Does the idea of holiday entertaining have you stressed? In this guide you’ll find tips, recipes, ideas, and more about how to entertain this holiday without the stress! We’ll cover appetizers, dinner recipes, buffet tables, short cuts and more! #christmasentertaining, #holidayentertaining, #holidayrecipes, #holidayguide, #trendsandtips, #thanksgivingideas
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Ultimate Guide to Stress Free Holiday Entertaining

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for some, it’s also one of the most stressful times of the year.  Visions of holiday entertaining creep into my head in June or July.  I’m in the camp where I start planning and developing recipes and menus for this years’ feast up to six months ahead.  Many more people don’t start thinking about holiday entertaining until October.  Either way, I’m sure my Ultimate Guide to Stress Free Holiday Entertaining will help!


Planning is most important

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No matter what any guide to entertaining says about how easy entertaining can be, it takes planning.  Every, single time.  That’s not to say that impromptu entertaining can’t be done – it absolutely can, and it can be done well.  However; if you’ve planned ahead for the possibility of guests, you’re ahead of the game and have set yourself up for success.

  • I can’t stress enough how important prepping your pantry for the holidays is! When you have what you need on-hand, whipping up a treat is easier than pie! I tell you how to do that here in my post about Prepping Your Pantry for the Holidays.
  • Figuring out how many guests you’ll be entertaining and who they are is the second, and very essential step to stress-free entertaining.  You can’t possibly know exactly what you’re going to cook without first knowing who will be there.  You need to take food allergies and aversions into account so that you have something for everyone who will be there.  Get that guest list together in the beginning of November.

Your menu

Now that you know who’s coming, it’s time to plan your menu.  Here are some tips and tricks to get you going:

  • If you are going to try a new recipe, don’t wait until the day before or day of your party to do so.  That right there is a recipe for disaster.  Make sure to try new recipes at least three weeks prior. Do this for two reasons:
    • One – if the recipe doesn’t work out the way you had hoped you have plenty of time to adjust your menu.
    • Two – if the recipe is a hit you won’t be serving the same dish to your family too soon after the first time you made it.

Allergies & Aversions

  • Make sure you account for your guests allergies and aversions.  The last thing you want is a guest with a nut allergy to walk in ready to eat your delicious food only to find out that your idea for “nuts about the holidays” meant that you included nuts in each of your recipes.  Having to inject herself with epinephrine wouldn’t be a great way to start the holiday season!
  • It’s always less stressful to stick with recipes that you make and make well, or even to go ahead with that dinner party without cooking at all! It can be done and I show you how in this post on Hosting a Dinner Party Without Cooking.

Don’t forget the appetizers!

  • Appetizers
    • For completely easy entertaining plan on all no-cook appetizers.  You can make an easy charcuterie board with cheese, meat, some olive tapenade and crackers, and some crusty bread.  Add some seasoned olive oil for dipping along with a couple of small dishes of nuts around the house and you’re done.  You can also check out this post on Hosting a Dinner Party Without Cooking for some additional ideas!
    • Another trick for easy appetizers is to make them ahead of time so that all you need to do is warm them up.  Here are some ideas.
    • My biggest tip for appetizers – don’t do too many.  Keep it simple with a maximum of three.  Remember that they aren’t the main course, and you don’t want your guests to be full for the main event.
  • Check out some of my favorite recipes over at The Pioneer Woman – she has tons of recipes for Christmas (and Thanksgiving too)!


This Ultimate Guide to Stress Free Holiday Entertaining wouldn’t be complete without a nod to cocktails.  I’m a big proponent for keeping it simple when it comes to cocktails.  I usually offer a good red, a good white, and one cocktail.  Of course you can get a lot more fancy when it comes to offering cocktails, but keep a couple of things in mind:


Tips & Tricks for cocktails…

  • Having a big spread of cocktail choices means you may be stuck behind the bar for longer than you’d hoped.
  • It will be easier for guests to over indulge which may cause for a sticky situation.
  • The cost of offering multiple cocktails can get cost prohibitive.
  • Offering only a couple of choices keeps people a little more aware of how much they are consuming.

