Fête with Success

To Host or Not to Host

You may be the person who always hosts a holiday dinner or celebration. Perhaps this is your first time to host the holiday party or you were delegated to plan the company party. However it came about, if you have the privilege and challenge of hosting, here are some tips to make it easier.

First, know who is coming. Make a guest list, and if it is long, put it on a spreadsheet, word document, or some kind of form or planner page so you can easily get to it when you need to. Keep track of the responses and your total head count.

Juli Shulem

If you are having a potluck type of event, make sure to have people indicate what they are bringing so there is a nice variety for all guests. Keep good track of this so you can let someone who asks know what is most needed.

If you are to do the cooking, plan a menu well in advance. If there is something you can make ahead of time and freeze, that might be a good option. See if there are some dishes that you can come up with that are quick and simple. You don’t have to make each part of the meal from scratch. Perhaps choose one or two items you make entirely from scratch and some that you can get ready made in whole or in part.

Two days before the event, be sure you have handy all the ingredients you need, and get all the dishes and serving pieces out so that if something needs to be washed or repaired, you have time to do that. Decide where everyone will sit and how the party will flow from one location or portion of the event the next. Borrow chairs or anything else you may need. Wash linens if need be. (Hopefully you washed them well the last time, and you can just toss them into the dryer to get wrinkles out and lay them down). Plan to take a day to cook, set your tables, and lay out how your food will be served.

I have a big island in the kitchen/family room of my home, so I set up all the food trays on my counter. I learned a very good trick years ago after finding an item I intended to be served still residing in the back of the fridge the following day. The trick is to label separate Post-it notes for each item to be served: entrée, fruit, sugar, cream, butter, dressing, etc., and be sure every item has a serving dish/platter/container. Put the Post-it on the correct serving dish/platter and place the dish/platter on the counter so you can see how everything will fit and where it needs to be.

When the day arrives, you just need to put all food into the serving pieces and take the Post-its away, and your checklist is essentially handled.

Nothing has been left in my fridge since I began this practice. Want to see me do it? Click on this link to a short video clip demonstrating the process.

Be sure to schedule time for pre-party clean up well in advance! Hosting an event takes a lot of time and energy, many people underplan that part of it.

If you are going to give leftovers to guests to take home, have plenty of disposable containers to send them off with. Make sure there are ways for you to store the leftovers for yourself also.

When you are not hosting but are attending parties, try to group certain tasks together in order to lessen the time it takes to get them all done. If you are expected to bring something to eat to a party or two, perhaps you can do the shopping and cooking together to maximize your time. If you can make the same thing for both — awesome! Decide what you will serve it in and how you will transport it. Be sure the transporting of saucy items is done via a sealed container. Having a casserole land all over the back seat will not make your night a fun one!

If you are bringing a hostess gift, then plan, make, and wrap it in advance so you aren’t running around trying to find something the day of. Being late because you thought you could “grab something on the way” isn’t very impressive.

Happy holidays, and watch next week for gift-shopping and wrapping tips!

Something you want an answer to? Ask here and I will address it at the appropriate time. Send questions to Coach Juli at with “question for column” in the subject line, and they will be answered in an upcoming column.

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