From our Experts: 10 Tips for Holiday Entertaining

Posted on: November 25, 2019
10 tips for holiday entertaining

The holidays are here, you look at your calendar, and - GASP! - it’s your year to host a big holiday celebration. 

"How am I going to manage all the food, family and mess in my home?!" 

Relax, take a deep breath, and imbibe a few tips from the experts at Jag's Steak and Seafood.  You'll soon be on your way to an enjoyable holiday gathering.


Tip 1: Schedule Early

First, set the date for your holiday event as early as possible --  especially if your gathering doesn't always take place on the same day or weekend. 

Families are busy during this most wonderful time of year, balancing travel, other holiday parties and workplace gatherings. For students, this includes a litany of other school and extracurricular-related activities. To make sure yours is first on their calendar, send invitations 4-6 weeks in advance.

"To manage the rest of your planning, it's best to ask for RSVP’s a week to two before the event," according to Kelly Lowrey, Director of Operations at Jag's. "Make sure you ask about any dietary restrictions with your RSVPs. If you don't want to hassle with the mail, there are many great tools online to help you track invitations and RSVPs."


Tip 2: Don't Delegate the Big Stuff

Family Holiday Dinner Table

As the host of the party, it's up to you to have the most important items prepared well before the event. While it's great that family and friends are willing to fill the bounty with their famous side dishes or drinks, do not rely on guests to bring anything critical like the Thanksgiving Turkey, Christmas Ham, or your tableware. 

Jag's Bar Manager Samantha Baker adds, "If guests ask what else to bring, suggest a bottle of wine. You do not want the guest to be responsible for an important item that you need, and have them either forget, or be late to the party."

Tip 3: Avoid the Rush


When sending your invitations, don't just state one arrival time. The last thing you need is for everyone to show up at the same time, hitting you with greetings and questions all at once — right when you planned to take your prize entrée out of the oven. Manage traffic and your own sanity by setting a timeline on your invitations. Offer times like, "Cocktail hour, x-y" or "Dinner served at z."

"This will let your guests bringing larger dinner items know to arrive earlier, and provide a longer window to balance the number of people arriving at once," according to Laura Peyton, Creative Director.


Tip 4: Prep The Night Before Means a Great Party is in Store

Holiday Party set table night before

You have enough going on the day of the gathering. If you think the night before is just for thawing your bird or last-minute shopping, think again! 

Set up as much as possible on the eve of your bash so you can focus on what matters the next day: greeting guests and having a merry time. Try not to procrastinate on tasks that can be easily completed, such as:  

  • Setting the table
  • Placing festive decorations around your home
  • Queuing your favorite holiday playlist to play in the background - soft music can give your whole home a festive touch, and even cheer the Scrooges in your group
  • Stream or set up a Christmas movie for the kids, so you only have to press 'Play' in the morning
  • Designating dining areas in your home, and setting up tables and chairs in those rooms

Doing these final checks the night before can help you realize what your missing while getting ahead on your morning list, so you can ask guests to bring any extra items or make a short run to the store.


Tip 5: More is Merrier


One thing is sure, your guests will arrive with an appetite for their favorite holiday fare. Expect your guests to indulge a bit more during the holidays than at other events during the year. Prepare extra food and drink; You can always insist that your guests take leftovers home, and if they stick around for a while, they'll likely go back for seconds. Purchase more ice and disposable tableware than you think you need; You can use these items throughout the year and offer them to the next party's host.

Marzina Robinson, Food & Beverage Director, suggests you should plan on each guest enjoying about 2.5 drinks at minimum. For small, individual hors d'oeuvres like deviled eggs or crostini, plate 3 times your number of guests. You should also anticipate each guest eating about 3 ounces of dip, and 1.5 pounds of your main entrée, pre-cooked, through the course of the day.


Tip 6: Be a Matchmaker

Assign Seats at your holiday party

If your celebration is something other than a family gathering, like a year-end business party or reunion, assign seats for guests. This takes the guesswork out of seating arrangements, and prevents others from going rogue and spilling on your furniture! 

"Think about your guests’ personality types, and group people you think will get along and engage in conversation. As guests become more comfortable in your home, they will begin to branch out and make new friends and conversation around the cocktail bar or TV showing the big game," says Natalie Holbert, Private Dining & Events Coordinator.


Tip 7: Is This the Right House? 


Don't assume all guests are familiar with your home, or where to park. Even if you shared exact directions, it can be stressful for your guests if it's not clear which is your house. First, make sure any numbers on your house or mailbox are well lit. If your number is obscured, you can also place a sign in your yard. If you use a large posterboard, include additional direction for parking and where to enter to avoid any confusion.

Tip 8: There's an App for That


Is your party an all-day event? It might not seem possible, but people will get hungry after an early holiday feast. 

First, have appetizers and drinks readily available when people first walk in. After everyone has finished their meal, take account of what's left and re-establish your serving line as an appetizer station. After consolidating those apps onto a few dishes, remove dinner items from larger pans and put the leftovers into smaller containers. To really impress your guests, Executive Chef Matthew Benson suggests, "Cut the rest of your entrée into bite-size pieces, scoop those potatoes into a smaller bowl, and have plenty of slow cookers on hand so you can keep it all warm!"

Congrats! You've also just given yourself a head start on tomorrow's cleaning, and your guests can easily take their leftovers home.



Tip 9: Location, Location, Location


Be careful, you don't want a crowded serving line of hungry guests to turn into the holiday Hunger Games.

Make sure your stations are set up in an area that is easy to access (multiple points of exit and entry) and spacious. If possible, appetizers, entrées, desserts and the bar should be placed in separate areas, so the crowd can spread out. 

So more of your guests can mingle and snack later in the evening, your appetizer station should be set up in an area where people are likely to congregate. 

Similarly, your bar shouldn't be too far removed from where guests are likely to hang out.


Tip 10: Enjoy your Holiday

Family holiday planning

Most importantly, take time to enjoy dinner and conversation with loved ones. The holidays only come once a year, and you deserve all the joys that come with it. 


By following these tips, you're sure to throw a party your guests will never forget. Lucky for you - you might even be asked to host again next year!

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