Around the holiday season I love to make plans with friends, throw parties, host brunches, and just keep myself surrounded by the people I love. I really enjoy having people over – one of the things I delight in the most is the art of setting the table. I love decorating and putting together a beautiful table complete with little votive candles, sprinkles of colour, metallic crockery, and something thematic or seasonal to tie it all together.
Most people focus on the menu when they’re invite company over, and don’t get me wrong, food is super vital! I always think about who is coming so I can pull recipes that I know will satisfy all my guests. But, there is so much more than just the menu to consider when planning the perfect party. Whether it’s brunch, Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve party, or just a fun game night with friends, here’s a few tips to keep your hosting stress-free and fun!
Plan ahead. Put together a calendar of things you must do, like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, emptying the front cupboard to make space for coats, a music playlist, and so on. Then consider your guests: what might they like to eat? Should you do a theme (Spanish dinner complete with family-style paella, or a fun ugly sweater)? Will it be a sit-down or a buffet-style dinner? I love coordinating my theme and tying it all in with little details everywhere. Linen Chest has amazing rose gold crockery and I couple that with Must Maison’s tableware, and all of a sudden it’s a winter wonderland!
Divide and Conquer. Don’t do everything the day of (especially if it’s a brunch… you planning to wake up at 5am for an 11:30 brunch!?), try to space things out. Grocery shop two days ahead if you can, chop and prep all veggies and garnish (keep everything in airtight containers in the fridge), and set the table in advance. I always set my table the night before. I shop for everything I think I’ll need at Linen Chest or Renaud Bray, and then throw it all together to create a feeling. In my sleep, I often think of other creative things I want to add, so I wake up like a little kid on Christmas morning, and run downstairs to add a napkin here or a candle there. I love how even a little metallic acorn can change the entire atmosphere.
Outsource. Don’t do everything yourself. Have a partner pick up the alcohol, or ask a friend or even your kid to help you set the table. You can’t do it all – make what you can and buy the rest – that includes dessert. Pick up your favourite macaroons or cookies, or ask a talented friend to bring a box of her best anything!
Leave Time for Yourself. You might be running like crazy from sink to oven to table and back again. But when that clock hits with a 30-minute countdown to guest arrival, you gotta hit the shower. Get ready! Your guests are going to arrive looking shiny and fresh, so you need to look fantastic too.
Get Stocked. Make sure you have enough of everything for everyone. When it comes to portion size, think more is less. I always have extra glasses laid out (I love the long-stemmed flutes from Linen Chest or iridescent shakers from Must Maison), because sometimes guests switch from cocktail to wine and I want to be prepared. Speaking of prepared: you don’t want to get caught in a situation where someone is still hungry and there’s nothing left, so I always make too much (leftovers are a great thing in my family, so either way, it’s all good!).
When it comes to drinks, I have a handy little cheat sheet to share with you. Here’s how I calculate drink to guest ratio:
Expect one alcoholic beverage per guest per hour.
1 guest = 4 cocktail napkins + 1 pound of ice (for icing drinks and serving)
12 guests = 6 bottles of wine + 1 or 2 cases of beer + 6 litres of water (still or sparkling)
Relax. We invite people over so we can share good food, good times, and lots of laughter. So stay relaxed. If all doesn’t go according to plan, it’s ok. Your guests are your friends and you are only human. Hopefully everything goes off without a hitch, but if the worst-case scenario is legit burning in your oven… let the fire burn! Have a drink and order in!
Whether you’re Betty Crocker or Betty White, being a great host isn’t about doing everything perfectly. It’s about opening your home to let in the magic – having a great time with friends and creating memories. Take your time to think about what your strengths are: cooking, baking, table setting, mixology…? Once you’ve narrowed down what you can do, go on and do it. Enlist help for the rest!
Happy Holidays everyone!
Photography by Patricia Brochu