn’t ideal if you plan on spending as much time with your guests as you can. Stick with soft or classical music during dinner. That way, guests will also focus less on the lyrics and more on what others have to say.
8. DIY What You Can
You don’t have to buy tons of new decorations to make your holiday party pop. Pinterest is an excellent tool for looking up crafts you can make from the comfort of your home. You can search by the type of decoration you’d like to create, and many posts show you how to craft something in one easy picture.
If you plan to DIY some of your decor, one of the best ideas is to make centerpieces that your guests can take home. They can even double as a prize for winning a game earlier in the evening. Letting your guests take home a centerpiece can give them a souvenir of sentimental value to remember the night by.
But if you don’t have enough time, you can always order party decorations online with next day delivery.
9. Hammer Out a Timeline
While strictly adhering to a timeline might make the dinner party seem less fun, it can help you stay on track and make sure you get to all you have planned. For example, you can encourage people to start snacking while you finish setting the table. After dinner, you can orchestrate an activity or game to keep everyone entertained. How you set up the evening is dependent upon your tastes and your guests’ availability.
Having a loose timeline as your guide can help you know when to start wrapping up the night. You can encourage your guests to start heading out when they hear the last song on the playlist or once every game has been played. As much as you love your guests, you wouldn’t want them staying all night.
10. Make Cleanup Effortless
Cleaning as you go is the key to maintaining a neat space throughout your party. Having trash cans readily available in multiple rooms can encourage guests to toss their garbage rather than leaving it out or searching for a bin. Make sure to take note of when trash bags are packed and take them outside.
Staying on top of your trash receptacles can also help you at the end of the night. When everyone is gone, you’ll need to tackle the cleanup process. You’ll eliminate an hour or so of work just by streamlining your cleaning process and picking up as you go.
Crafting a Holiday Dinner Party from the Heart
Unfortunately, no party can be perfect. Try as you might, something may still go wrong or upset you or a guest in some way. As long as there’s no actual harm done, you can roll with any mistakes and still have a great time. Planning things to the best of your ability can minimize the chances of running into any issues. Hope for the best and lay out the details, and you and your loved ones will have the time of your lives.