Peak holiday party season is upon us. In case you missed it, we hosted quite an event for Thanksgiving. It went fairly well, so I thought I’d share a few tips for hosting large groups… just in case you want to host 19 people in a small townhouse, with one oven, no counter space and a dining room table that seats 6. Tis the season.
- Plan ahead. I had the Thanksgiving menu set and organized about two weeks before. See.
Be sure it’s reasonable, keeping in mind the equipment, or lack there of, in your kitchen. We knew we needed two turkeys but only have one oven, so we grilled one. We were proactive and got an extra propane tank, which we ended up using. I also picked side items I could make ahead or that needed less than an hour to prepare so they could cook while the turkeys rested.
- Get organized. Make sure you have enough flatware, dishes, glasses, etc. before the event. You might notice, next to most items on the menu, I made note of what I’d serve it in to make sure we had enough serving platters. Crazy or organized? It’s a close call.
- Accept help. This is always hard for me, but not even Martha does it alone. When others offer to bring something. Say yes. When your house guests offer to iron your table linens. Say yes.
- Drink wine. Before, during and after the event. I can’t tell you the amount of wine that was consumed at our Thanksgiving, because I don’t know. It was my birthday. Cheers.
- Don’t cry over spilled milk. Literally. We had a gallon of milk spill. We had a bottle of seltzer explode. We had a pyrex dish burst into pieces…but no tears. Yes, my favorite pyrex baking dish shattered in the sink. It was incredibly loud and dangerous, but no one was hurt. When your dad offers to clean it up…see number 3. Expect things to break. Expect things to get dirty.
- Prep. Look ahead at your recipes. Does something need to rest overnight? Do two different recipes call for a cup of chopped onions? If you look ahead you can really save time. For example, chop ALL your onions at once and put into baggies until you’re ready to use them. You can often prep most dishes at least a day in advance.
- Visualize. Walk through the event in your head from start to finish. When guests arrive, where will their coats go? Are drinks accessible? Is food going to be buffet style or served at the table? Visualizing how you want the night to go will help you prepare.
- Think spatially. Will your space be comfortable with the amount of people coming? We were challenged by seating 19 into one space, but we did it. We moved our entire living room into the basement and set up borrowed tables and chairs in the emptied space. With this many people, place cards are a must at a seated dinner. I can’t emphasize how helpful they are. And they always add something pretty to the table, especially when you have a talented calligrapher staying at your house.
- Play music. This seems like a no brainer, but it’s easy to forget when you’re planning everything else. Music helps any awkward silences and can also be a great conversation starter.
- Have fun. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. If you have fun, your guests will have fun. I promise. And when in doubt…see number 4.