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    14 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining

    We’ve all been there—planning multiple events or military parties over the holidays and winging it the best we can. Don’t leave your entertaining success to the party gods this year! There’s a better way. With a bit of forethought, you can strategize once to plan two to three separate parties successfully.

    Although the basics are similar, tweaking the presentation and adding festive details individualizes the separate parties enough that if there happen to be repeat guests, they’ll be impressed with each.

    14 tips for stress-free holiday entertaining

    Pin Down Dates and Types of Events

    Let’s face it: sometimes, we must host obligatory parties, especially during active duty service. Although these can be fun, they’re just different than having a party devoted to friends. 

    To pull off these two types of events, consider an open house style party for work friends and then, later, a dessert party for your closest friends and family. Depending on your calendar, proposing the two events within about a week’s time is ideal to preserve any pre-made food and fresh floral arrangements.

    1) When planning for both parties, it is easier to incorporate a theme, such as “Christmas Around the World,” to tie them together. Finding appetizers and desserts to fit this theme is easy during the holidays because many of us like to indulge in international treats.

    2) An evening dessert party is straightforward to prepare and an unexpected treat for guests. Most think of an evening out as heavy hors d'oeuvres or a meal. But by clearly mentioning that the gathering provides an “Arrangement of Holiday Desserts” on the invitation, they’ll get the hint to eat dinner before coming.

    plate of holiday desserts

    Photo from Canva

    3) A Saturday or Sunday afternoon drop-in, scheduled from 1 to 5, is an excellent way to host a large group of people who may want to come to say hello and enjoy an array of appetizers and a glass of wine but aren’t comfortable devoting an entire evening to office mates, subordinates, and superiors. 

    Guests can mingle for as long as they wish but won’t feel obligated to stay the entire afternoon. A constant rotation of people means fresh rounds of small talk and new introductions that allow fun conversation to flow.

    Here’s How to Help Your Holiday Guests Feel at Home

    Research Ideas for Your Holiday Gathering

    woman with cup of coffee and laptop

    Photo from Canva

    Because the open house requires more food and overall preparation, it's best to start with planning that menu and drink selection but keep the dessert party in the back of your mind to find recipes or store-bought items that pull double duty. Here are a few time-tested tips. 

    4) For ease and overall time saving, go with industry standards or dishes you already know how to prepare. Quick and easy entertaining does not include complicated (translation: expensive) food selections. Head over to Pinterest, type in “two or three-ingredient appetizers,” and sort through the best ones.

    5) Hundreds of easy and cost-effective offerings pop up. Don’t be surprised to see many of them include bacon! Most everyone loves bacon in some form: chocolate covered, skewered, and wrapped; bacon performs the heavy appetizer lifting.

    6) Don’t worry about your vegan guests; you’ll plan for them later. Remember, almost everything, especially vegetables, can be artfully arranged on a serving tray in the shape of a flat Christmas tree. 

    7) Another trick for simple entertainment is using the trusted brands you already swear by as a reference. Use their websites to search for recipes. Did you know there are literally hundreds of ways to top Triscuits? The creative process is completed for you, so take advantage of someone else’s idea. Plus, there are likely downloadable coupons.

    8) If you prefer a bit more party preparation, stick with the pros and read over their holiday entertaining sections online. Don’t reinvent the wheel; Martha, Rachael, and Ina have already perfected everything you need.

    9) For a well-attended open house, you’ll likely do well to offer about 5 to 7 different heavy appetizers, including a vegetarian and a grain-free option. Also, plan for 2 to 3 dessert options and remember to choose desserts wisely, with the intention of preparing extras for the upcoming dessert party.

    10) Remember there is no shame in calling the professionals to handle catering needs. It’s a disservice to automatically dismiss this option due to cost. Big-name stores, grocery and specialty have the means to provide food for dozens much faster and easier than most once-in-awhile hosts. Is $50 over your budget too much to save some sanity in the kitchen? 

    11) Dessert parties are relaxed and easy to prepare for. You can prepare many of the best sweets in advance and freeze them. Because you can also serve some of the cookies or cakes at your open house, doubling batches early removes some of the burden.

    12) Combining homemade with store-bought items gives your guests the best of both worlds. Familiarity and luxury are themes you can easily capture with holiday dessert items. Here are a few more ideas for your dessert party:

    • Specialty hot chocolate with and without alcohol
    • A variety of coffee
    • Bite-sized cakes, brownies, bar cookies
    • Dipped fruit
    • A DIY holiday candy bar for guests to make goody bags

    13) If preparing food for your parties makes you happy, you wouldn’t dream of hiring out, but would housekeeping before and after the events save time and energy? How about a bartender to keep the cocktails flowing? Depending on your guest list, a legally aged college kid could handle a few beer and wine options. A pro bartender lifts much of the hosting burden if the party is more sophisticated.

    14) Holiday entertaining at its best is flexible and accommodating of guests, but it can also be fun for the host if you plan according to your budget and timeline. To manage multiple events, choose foods and themes you are familiar with and already own the serving and decorating items to support the event. Adding a few on-trend food or drink offerings provides the extra details that customize each party.

    Keep MilitaryByOwner in mind for more information about hosting, guests, and entertaining because a constant in military life includes welcoming family and friends whenever possible, especially during the holiday season.

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    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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