BY SHARON NAYLOR DEC 2016
When you host family and friends at your holiday dinner, you invest a lot of time, thought and money in making sure everything is as perfect as it can be. One of your top priorities is making sure your guests have a wonderful time, and a smart way to help achieve that goal is to create fabulous first impressions the moment they walk through your door (if not before they even get to the door). A warm and delightful welcome sets the tone for a highly enjoyable holiday celebration for all.
Here are some of the top ways to plan fabulous welcomes to your holiday dinner:
Before They Get to the Door
› Illuminate your walkway from the driveway to your front door with outdoor-safe LED candles, luminarias and lanterns, blending several different kinds of lighting effects to light their path and create a magical glow.
› Display a welcoming sign outside your front door. It may be one you buy or make, in festive holiday colors to match your wreath details or evergreen garlands in your decor. The message may be simple — such as “Happy Holidays!” — or it may be more in your signature humorous style, such as “Yes, the eggnog is spiked. Come on in and join the party!”
› If you have outdoor speakers, play your choice of holiday music, either classics or fun songs, such as tunes from your favorite animated holiday specials.
› Have music playing inside your house, ideally the same music playing outdoors, to share that festive holiday spirit. Create a lengthy playlist, and put it on repeat so that it can play throughout your celebration without requiring any extra work from you.
› Illuminate your home with candles. “Flickering candlelight is beautiful, but if small children or pets will be part of the celebration, substitute battery-powered votive and pillar candles for a warm glow without the worries,” says Sandra Lee, host of HGTV’s “Sandra Lee Celebrates,” a series of holiday prime-time specials. “A lit fireplace is beautiful but can quickly heat up a room filled with guests. To get the look without the warmth, instead fill the hearth with lit pillar candles.”
› A warm and delicious scent helps set the tone for your holiday dinner, so if there aren’t scents from your cooking food wafting through your home, light some scented candles, such as vanilla in safe hurricane lanterns, by your front door at least a half-hour before guests arrive to create a subtle, relaxing aroma.
› Set a tray of welcome drinks by the front door. Guests will be delighted to get a flute of bubbly or their choice of spiked or unspiked apple cider. If you’ll have small children or underage guests at your party, it may be safest to have unspiked drinks on the tray and keep the spiked ones on your bar to prevent any mishaps.
› Offer a welcome bite. A tray of appetizers, ideally cold and non-spoiling ones, gets a delicious pop of flavor into guests’ mouths at the start of the party, paving the way for your delectable meal to come.
› Have a tag-team partner help you with welcoming guests. Alternate on taking coats and offering welcome treats so that guests don’t stand awkwardly at the open door while you rush to hang coats and say hello.
› If you have a dog, put it in a separate room during arrivals so that it doesn’t jump on guests or get underfoot during welcomes. You can bring your dog out later during the party if you wish.
› And one of the best ways to welcome guests to your holiday dinner is to give compliments. Guests have spent time deciding what to wear, so tell them you like their holiday tie, earrings, scarf, shoes, handbag — whatever you notice. A compliment goes a long way to putting guests in a celebratory mindset.
MORE TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAY HOSTESS
Small changes can make a big impact. Pick your favorite two or three rooms in your home and add a few key pieces to transform the space, while staying true to your budget. When in doubt, remember to focus on the high-traffic areas, such as the entryway, living area or dining room. And don’t forget the kitchen.
Themed Christmas trees. Themed trees are so fun and easy to pull off. Start by picking a core ornament that you love and get about 20 ornaments, depending on the size of your tree. Choose two or so accent ornaments and get 10 of one and five of the other. Set up your main tree in a common space, and then keep guests guessing with smaller trees in unexpected places.
Color bright. If you’re in love with one specific look or color, then commit to it and go all out. For example, decor from Pier 1 Imports’ Season’s Sparkle Collection looks stunning all on its own. Layer silver table linens with silver chargers, napkin rings, holiday accents and more to make a simple, yet elegant statement. Or spray paint your own using a metallic spray.
Let your party be a reflection of you. Prefer an intimate evening with your closest family or friends? Don’t be afraid to plan a sit-down dinner. A beautiful buffet will make the evening just a little less stressful. With the right decor and serving dishes, it’ll enhance even the most elegant affair.
If you prefer to mingle, and want to extend the invitation to a larger group, go for a come-and-go cocktail party. Start by ensuring that you have enough stemware for all of the guests, easy access to food on a variety of serving dishes and plates of festive appetizers for snacking. Then it’s time to have some fun at the bar. Make everything look super-special by investing in a glamorous tray, and don’t forget bar accessories. A cocktail shaker, ice bucket with tongs, festive towels, bottle opener and jigger are must-have pieces.
Overall, find what speaks to you, and let that dictate how you move forward with the rest of your holiday decorating.#