12 Tips for Holiday Entertaining Success

Host Sandra Lee shares 12 expert tips to make holiday decorating and entertaining a snap.

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1. Forgo a traditional floral centerpiece on the dining table and instead create a charming holiday scene featuring gingerbread houses or ceramic Christmas village miniatures. First sprinkle faux snow along the center of the table, then place homes, stores, trees and people to create a focal point that will delight guests of all ages.

2. Rather than rushing out to buy expensive new china, glasses and silverware for a holiday get-together, consider renting it. No matter where you live, chances are there's a party rental store near you. The prices are reasonable and by renting rather than buying you also avoid having to store the items year after year.

3. A simple way to give your holiday decorations a professionally decorated look is to stick to just two or three colors. Deciding on a palette before you shop makes the selection process quick and easy.

Merry Mantel

Merry Mantel

4. Flickering candlelight is beautiful, but if small children or pets will be part of the celebration substitute battery-powered votive and pillar candles for a warm glow without the worries.

5. For a custom look that's easy to achieve, add ornaments, wrapped candies, children's toys or glittered greenery to a plain wreath. The decorating options are nearly endless and embellishing a wreath is a fun project to do with the kids.

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6. Adding a vintage element, such as homemade gingerbread men, hand-strung popcorn or a cranberry garland to your holiday decorations lends a sentimental, old-fashioned feel.

7. Always test Christmas lights before adding them to the tree. Nothing is more disappointing (and frustrating) than spending an afternoon carefully wrapping the tree with lights only to plug them in and discover that they don't work.

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8. Give your chandelier a simple holiday update by draping the arms with an evergreen garland and embellishing plain paper shades with an assortment of ribbon attached with hot glue.

9. To cover an unusually shaped or extra-long table, simply drape it with fabric from the bolt. Measure the length of the table keeping in mind that 36 inches is equivalent to one yard. Add a few inches to each side to allow the fabric to puddle on the ground — no sewing required.

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10. Add fragrance and an unexpected touch to evergreen garlands and the Christmas tree by placing fresh flowers among the greenery. To keep flowers fresh for days, first clip the ends then insert into water-filled bubble tubes which are available at florist-supply stores.

11. A lit fireplace is beautiful but can quickly heat up a room filled with guests. To get the look without the warmth, instead fill the hearth with lit pillar candles.

12. Make your decorations shine by working strands of twinkling mini lights into garlands, topiaries and tablescapes. If you plan on using lights outdoors, check the packaging to make sure that both lights and any needed drop cords are rated safe for outdoor use.

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