9 Essentials You Need in Your Hostess Starter Kit

Add these nine entertaining essentials to your arsenal to instantly become the hostess with the mostess.

Holiday dinners, cocktail parties and family gatherings are near. And many of us already have dates on the calendar on which we'll be entertaining family and friends in our home.

Holiday Gin Fizz Cocktail

Holiday Gin Fizz Cocktail

Switch up your typical winter bubble routine with this simple sparkling cocktail. A perfectly festive and unique welcoming toast for your arriving holiday guests that's bursting with vibrant berry colors and evergreen-like fragrance.

If you're new to the hostess scene or have never been one before, not to worry. We've created a list of all the basic essentials that you should have in your hostess arsenal to kick off any event in your home. (And we don't mean an apron.)

Serving Platters

One Dough = Five Cookies

One Dough = Five Cookies

Use a traditional sugar cookie dough and make slight adjustments in order to create four very different and very scrumptious Christmas cookies. From candied orange to cashews to sugar crystals, each cookie has a unique look and flavor to set it apart at your next holiday gathering.

You'll need at least one or two serving pieces if you plan to have a group of friends or family over for dinner. As you become more and more comfortable in your hostess role, you might find that you'll want to add to your serving piece collection; however, you can definitely keep it simple at first.

I recommend having at least one large serving platter and one large serving bowl in your hostess starter kit. Sticking to a white color scheme will ensure that your pieces will go with everything, no matter what design you choose for your table.

Our Product Picks:

Pearl Oval Serving Platter, Sur La Table, $39.95

Blanc Oval Swoop Bowl, Sur La Table, $23.96

Linen Napkins

Cross-Stitched Poinsettia Napkins

Cross-Stitched Poinsettia Napkins

Add some modern folk to your holiday table with cross-stitched poinsettia napkins.

While they do require a bit more care and maintenance, you can really up the elegance factor of any gathering with some lovely linen napkins. Again, you can work your way up to having several sets of these, but to start, aim to have 8-12 napkins in one color or pattern.

Our Product Pick: 

Painted Owl Napkin, Anthropologie, $12

Set of Flatware

Formal Flatware in Gold Tones

Formal Flatware in Gold Tones

A touch of the unexpected is always a great way to start conversation at a brunch or dinner. Keep the overall fare and decor casual and fun for your springtime soiree, but add a small touch of formality by using formal flatware in gold or silver tones.

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

Flynnside Out Productions

This is something you might already have in your kitchen drawer, but if not, you'll want to make sure you have at least one matching set of flatware. Now, "matching" can certainly mean eclectic if you happen to have a number of mismatched vintage pieces that you've chosen to go together. But you should have at least one set flatware that you feel good about displaying on your table in front of guests. I like to recommend having enough for at least eight but feel free to start with service for four or six if that fits your budget a bit better.

Our Product Pick:


Palm Springs-Inspired Holiday Table Setting

Palm Springs-Inspired Holiday Table Setting

As featured on HGTV Crafternoon, this sophisticated, black-and-gold party theme gets a fun twist from bold geometric accents and streamlined black-and-white accents. Cute potted cacti stand in for traditional flower arrangements.

From: HGTV Crafternoon

Photo by: Andrew McGary ©© 2014 HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Andrew McGary, © 2014 HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

You might be thinking that candles would be on the optional list, but I think they're key to creating the right mood for a gathering around the holidays. If you're using candles on your dinner table, choose candles without a scent, so they don't interfere with your dining experience. However, feel free to place scented candles in other spots around your home such as gathering spots or in a guest bathroom.

Our Product Pick:

White Pillar Candles, Pottery Barn, $24

Set of Wine Glasses

DIY Chalkboard Wine Glasses

DIY Chalkboard Wine Glasses

Chalkboard paint adds a splash of color and will help guests keep track of their drinks. For this project, you'll need: wine glasses, chalkboard paint, bucket or small bowl for the paint, chalk sticks, rubbing alcohol and paper towels or a clean cloth.

You'll notice that these days, wine glasses come in many shapes and sizes. However, for your starter set, your best bet is to go for a versatile collection of red wine goblets. Is it ok to serve white wine in red wine glasses? Absolutely! If red wine glasses are all you have, then don't even think twice about it.

Our Product Pick:


Agate Coasters With DIY Gold Leaf Edging

Agate Coasters With DIY Gold Leaf Edging

As seen in HGTV Magazine .

Photo by: Jim Bastardo

Jim Bastardo

As seen in HGTV Magazine .

