Fall is prime entertaining season. With the holidays around the corner, cozy indoor gatherings take center stage over casual summer cookouts. It’s this time of year that things might get a little fancier and, in some cases, a little hectic. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your head on straight while planning a party to remember.
A few things run through my mind each time I host a holiday soirée. Food is usually the focal point this time of year, and other aspects of the night (like the décor) can hinge on what you serve. For this reason, I narrow down my food and drink options first. Regardless of whether I’m hosting a big sit-down dinner party or a casual open house with drinks and appetizers, I still go through the same thought process.
When you’re deciding what to serve, hopefully you’ll naturally gravitate to dishes you make well…a dish or a recipe for which you’re known. Work around that, keeping the menu simple with similar flavors. A good rule of thumb is to work within a country of origin or a similar flavor palette. Next, offer at least one thing from each food group—a protein, a starch, and a fruit/veggie. This creates balance and gives options for people who have special food preferences, restrictions, or requirements. Lastly, to build some balance in your schedule, balance food and drink that can be made ahead of time with items you make the same day. Recipes served cold or at room temperature also help your timeline so you aren’t cooking everything all at the last minute.
(Source: Earnest Home co)
(Source: Earnest Home co)
For décor, use your menu as a guide and set the table (or buffet area) the day prior. For example, you won’t need bowls on the table if you aren’t serving soup. Or skip the salad plates if you’re not doing a first course. Set serving dishes out the night before and use sticky notes to label each dish with what it will hold. Go ahead and stick unopened pantry items (like rolls or a can of cranberries) in the proper bowls for one less thing to remember the next day. Lastly, stick with neutral dinnerware, but dress up the table with fun accessories like napkins or placemats.
To create a festive and cozy ambiance, set the mood with dimmed lighting and candles. I always light a candle in the bathroom. It lights the way to the loo, smells great, and every corner of the house seems ready for guests. For music, a pre-made playlist from Spotify is key to all of my parties. I love Happy Folk, Evening Acoustic, or Jazzy Dinner. People always ask about the music and it’s the easiest part of the night!
You can see how a few key tips can make entertaining this season a breeze. It always feels good to have a great evening with friends. It feels even better when it goes off without a hitch. Keep this infographic handy so that next time you’re entertaining, you can follow the step-by-step guide to making it a great night!