Host Small Holiday Dinner Parties
and Delight Your Friends
From Thanksgiving until New Years Day, hosting dinner parties is an enchanting way to spend time with your friends. While some people prefer to have big parties, with lots of guests, you may want to host a few smaller, more intimate dinner parties, instead. Many people are more comfortable with a small group of friends in a more personal setting. They look forward to enjoying fabulous meals and great conversations with people they care about. If you are considering hosting a holiday dinner party in the coming weeks, here are some ideas that you might enjoy.
Carefully Plan your Guest List
When you are hosting a series of dinner parties, think about how you will combine the different people you know for your holiday meal. It often works best to collect a group of people who have some connection, even if they don't all know each other. For example, if you belong to a women's book club, you may want to invite the other women, along with their spouses, to your home. Most of the husbands may not know each other, but this is their opportunity to meet. They have a connection. You can also invite a group of friends from work, a group of your closest church members, or you could host a neighborhood party. However you group your guests, it helps to know that they all have some connection. No one should feel as though they don't belong.
One aspect of giving holiday parties is that this is a wonderful opportunity for some really over-the-top, lavish decorating. Have a theme, and carry it out throughout the house. You can decorate a different small Christmas tree in each room in which you will be entertaining; you can have everything in muted shades of gold, or bright shades of red, green and white; you can set charming old-world nutcrackers on the mantels and bookshelves, surrounded by greenery. Put a holiday cookie jar on the kitchen counter. Set the table with holiday placemats and napkins. Even if you do not have expensive Christmas china, you can create a festive look with your other decorations.
Keep the Centerpieces Small
The one area that you should keep somewhat modest is the size of your dinner table centerpiece. When floral arrangements take up too much room on the table, or block the guests' views of each other, someone is almost certain to pick up the centerpiece and set it on the floor or a side table. I have removed centerpieces myself at banquets and weddings, when they prevented me from having a conversation with other guests at my table.
However, just because you want to keep the centerpiece small does not mean that it cannot be colorful and festive. Even a few branches of fresh cut evergreen, wrapped in a gold ribbon, and decorated with tiny glass ornaments can make a lovely, simple centerpiece that will brighten your table, emit a wonderful aroma, and not take up too much space!
Have Place Cards
Serve Your Dinner Party Menu Buffet Style
By having the food displayed on the kitchen counter or on a side table, you enable your guests to choose the food items they want. At the same time, you keep your dining table clear of food bowls and serving dishes, so it can look pretty and festive. An ideal dinner party menu should include a variety of food dishes that will allow people to select items that will suit nearly any special diet. For example, you may want to include prime rib and seafood, with several different bowls of vegetables, rice or potatoes, and a salad with the dressing on the side. A plate of warm rolls will complete the meal. For dessert, you can offer a selection of cupcakes and other pastries in different flavors. Doing this may mean a bit more advance preparation. However, you won't be worried that someone will show up who loudly protests that they don't eat meat, they're allergic to chocolate, or they are on either a high protein or vegan diet. You should have something appropriate for nearly everyone.
Be Creative with Your Dinner Menu
Have Small Party Favors for the Guests
One of my favorite customs during the holidays is to have small token gifts for everyone. One of the easiest ways to do this is to purchase a box of Christmas ornaments, and give one to each guest. I have seen hostesses set an ornament by each plate of food, and I have also seen them place the ornaments in a basket by the front door where they can remind their guests to take one as they leave.
Another way to find lovely and inexpensive gifts to give your guests is to shop online for wedding favors. The sites that sell these favors often have a charming selection of tiny boxes of candy, miniature photo albums and similar items that also can also be used as appropriate party favors for your dinner guests or neighbors during the holidays.
Plan Fun Activities
Roll up the area rugs, put on some dance music, and let everyone cut loose! This is a surprisingly popular party idea, and can keep the fun and laughter going for hours. Put together a song list in advance on your iPod or other music system, and you'll be set for the evening.
If it is near Christmas time, you could also hand your friends printed sheets containing the lyrics to some holiday songs, and go caroling around your neighborhood.
Another popular idea is to play a game such as Pictionary or Charades. These games are fun mixers, and can be hilarious with some groups.
Whatever you decide to do, keep the activity relaxed and flexible, and don't let it go on too late. Often people need to get home because they have a babysitter or they need to get up early the next morning. Don't make them feel guilty about leaving early. You want them to look back on your party with fondness, not guilty feelings!
Most of all, it is important for the host and hostess to have a good time, too. Yes, it is a lot of work to throw an intimate dinner party. However, the reward is that you will have a much better opportunity to have conversations and get to know the people you invite than you would if you had a huge party with 50 or 100 guests. Relax and enjoy yourselves, and your guests will, too.
You may also enjoy reading these holiday articles, as well:
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