If you don't have or are not using a tablecloth, then coasters are a must. But even if you are using a tablecloth, coasters can zhush up a holiday table nicely. They're also important to have on hand for cocktail parties or more casual gatherings.

Our Product Pick:

Dot Coasters, MOMA Store, $25

A Few Vases

Wide Variety of Containers for Floral Displays

Wide Variety of Containers for Floral Displays

Photo by: DK - Fresh Flower Arranging © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Fresh Flower Arranging, 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Along with candles, fresh flowers are another easy way to instantly bring a level of chic sophistication to your gatherings. You'll need a vase or two to hold your flower arrangements. If you don't have vases, you can get super creative when it comes to containers for your flowers. Pitchers, jars or wine bottles would all work well. And don't worry about getting fancy with your flowers; you can pick up a lovely, budget-friendly arrangement from specialty markets or high-end supermarkets.

Our Product Pick:

Gold Bud Vase, CB2, $10.95

Dessert Serving Piece

Symmetrical Fall Tablescape With Tall Centerpiece

Symmetrical Fall Tablescape With Tall Centerpiece

A symmetrical arrangement for the table's focal point makes a visually strong statement. In this case, the tall stacked centerpiece is flanked with two bouquets that were made with the same flowers and produce in vases that are the same size and color.

Though you could wash off your larger serving platter to use for dessert, I find it's nice to have a separate piece to use for dessert. Tiered trays are one of my favorite things to use and they allow a lot of flexibility in terms of how you can use them. Even if you don't have a homemade dessert and you're serving something simple like cookies, removing them from their original packaging and serving them on a tiered tray well help elevate the vibe of your gathering.

Our Product Pick:

Cheese Plate or Board

Blue Cheese And Figs

Blue Cheese And Figs

Blue cheese is characterized by its sharp and salty taste. In addition to the flavoring, blue cheese is also known for its strong scent. If guests find its characteristics too strong, figs can help sweeten the salty taste.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

If you tend to have cocktail parties rather than formal dinner parties, you'll want a functional cheese plate or board. Even for a dinner party, you'll likely have a cheese plate set up before your meal as an option for hors d'oeuvres. You can use a charger; however, I love to use a wooden board for a lovely cheese display.

Our Product Pick:

So, those are the basics! But if you want to spread your hostess wings a bit and add a few more things to your arsenal, here are some optional bonus (but useful!) items you can add to your starter kit:

Bonus Items

  • Napkin rings
  • Cocktail or martini glasses
  • Water glasses
  • Name place holders
  • Nice corkscrew

Plus, Get These Dinner Recipes for the Novice Host

See All Photos

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad Cups

Even though this appetizer looks straight out of your favorite high-end restaurant, these salad cups are so easy to make. The pear and gorgonzola combination is flavorful and filling and will have guests asking you for the recipe! Get the recipe here>>

Holiday Gin Fizz Cocktail

A perfectly festive, welcoming toast for your arriving holiday guests, this gin cocktail features vibrant berry colors and evergreen-like fragrance. Get the recipe>>

Sweet Potato Sliders

Take your finger food appetizers to the next level with these nutritious and seasonal baked sweet potato sliders. Make these a day in advanced to save time the day of your party. Get the recipe>>

Cross-Stitched Poinsettia Napkins

Add a touch of modern folk to your holiday dinner table with cross-stitched poinsettia napkins. Download our free printable poinsettia pattern, and follow our easy instructions to make your own>>

Vintage Rubber-Dipped Flatware

Whether you want to update your old flatware or if you find beautiful vintage flatware, dip dyeing them will give your holiday table festive flair. Get the easy instructions here>>

Ginger Bell Cocktail

This zippy bourbon cocktail is bold, crisp and perfect for ringing in the seasonal festivities all winter long. Get the recipe>>

Hard Cider Roast

This roast will be the star of the table. Easy to prep and filled with unique aromatic flavors of cider and sage, you'll be wishing for leftovers before the dishes are even washed. Get the recipe>>

Winter Terrarium Centerpiece

Display a small winter terrarium at the center of your Christmas dinner table to add height. After your party, display it in your home throughout the winter season. Get the easy instructions here>>

Wilted Brussels Sprouts Petals

This Brussels sprouts dish will sway even the pickiest of eaters. The unique texture pairs well the hard cider roast. Get the recipe>>

Winter Grain Salad

Try this healthy yet hearty dish that's packed with greens, squash, fresh herbs and a punchy vinaigrette that can be served as a main or side dish. Get the recipe>>

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