Does the idea of holiday entertaining have you stressed? In this guide you’ll find tips, recipes, ideas, and more about how to entertain this holiday without the stress! We’ll cover appetizers, dinner recipes, buffet tables, short cuts and more! #christmasentertaining, #holidayentertaining, #holidayrecipes, #holidayguide, #trendsandtips, #thanksgivingideas

The day before

The day before your holiday party is the big day in terms of getting ready to entertain for the holidays! It’s countdown time and these tips will leave you ahead of the game!

  • Set the table – there isn’t a time that I entertain that I don’t set the table ahead of time.  If you’re going with a theme, figure that out ahead of time.  I’ve gathered some wonderful Thanksgiving tablescapes that you should take a look at for inspiration.
  • Mark serving pieces with post-its
    • Put out all of your serving dishes the day before and place a post-it in each piece describing what will go there when the time comes.  This serves two purposes.
      • First, you know ahead of time if you are short on serveware and need to pick something up.
      • Second, you aren’t spending time looking through cabinets while you’re trying to get dinner on the table.  It’s all set and ready to go!

Move it around!

  • Move furniture around if you need to.
    • It’s ok to move your furniture around to accommodate guests.  Make sure that you have a few different conversation areas set up to make it easy for guests to chat with others and move around.  People sitting in one area for too long without movement can result in a bunch of guests who get tired before the party is over!
  • Make the holiday even more stress free with a buffet
    • Don’t let a small space inhibit you from having more people join you than you think could fit.  Setting up all of the food, plates, and utensils on a buffet table saves you space, and gets people up and moving. Even when we moved to a larger home I still served large crowds buffet style.

Setting the Holiday Party mood

Your guests will take their cue from you, so help them out! If you’re looking to host a holiday party that is more formal, make sure you indicate that with your invitation.  Otherwise, people may simply show with a un-stained shirt.  Generally, I only throw “come as you are” parties.  I am usually barefoot in my home, and never require any type of more formal attire from my guests.  I want everyone to show just as I know them.

  • Do you want more of a theme?  There are times people want to kick it up a bit for their guests and make things a bit more fun! Ugly Sweater Parties, White Christmas Parties, even Movie Marathons…..if that’s your gig, just be sure to let people know ahead of time so that they’re prepared.  You can find fun invitations on Etsy, or you can even make your own.

Music is so important!

  • Music always helps get the party started! Get a holiday playlist together ahead of time.  This really helps set the mood.  You can go with a certain genre like classical to keep things more formal, or you can go with a bit of a varied playlist.  I put together a few songs to add to your Thanksgiving playlist that I think of as Thanksgiving classics, and the ultimate songs for Thanksgiving.  You can do the same with Christmas songs.  I think the key is to develop a playlist that starts off slow, ramps up a bit, and then winds down later in the evening.
  • Decorate early.  Don’t wait until even the day before to decorate for a holiday party. Also – don’t get into the trap of thinking you need to decorate to a specific theme.  If you want to keep it simple and ready for any holiday gathering go with seasonal decor.  It works every time.  And here’s a big tip – fresh flowers and seasonal greens take the cake every time.

Holiday Entertaining doesn’t have to be perfect!

It’s important to remember that NOTHING has to be perfect.  The only one that will know that something has gone wrong is you.  If your prep work is done ahead of time you’ll be able to greet each guest as they arrive and enjoy your own party.

Focus on how happy you are to be gathering people you love around the table.  You’ll pull off a stress-free holiday party without any problem! Let me know if there is anything you’d add to this Ultimate Guide for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining!

Happy Holiday Planning!


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  1. This post is so helpful. I have a hard time organizing myself for the holidays and this year I have the whole family coming for Thanksgiving. It was overwhelming until I read your blog and now I feel it is something I can manage with success! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    1. Dawn – I’m so excited that you found the article helpful! You CAN do this – in fact, you’ll do it so well that everyone will just plan to come to your house every year! Let us know how it works out! xoxo

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