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Tobi’s Tips for Holiday Entertaining

By Tobi Fairley

There is nothing that raises your holiday spirits more than a fun party with friends and family! And now that my home is remodeled and ready for guests, I love getting out all my holiday décor and making people feel welcome.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few can’t-fail ideas for entertaining during the holidays that will keep your spirits bright and your guests feeling special. So here they are…

1. Planning Is Key.

Every fabulous party starts with a great plan. I like to leave nothing to chance, whether it’s in one of my design presentations or at my parties and events. I start weeks in advance making to do lists so that every “t” is crossed and then I put all the details and to-dos in a schedule so we get it all done with less stress. Rushing around at the last minute in a frenzy isn’t my idea of a fun event, and nobody likes to arrive to a tense and stressed out hostess. Even if the day of the party gets a bit crazy, guests should see you acting cool as the cucumber crudités you are serving. Start early, do things a day or two or even a week in advance that can be done without sacrificing quality, beauty or taste, so the day of the party is reserved for fresh food, fresh flowers, and allowing you time to dress and be perfectly relaxed. 

2. Make an Entrance.

What does your entry say to guests? It should be festive and welcoming because this is their first impression of your event and your home. I even have a tree in my entry to set the holiday mood. Be sure your front porch and door are dressed for the holidays, too! And consider having a tray of signature cocktails right inside the door to kick things off on a festive note. If you can't greet guests at the door yourself, be sure there is another "official greeter" to say hello, take jackets, point them to the food, and make them feel welcome.

3. Keep It Real.

There’s nothing I love more than using REAL dishes and napkins, and real invitations. Rarely do I send an evite to my parties, and I always use glass plates or china, real silverware, great wine glasses, beautiful linens, and cloth napkins. I even have in my party arsenal Reidel wineglasses for 100. They are the restaurant series that’s a bit less precious, but I am a bit of a wineglass snob, and nothing ruins a good Pinot or Sauvignon Blanc like a plastic cup or a clunky wineglass. It’s about the experience and, even if my guests don’t notice, I notice the difference and feel proud of my event. Plus, I enjoy my food and beverages just a bit more! 

4. Expect the Unexpected.

Even if you’re a planner like me, you know there’s always the chance that something unexpected could happen, so it pays to be prepared. Guests who just dropped in? No problem, I keep a pound cake and candies made during the holidays and some elegant appetizers in the freezer, ready to pop into the oven at a moment’s notice. Last-minute invite to a soirée? Keep a few bottles of wine and a gorgeous wine sleeve or two and a stash of scented candles on hand for hostess gifts. Stove on the fritz just before your party? The important thing is to just roll with it. Your guests will remember your mood more than the food you serve. Laugh it off, pick up some queso and chips from your favorite Mexican restaurant, and have fun!

5. Food for Thought.

Think carefully about the food you plan to serve. If you’re passing hors d’oeuvres instead of having guests sit down to eat, don't serve anything that takes more than one or two bites to eat. And think carefully about meats and things that may be hard to bite into or to chew. Don't set your guests up for embarrassment. Even with plated dinners at a table, you need to think about what could challenge a guest, like serving slippery dishes like pasta in red sauce to a dressed-up crowd.