Hosting Guests for the Holidays? Here Are Our Top Party Do's + Don'ts

Impress guests with multiple forks at the dinner table. Fancy!

539471504

539471504

Group of friends laughing as they sit around a table eating and drinking at Christmas. One man is reading a joke from a christmas cracker. Party hats and christmas jumpers are worn.

Photo by: SolStock/iStock

SolStock/iStock

Related To:

From casual holiday gatherings to more formal affairs, even the most novice hosts and hostesses can perfect the menu, decor, table and more with our top tips. Dive in, then pour yourself a glass a wine — you deserve it.

PLAN AHEAD (AKA START NOW!)

You've probably known you were having guests over for quite a while. Or, maybe you just got the hosting duties sprung on you last minute. Either way, we have three ways to ensure your soiree planning goes smoothly.

1: Pick a theme and share it with your guests. If you're having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, definitely relay the message.

2: Get organized. Create lists to help you keep track of everything you need, from shopping to expenses.

3: Get help when you need it. Don't be afraid to enlist friends to help. And don't try to make everything from scratch — pick up menu items from a local bakery.

CREATE A PARTY-PERFECT MENU

When creating your party's menu, always keep a few things in mind:

1: Your guests' dietary restrictions;

2: The season;

3: And a balance of ingredients. (You don't want heavy cheese appetizers followed by a heavy cheese entree, for example.)

Entertaining expert Camille Styles says, "Don't try to prepare more than three items for one meal." If you're making the entree and two side dishes, buy the appetizers and dessert. You'll thank yourself later.

BE A GOOD HOST(ESS)

You can throw a holiday party or dinner without the stress. Here are a few tips for party success.

1: Serve dinner on time.

2: And serve dinner at a reasonable time. You don't want people drinking on an empty stomach.

3: If you're having a dinner party, don't make it too complicated.

4: You may have indicated an end time on your invite, but you can still hint that the party is winding down by tidying up and serving coffee.

Party Host Do's and Don'ts 02:04

Conquer even the trickiest of guests with these foolproof hosting tips.

SET THE TABLE THE RIGHT WAY

Most of us aren't following table-setting etiquette guidelines on day-to-day basis. But if you really want to impress your guests, follow these simple tips to get a structured look without the fuss. (Seriously — once you know the rules, it's easy!)

How to Set the Table 01:15

Meg Allan Cole explains how to set the table for a holiday dinner party.

ARRANGE THE SEATING

Many think assigned seating at dinner parties is awkward and formal, but it's actually quite the opposite. Camille Styles suggests reasons why it makes a dinner party flow much better for the host(ess) and guests.

1: It puts guests at ease. No one is anxiously trying to figure out where to sit.

2: It's a great icebreaker for guests, especially if they're sitting next to someone they don't know.

3: It can spark new friendships or relationships (if the host{ess} gets sneaky and plays matchmaker).

GO BIG WITH A BUFFET

Get your mind far away from hotel breakfast buffets and chafing dishes. If you're hosting a large group of people, go big — with triple layers. To take your holiday buffet to the next level (and have your guests raving about your spread for months), try these three ideas:

1: Mix mirrors and lights. Add battery-operated lights to tall vases, then stack mirrors on top to create multiple levels for a variety of foods.

2: Opt for unexpected serveware, like candleholders and vases.

3: Use stacked books to create height throughout the buffet table.

Get more HGTV

Create a Multi-Layered Buffet 01:19

Give dimension to your holiday party buffet with these clever ideas.

A Modern Guide to Holiday Etiquette

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Keep Reading

Next Up

What Type of Holiday Party Should You Host?

Can't decide what kind of shindig you should throw this holiday season? Let us help. Take our quiz to find out what type of party will make you the hostess with the mostess.

How to Host a Stellar Solar Eclipse Sip-n-See

Gather the gang for a once-in-a-lifetime "solar-bration."

Hosting 101: 9 Quick Pre-Party Clean-Up Tips

How to make your house look presentable in less than 15 minutes.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts