1. Dress it up
The key to making an impression is setting the scene--people go to restaurants for the atmosphere right? Atmosphere makes a party a party, but decorations shouldn't have to break the bank or be over the top.
Take some of your extra Christmas ornaments and arrange them in a glass jar or vase. For an extra bit of pizzazz, add garland or battery operated lights.
Arrange some white candles on plates or stands with cranberries or small sprigs of evergreen. Check your local thrift store for vintage candle stands!
Buy some faux garland or go for a hike and bring back anything green. Arrange down the middle of your dining room table with red fruits like apples, pomegranates, or cranberries.
2. Set the mood
Background music is a must for a festive party. But don't blast your playlist too loudly, you don't want your guests having to shout to talk to one another.
For a holiday party, mix in some holiday classics with other tunes. Check Pandora or Spotify for some pre-made options.
3. Plan your meal
Every successful dinner party should have an appetizer, main course + sides, dessert, and drinks. The meal options below are quick and easy, and will be sure to satisfy your guests.
Make sure to take your guests' dietary restrictions and strong preferences into account. There's nothing worse than having only pasta and stuffed mushrooms to serve to guests that are gluten free and allergic to fungi.
Appetizers are a great way to set the mood and theme for the evening. Try to pick something with seasonal or festive flavors. Consider something with cranberry, apple-cinnamon, pomegranate, or plun for the winter holidays.
Check out this Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries to get you started.
Make sure to have a dedicated space to serve your appetizers. If you have an island or breakfast table in the kitchen, this can be a great space for you to munch on your appetizer with your guests while you put the finishing touches on your meal. Or you can always make a simple arrangement on your coffee table in the living room for everyone to get comfortable and begin chatting. Offer your guests their first drinks and allow 30-45 minutes of pre-meal mingling before diving into the main event.
The main course is where you tie together the entire evening. Stick with classics, but give them a twist. Pot roasts and ham are winter traditions--experiment with the flavors of the season to make the meal special.
Both of these can be made in the slow cooker while you prepare for your guests or relax with a glass of wine.
Side dishes are meant to compliment the main course. You want the flavors to work together: they shouldn't compete but they also shouldn't blend together. If you have a very savory or creamy main dish, try something tart or green as a side.
And nothing wraps up a meal quite like a sweet treat. You could go simple and put out some nice chocolates arranged on a pretty plate, have a fruit and cheese platter (many stores already have them made), or dress up a store-bought cheesecake or pie with fresh, seasonal berries or herbs. If your meal was pretty heavy (and wintery, holiday meals tend to be), don't go too heavy and rich with your dessert choice, or you'll put your guests in a food coma.
If you're into trying something from scratch give these easy 3-Ingredient Buttery Shortbread Cookies a try. They'll go nicely with coffee or your remaining wine.
Dessert can always be had away from the table--consider serving in the living room where the seating is a bit more comfortable.
4. Serve the right drinks
After all the hard work you put into your meal, you don't want to lose the flavors in an overpowering wine. But, you also don't want your drinks to be lost in the food or, God forbid...clash. Check out this chart to pick the best pairing.
If you're serving the suggested menu, try a Zinfandel or Chardonnay (or both!).
Prefer beer? Have no fear, there's a chart for that too.
Having a larger crowd and want to try something a little different? Why not try some holiday punches to get the party going?
5. Finally, have fun!
Remember, you're doing this to enjoy your friends and have a good time. No one will have fun if you're stressing out about slightly over-cooking your pot roast or if the place settings aren't just right. You've spent all day planning and preparing, you should enjoy it too!
SHARE with your friends who love to entertain.. Who knows, maybe you'll snag an invite.