Master the art of holiday hosting with these 5 expert tips

(BPT) – It’s time to start prepping for the winter holidays! If you regularly host intimate family gatherings or bustling parties with friends and co-workers, you know that holiday hosting is an art. For the uninitiated, it can seem daunting, but the joy of creating an experience your guests won’t soon forget is worth the effort. Whether you’re a pro or a novice, the following five tips will help you master the art of hospitality just in time for the holidays.

1. Plan ahead

Avoid last-minute stress by starting your holiday event planning a few weeks in advance. Once you’ve chosen a date, create a guest list so you have an idea of how much food and drink you’ll need to prepare for the big day. Send out your invites and adjust your grocery list as needed as the RSVPs roll in.

Next, make a detailed timeline and to-do list to help you stay organized and ensure you don’t forget any important tasks. This will also help you figure out which errands and preparations can be accomplished ahead of time and which need to be completed on the day of the party.

2. Create a cozy ambiance

Embrace the season and decorate accordingly to create a cozy environment for your guests. Seasonal decorations — like flowers, wreaths, twinkling lights and scented candles — can set the mood for the holiday gathering and make your home feel festive and inviting. Don’t overdo it! Simple, elegant decor is more effective and comfortable than an overcrowded space.

Don’t forget the tunes! Pick holiday songs, crowd-pleasing hits or even simple background music to play during your gathering. You can even invite guests to contribute their picks using a collaborative playlist.

3. Prepare an upscale menu

Plan a menu of appetizers, main course, sides and desserts for your holiday dinner. You don’t have to make enough food to feed an army, but make sure you’ll have enough to feed everyone and perhaps have leftovers for guests to take home.

When choosing the main course, pick dishes that are filling and fancy. For example, treat your family and friends to an elevated eating experience by serving premium beef and pork from a purveyor like Creekstone Farms. The Pecan-Crusted Strip Steak recipe is perfect for the holidays, or anytime you want to get together! Also, consider cooking a Reverse Seared Standing Prime Rib, a smoky dish that melts in your mouth. Pair it with creme fraiche horseradish and you’ll have no regrets.

4. Offer a variety of drinks

Once you have dinner planned, think of drinks that complement the dinner menu. Make sure to have a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic options so everyone can enjoy the festivities. You can even create a signature holiday cocktail for the event to add a memorable touch. After dinner, offer coffee (regular and decaf), tea, cider and hot chocolate to amp up the cozy factor.

5. Organize entertainment

Organize activities your guests can look forward to after dinner when there’s a lull in energy as people digest the delicious meal. This is the time to dig into your board game closet and pull out some childhood favorites or set up a gift exchange. You can also find some interesting card games that help guests get to know each other, which is particularly fun if your holiday gathering is a mix of friends, family and colleagues.

Bonus tip

Hosting can be a lot of work, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself! In the midst of the hustle and bustle, take a moment to savor the event you’ve created.

Prepping ahead should help you get into the festive spirit, but you can also consider saving time by purchasing meal boxes to make decadent, savory holiday meals with minimal fuss. You can check out Creekstone Farms’ online store and peruse their meat boxes that offer convenient yet upscale holiday dinners.

Using these five hosting tips, you can elevate your holiday gathering so everyone can create fond memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to put your own personal spin on them so the holiday dinner reflects your special brand of hospitality. Happy hosting!