Christmas is coming, and with it the perfect excuse to throw open the doors to entertain family and friends, whether drinks and nibbles in the big-build up, a full-on feast for the main event itself or a glittering affair on New Year’s Eve.
But while gathering nearest and dearest in your home can be a joyful and rewarding experience, there’s no denying it can also be stressful, what with the decorating, cooking and hosting to be done.
But fear not, as we’ve compiled everything you need to make it go without a hitch in one convenient place, from tablescaping inspiration to Christmas Day hosting ideas and menu-planning, plus general tips and tricks.
This year, you’ll be confident in welcoming one and all (just don’t forget to upgrade your dining table – a blank canvas for your creativity).
Why host a dinner party at home?
Despite the effort it takes to throw a dinner party, hosting at home can sometimes be more economical than going out or ordering in, while it gives you a chance to show off your beautiful tablescape and impeccable style. Better still, there’s no need for a taxi at the end of the night for the host – meaning you can climb the stairs and be in bed the minute everyone has left.
Hosting your Christmas dinner party
The golden rule for any refined gathering? Plan ahead. And when you think you’ve done all the planning you can, plan some more. We’re not just talking about setting a budget – although that’s the first logical step – but setting a date and time that gives everyone plenty of warning to diarise, then sorting a guestlist by circulating (preferably printed) invites to those you want around the table.
Next, think about a theme – which, in turn, can inspire the food and drink – and start buying decorations and tableware so you’re not scrabbling around at the last minute. Even little things, like dressing the table or chopping the veg the night before, can help when it comes to hosting. Why not go one step further and select dishes you can make beforehand and freeze to seal in flavour and texture? Then you only need to defrost, finish cooking and serve when guests arrive. Likewise, curate a playlist the weekend before your soirée over a glass of wine – it’s fun and will save time and faff when it comes to finding the right vibe on the night.
Creative Christmas dinner party theme ideas
You absolutely don’t need a theme to throw a dinner party, but Christmas is all about having a bit of fun, so it certainly won’t go amiss.
There’s plenty of inspiration for Christmas dinner theme ideas on the likes of Pinterest, but the festive season lends itself naturally to concepts like a winter wonderland – think twinkling silvers, faux snow, handcrafted animals and icy blues – or ‘all that glitters’ with gold decorations at every turn.
Otherwise, you could go traditional – greens and reds are making a comeback as we seek comfort and joy in nostalgia – or be creative: the underwater aesthetic is making waves with pearlescent finishes, mermaid motifs and shell designs (this lobster-inspired dec is just the thing). The world really is your oyster, so think big and get creative.
Games and entertainment at your Christmas dinner party
It wouldn’t feel festive without a family game or two after dinner is done, would it? Old-school favourites such as charades and quizzes always go down a storm, as do classics like Scrabble and Pictionary, otherwise the collection of beautifully-designed games by Printworks are sure-fire winners – from Backgammon and Tumbling Tower to Yatzy and Four in a Row. If all else fails, why not dust off the karaoke machine? It’s Christmas, after all. A simple Google will reveal a raft of Christmas dinner party game ideas, if you’re still stuck.
Festive Christmas dinner party décor
Line pillar candles of varying heights down the length of the table or cluster together in a collection in the centre (overhead lighting should be dialled down or switched off); wind battery-operated fairylights around the back of dining chairs; and fill vases with groups of ornaments and use unique ones to add personality to each place setting.
Menu ideas for large Christmas gatherings
With the theme, entertainment and table sorted, it’s time to think about the type of food and format you serve up, which should initially be planned around the number of guests you have in attendance.
For a big group, for example, a generous buffet that lends itself to everyone helping themselves is best. Don’t be quick to judge – the buffet is back in a big way and is being elevated for contemporary entertaining by even the most respected party-planners. Think premium cheeses, pickles and condiments; butter boards topped with spices and herbs; wafer-thin slices of charcuterie; luxurious lobster rolls; bite-sized desserts and old-school trifles (yes, really); DIY spritz stations; and posh punch bowls. For this retro presentation style, consider upgrading your serveware with things like the Tundra Sharing Platter by Musango, our Sintra Salad Bowl and the Rotary Tray from Vitra.
For a tighter group – eight, say – a sit-down affair might be more appropriate with a centrepiece or sharing board placed in the centre of the table for everyone to dig in and help themselves. Forgo the traditional turkey in favour of something more fashionable like pulled pork or cauliflower wellington as a guaranteed conversation-starter. Why not present on something pretty like the Tala Ceramic Platter by ferm LIVING?
For groups or six or four, you may want to dish up individual plates in the kitchen before presenting them at the table, and include a starter, main and dessert before retiring to the living room for cheese and digestifs. Our box-sets – from the grey-blue tones of Nordic Sea to our colourful collaboration with LF Markey – make refreshing your crockery for Christmas easy.
As the big day itself can be quite the undertaking, we recommend keeping any entertaining you’re doing on Christmas Eve low-key, so stick to a single course for a small group or just two – oysters and Champagne is an always elegant pairing. These saucers from The Vintage List are timeless.
However many you’re catering for, always remember to check dietary requirements beforehand, meaning there are no surprises when it comes to plant-based or gluten-free guests. Don’t overlook drinks, either: while you’ll have plenty of beer, wine and spirits to hand, ensure you’ve got smart softs for teetotallers or drivers, too. Sober-curiosity – whereby people are consciously choosing to drink or abstain on different occasions – is becoming increasingly popular.
Remember, whoever you’re hosting and however you’re hosting them, it’s all about the company. So long as the conversation (and wine) is flowing, everyone will leave with a smile on their face.