6 tips for a low-key holiday dinner party!

Before we bought our townhome we never did it, but in the past few years we've learned a few things about having friends over for dinner and having holiday parties! It's so out of the ordinary for us that it's a little emotionally taxing just to think about it... but this year, while planning a dinner party we're having with a few friends, I realized I've identified a few key tips and steps for planning the evening that have made it easier in the past. Hope some of these will help you!

I'm a seriously low-key party planner, with no room to store special multi-dish slow cookers, food warmers, fondue pots, or other specialized tools... so I stick to the basics. However, I do love essential pieces with a few extra features! This post is sponsored by Sears Home Appliances and Services, whose brand new Kenmore PRO line has some models and features perfect for a dinner party! For this post, I recently visited a Sears Home Appliances and Services store and learned about the Kenmore PRO line. Sears Home Appliances and Services has very knowledgeable staff to help customers navigate the (sometimes confusing) appliance-shopping process. And, they have some of the best warranties and service packages in the industry. They are also the leading retailer of home appliances in the U.S., #1 in home services, parts, and protection agreements. And they provide one-stop shopping and advice for homeowners looking to buy new or maintain appliances. 
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6 Tips for a Low-Key Holiday Dinner Party


1. Schedule on a weekend when you - and probably your guests - don't have much going on. 


Last year we picked the second weekend in December and I'm pretty sure 8 people had their or their spouse's company holiday party that weekend or day. You may have to schedule pretty far in advance, too.

Since it gets dark so early here in the evenings, we've done dinner parties on Sundays (starting around 5:00 PM!) and gotten creative with schedules and done Friday evenings as well.

2. Don't decorate much. 


If you have a tree up already, just put something like festive plaids or greenery on the buffet table and dining table. No one will notice much else if the room is a little dark, anyway, and you can save energy making the food and being friendly!

Remember the saying, "It doesn't have to be good; it just has to be done." This is especially true for the decor!

That's part of why I love decorating with natural pieces. How pretty and simple would a centerpiece like this be down a buffet table??
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3. Make many dishes the day before.


(By the way--some of my learned food tips come from my friend and party blogger Jenni who's a natural pro party planner. Thanks for the party-throwing wisdom online and in person, Jenni!)

Make food ahead! Dessert can usually be made the day before, no problem, but you can also make some sides the day before or morning of and just warm them up before the party.

The Kenmore PRO standard size fridge comes with so many features that would be SO handy when having people over and prepping beforehand. The shelves are not only movable up and down, they're also retractable front-back so you can put tall dishes below them without taking the whole shelf out. There's also a pantry drawer at the bottom of the fridge section so you can store flat platters easily, without disturbing smaller items on the shelves. There are also TWO ice makers! One on the front of the fridge, on the left door, and one in the freezer. Would be pretty hard to run out of ice!

Make space in the fridge in the days leading up to the party if you need to (i.e. repackaging leftovers into smaller containers, eating up containers that are mostly empty...) and make and store dishes like desserts and mashed potatoes so you don't have to worry about them in the hours before guests arrive.


4. Eat family style! (Mostly.)


For the most part, we do even formal dinner parties family style and it makes things more relaxed for everyone, guests included. You may need to set up a side table for extra dishes, water pitchers, etc. if the table is too crowded, but keep them nearby and people won't forget about them.

Serving family style also means fewer dishes when you're done.

However, a few things can be easier plated - you can pre-plate salads 1-2 hours before guests arrive and keep in the fridge wrapped in plastic. Desserts often look prettiest in individual dishes, and serving them that way makes for much faster distribution--you won't have to spend time cutting a pie and scooping ice cream, for example, if you serve panna cottas like this recipe in individual dishes! And people think it's so fancy, but really it's not much harder than heating and pouring into dishes!

5. Manage temperatures.


If you can have some flexibility for what will be served hot, it's a lot easier to get everything ready at the time you want it. A lot of appetizers can be done room temperature or cold, and so can dessert.

Serve appetizers on pretty platters on the eating and/or buffet table areas.
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For the hot food... if the main course of protein and 1-2 veggie sides all need to be served hot, keep them warm in a bottom oven or warming oven drawer. (Don't let hot food dry out in the warmer - cover it in foil or use a dish with a lid.)

The Kenmore PRO double oven would be ideal, of course! Plus, the most amazing feature of this oven is the shelves on a track--so you can glide the whole shelf out before grabbing the hot dish with pot holders! (I've burned myself on the top of the oven or a shelf above my dish before!)

This oven also has SO many settings, specific to the food item and method of cooking. Broil, convect, roast, bake, accella-heat (fast pre-heat)... I bet I could make a perfect ham in one of these. (We've ordered several hogs or half hogs from a local farm and they give us 2-3 smaller hams and I love serving them when people come over since it feels like such a special meal! I'm still perfecting my cooking method for them, though!)

All the Kenmore PRO line ovens, like this all-in-one gas range/oven also have the shelf on the track and the millions of settings.


6. Stop working!


Don't do the dishes until everyone is gone. Even if you don't mind doing it, it ruins the fun mood! (This one's hard for me since I hate having dishes on the counter. But I've felt really bad the few times I've gone overboard clearing people's plates after the meal!)

The work (hopefully not too much) comes before the party - from the moment the first guests arrive till the moment the last ones leave, relax and keep a positive attitude! No need to worry about chores while friends are over.

What about you??


What are your tips for keeping parties low-key and low-stress? I love how every year we've had people over we've learned a few things and I plan to continue to get better at hosting! So I'd love to hear your ideas.

Thanks to Sears Home Appliances and Services for sponsoring this post!

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