Every year around the Holidays I host a large fancy dinner. Usually I host Thanksgiving which ends up to be around 20 people. I keep the same tablescape throughout all of the Holidays so I can enjoy it all month long. If anyone comes over during that time, it still has that Holiday charm. I get a lot of questions how I host that many and still keep it fancy. If I had more people I would do it the exact same way but just add another table or 2. I have a couple key tricks I have learned and I wanted to share:
It’s all about setting up STATIONS!!!!!Guests will follow the food. You can control the flow of traffic in your house by strategically placing the food in the areas that make the most sense for company.
STATION 1: APPETIZERS
I never put out appetizers at the table. I always set up an appetizer station. With all the rich foods during the holidays I usually don’t need to put out a lot. I tried that one year and everyone was so stuffed from the appetizers they didn’t want to eat Turkey, potatoes….etc.etc.etc. Usually I have a shrimp cocktail platter and punch. That’s it!! The kids go crazy over the punch I make especially when they have personalized cups and umbrellas already in them. Check it out! I use a white punch recipe…..doesn’t stain!!!! If the adults want to spike it, I have a carafe of citron vodka next to the punch. We always are watchful to keep the alcohol away from the kiddies:/
I have a gold pen( google”The wine glass writer”) I use for writing on glass cups to label names!
STATION 2: THE COFFEE STATION!!!
This is my favorite one. This year I had this going the entire time people got there. Usually I open this up after dinner, but this year I thought it would be fun if I had the coffee station set up right when people arrived. This was so much more of a hit than I thought it was going to be. My sisters especially loved it because they don’t want to eat a lot before dinner, so instead of appetizers, they went straight to my open tea/coffee station to have a drink. Here are the things to put out for a coffee station:
-TEA/COFFEE SET if you have one! I don’t think my mother-n-law ever thought I would use it when she gave it to me for my bridal shower. I love it and I actually do use it every year! I have a lot of fancy stuff I have accumulated and you know what, my motto is ‘why have it if you aren’t going to use it’. I invite you to my house in tennis shoes, sweatpants and a nasty bun in your hair (like I will probably be wearing)… but you still might be offered tea in a china cup with my tea set! HAHA!
- I use 3 tea pots- 1)cafeinated coffee 2) decaf coffee 3) hot water
- Sugar and Creamer
- Lemon for tea
NOTE: If you don’t have a tea set, put out a Keurig coffee machine and mugs! Or, put out an electric tea kettle, or 12 cup coffee maker and all the fixin’s(especially when the fixin’s include alcohol;). People will LOVE it no matter if it’s fancy or not!!!!
-TEA CUPS or MUGS: I used my china for this. Next year, I may add some white mugs to coordinate with it because I was surprised that some of the kids started asking for tea this year. Of course they joined in on the fun…..just with some mugs from the kitchen. 🙂
-JEWELRY BOX: This is what I use for all my assortment of tea bags and sugar/Splenda/packets. Since it is a stacking type jewelry box it doesn’t take up any room at all like a regular tea box. I also end up leaving the box there all year round because I can close it and it looks like a nice accessory on the countertop.
-KAHLUA AND BOURBAN : YES!!! This is the key to having a great coffee station!! People love making their own hot toddies and coffee and kahlua! Yes, if kahlua doesn’t strike your fancy….bring on the Bailey’s, Nochello, and/or Horchata please!!
– SHOT GLASSES: If someone just wants kahlua or bourbon….go for it! I used some coordinating silver liqeour glasses here.
-MIXING SPOON and DISH: you can also put out an assortment of spoons out for each person.
– TEA BAG DISH: A dish for discarded tea bags.
STATION 3: FOOD BUFFET!
Oops! Somehow I missed a pic of all the food. You can see it in the background of my appetizer pic. Set up an area ahead of time for all the food. My family brings side dishes which helps tremendously! I use the island in my kitchen and I set up a folding table next to the island so people put everything in buffet style. A food buffet makes feeding this many all possible!
STATION 4: Beer and Wine!
I don’t think I need to explain this situation!!! Everyone can find a little corner for this!
STATION 5: DESSERTS!!
Note: I use that funky glass tree for SWEET liqueur! I always put that out on my dessert station with a discard dish next to it. We fill the test tubes with Horchata!
TRICKS for the dessert station:
-This station makes it easy for people to know exactly where to put the desserts when they come in to your house. They aren’t constantly asking where it should go. You can just point! I didn’t have a dessert station one year and I realized quickly I needed one.
-I actually don’t use china plates for the dessert. I have learned over the years, to NOT put out china plates at this station unless there are only adults. The kids raid this spot and will sneak cookies throughout the party! I just put out paper products and plastic utensils for this spot! I have used the china plates for dessert before and I was worried the whole time during dessert that one of the kids would drop my china dessert plate. I had china out for the adults and paper plates for the kids but it didn’t matter. This station gets bombarded and the kids will pick up a plate whether their parents are there or not. And…once the sugar kicks in, kids and china plates are not a good mix. All adults?….sure bring on the china.
– I set up the desserts where I want guests to eat and have conversation. One year I put the desserts in an awkward spot and my family ended up eating dessert on their laps and on the floor in the smallest awkward room in the house. The next year I moved the desserts to a better location and naturally people moved and ate in that area. If you want guests to go back to the main tables to eat their dessert, then set the station near the main tables. Set up seating near the desserts as well for conversation after dinner.
Ahh…I won’t call that a station! But I wanted to show you the tablescapes I use for all the tables.
Table 1: Dining Room
Table 2: Sunroom
Come on now……get all that stuff out that you have accumulated over the years! I know we all don’t have servants to polish the silver, and we aren’t wearing corsets under Victorian gowns. However, many still put china place settings, crystal vases, and silver candelabra’s on the wedding registry. In this day….If you have it and like it, then get it on out and use it!
Table 3: KIDS table
It’s paper plates here and plastic wine glasses for their sparkling grape juice! The centerpiece has battery operated candles. My daughter folded the fancy paper napkins with the ring holder. Napkin rings and plates were from dollar tree! Keeping the colors simple allowed it to tie into the other tablescapes.
A few days – week before I:
- Wash and rinse the china place settings that haven’t been used in a year.
- Buy any candles for the centerpieces and see what candles are needed.
- Set the place settings!
- Set up the stations using folding tables, kitchen islands, or side tables.
These stations are the key to making a great party without being overwhelmed. I have everyone in my family bring side-dishes or desserts. Having stations means you can relax when platters of food, wine, or desserts are brought into your house. Guests will have enough requests or questions and if you can just point to where their dish goes, it makes everything so much easier! Before guests arrive take out at least 5-10 serving utensils! People ALWAYS forget to bring their own! I hope some of these tricks that I have learned throughout the years will help you have a awesome holiday dinner! Oh, and leave a comment….I love to hear your thoughts! Merry Christmas!! Until next time….
Added to these great linky parties:
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