Holiday Entertaining: Making A List And Checking It Twice
Happy November everyone! For many of us, we are now entering a countdown to house guests, dinner parties, host and guest gifts, etc. It is time to put our hospitality hats on!!
The first thing up for our household is planning our ‘Thankful with Friends’ dinner party. The weekend before Thanksgiving we will be hosting a sit-down dinner for some friends to do an early celebration of the holiday. Over the next two weeks, I will be covering a variety of tips and examples of wonderful ways to entertain in your home this season– on a budget you can afford!
The first thing you need is a game plan! Make a checklist of things that need to be thought about and done prior to the gathering. Determine deadlines based on what works for you and your situation. But make sure to set them — otherwise things have a way of slipping through the cracks! Here are some things to be thinking about. Different types of entertaining will rank some of these as more important than others.
Guests. How many? Who are they (family, friends, co-workers, boss, etc.)? Create your guest list. Make sure to consider the size of your home in determining how many people you are inviting. If it is a sit down dinner, how much space do you have for seating? If the answer is “not a lot”, then you may have to pair down the guest list to make sure everyone fits. In a later post I will discuss some options on a way to enhance your seating capacity. A cocktail party with a buffet of appetizers and desserts might be a better option if space is still tight to have a formal sit-down dinner, or if you don’t want to trim the guest list. The important thing to remember that your guests are coming to see YOU, not judging on the category your party fits in.
Invitations and RSVPing. Make sure to give your guests enough time to learn about your gathering — and to RSVP in time for you to make all the arrangements. For more details on this, check out my post on RSVPing.
Plan your menu. Whether it be a full dinner, appetizers and desserts, or even a potluck — know what your guests will be eating. And know what your guests eating habits are. For more specifics on this topic, visit my posts on Menu Planning and Planning a Meal. If you will be making all of the food be very mindful of two things. Cost and Time. Make sure to create both a financial budget AND a time one. And don’t overextend yourself on either one.
Beverage Service. What are you serving your guests to drink? Alcohol? No alcohol? Wine? Beer? Liquor? Even if you are serving alcohol, make sure that you also have a variety of non-alcoholic drinks on hand for designated drivers and those who don’t drink. This is an area of entertaining that can have your budget fly straight out the window so make sure you have a game plan. If setting up the basics of a home bar is your goal, visit my friends over at Putney Farm for a great blog on how to Stock Your Bar.
Evaluate your inventory. Make a list of everything that you need for your gathering. Do you need linens? Serving bowls? Platters? Plates? Glassware? Flatware? Chairs? What do you already have and what do you need to buy or borrow? You shouldn’t be breaking the bank just to have some guests over. Make use of what you have in as many cases as possible. If you do need to purchase something, my suggestion is that you make sure you can get a lot of mileage out of it. Either it can work with your current color scheme, or if it is a “holiday themed” piece, it can be used year after year.
Does anything need to be ordered or borrowed? Are you needing to rent a table or chairs? Are you borrowing your cousin’s gravy boat? Does the turkey, ham, etc. need to be ordered? Make sure you allot enough time for these situations. The day before is not the time to be doing this. And make sure that if it something that you are picking up and it is not being delivered, that you put that into your schedule.
Decorating. How will the house be decorated, if any? What will be on the tables? Start to get a picture of what you want to achieve and what the cost will be to make it happen. Keep in mind things that you can do before hand. Work what you already have decorated into the mix. I’ll show more on this in later posts.
The Extras. Determine what you want to do, if any, about napkin rings, table seating and place cards, guest gifts, etc. What will be on the tables (salt and pepper, gravy boat, butter, water pitcher, specific dishes, etc)? Will there be music? Flowers? Games?
DIY. Making certain things yourself can save money and add a lovely personal touch. But make sure that if you are going the DIY route on some things that it goes within your time budget, as mentioned earlier. Also make sure that it is within your skill sets. For instance, I am not an expert sewer. So, as much as I would love to sew table runners for my party, it would take more time to get it right, than it would be worth doing. Holidays and entertaining can be stressful enough without adding more. Have fun with DIY projects. Just make sure that it is more fun than stress!
Budget. As you go through this entire checklist, be mindful to create a budget when it is all said and done. If money is no object, great. Go wild and have fun. But for many of us, one great night of entertaining put us in debt. So, just make sure to budget. And remember, your guests are coming to see you. Making them feel special can be done in so many ways, and it doesn’t cost a fortune to do it!