Gathering friends, family or colleagues for a Christmas dinner is an exciting thought.
We can imagine the scene, all sitting around a festively decorated table, the warm glow of candles, the clink of glasses and happy chatter!
A wonderful start to Christmas and lasting memories are made.
But does the thought of it also slightly alarm you and leave you wondering how you’ll ever achieve it?
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned host (you might need your skills dusting off!), we have a few tips on how to host a successful Christmas dinner party.
1. Plan in advance: It’s the key!
Yes, you can have friends round for an impromptu meal and enjoy it but we’re talking about the ULTIMATE Christmas dinner party here!
2. Decide who’s invited. Think about the mix of guests. Don’t be too timid with your choice….they don’t need to be soul mates but equally, be sensible! Try to group people who have similar interests or hobbies.
3. Decide the time. Give guests a start time but whether you give a finish time is up to you ( if you don’t, be prepared for some guests to linger well into the early hours - which of course you might not mind!).
With the start time it’s normal to give a time that allows a couple of pre-dinner drinks first. So you could say ‘7.30 for 8.15pm’ for example and expect to sit down to eat around 8.15pm.
4. Send out invites well in advance. This is a very busy time of year for most of us and social engagements often clash. You choose the method but do ask for an RSVP or you won’t know where you are.
5. Dietary restrictions and/or allergies. This is crucial information! Ask your guests for this once they’ve confirmed they’re coming.
6. Decide what you’re eating. The main event!
Decide on the number of courses – starter, main, pudding, cheese, for example, OR you might want to serve a greater selection of ‘nibbles’ with the pre-drinks as a starter and go straight into the main course when you sit down. It’s up to you.
Have a good think about your choice of courses:
- Do you want to go with a ‘festive’ theme?
- A meal prepped in advance (which may just need heating up, like a casserole) is the best to maximise your time spent with guests.
- Do you want to keep it simple so you don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen and/or you’d feel more confident doing this?
And remember those all-important dietary requirements from step 6.
7. Decide what you’re drinking. When guests first arrive offer them a drink. It’s a great ice-breaker and helps people relax. It’s a good idea to have a choice of soft drinks and alcohol-free wines, beers and spirits too.
It’s best to tell people what drinks are available as asking them loosely what they’d like can put them in an awkward spot.
This pre-dinner time is the ideal time to think about serving a festive-themed drink - think mulled wine, or Christmas cocktails. Setting a nice Christmassy atmosphere!
During dinner think about which wines you’ll have. It’s up to you but you could pair wines with the courses. This needs a little research.
Always have water on the table for guests to help themselves.
8. Create a warm welcoming room and introduce guests to each other. Think atmosphere here! No one wants to arrive to a cold silent room with lights full-on!
Candles, fairy lights and lamps all give a soft glow to a room.
9. Background music is essential.
- Background music relaxes people and helps set the mood.
Did you know - background music can increase our enjoyment of food by up to 60%! (Lakeland.co.uk).
- Best to select a variety of music to suit all (unless your hosting a jazz convention?!).
- Throw a few Christmassy songs in!
- Have your playlist ready so you don’t need to keep stopping and starting.
- Don’t have it blaring!
10. Decide where guests will sit. Not compulsory but it is a good idea to mix people up and it saves a bit of embarrassed shuffling at the start!
- Put place cards out if wish - you could get these to match your theme for the evening.
- When deciding where to sit everyone, remember that you, as host, will be getting up and down throughout the meal so where you sit with guests is important.
11. Table decorations. These add to the atmosphere of the evening so think about the mood you’d like to help create:
Do you want a casual style?
Do you want a more formal style?
Do you want a festive theme for your table decorations - crackers, holly etc?
Dinnerware, glassware, cutlery, tablecloths and napkins all need to be selected. Think about colours.
Do you want candles? Candlelight is soft and flattering!
Do you want flowers?
12. Entertainment. Often conversation is enough entertainment for a dinner party but sometimes we need a bit more, for various reasons!
It’s a good idea to have something ready:
- Lively table games like ‘Jenga’ which involve everyone. Be prepared for it to get a bit raucous though!
- Quick-fire quizzes are always popular - could this be Christmas-themed?
- Home-made games with little equipment like ‘Who am I?’ (a silly game, look it up!).
13. The end of the evening.
Things are winding down so now’s the best time to serve coffee and mints or other chocolates.
Most people take this as the end of the evening. Others may need a few hints! But never mind, it shows it’s been a great evening!
And there we have it, the perfect Christmas dinner party!
Hosting a Christmas dinner party is a great way to kick off the season and fill everyone with festive cheer.
Just keep in mind that most importantly, you’re all there to have a fun and memorable time.
If things go wrong, don’t worry, keep smiling and filling your guest's glasses!
If you're looking for Christmas hampers for your Christmassy dinner party, we can help with those too!