The Dish

Best Holiday Dinner Tips

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Horizontal image of a table with gold red and silvery decorations. The words "Best Holiday Dinner Tips" are overlayed on a place setting.

Are you starting to worry about your holiday entertaining? Maybe you have the holiday decor decided, the menu roughed out, the guest list firm, and you think you are ready to have the most fun and entertaining party ever. But do you really know how to make your party go smooth and also enjoy yourself?

I would love to help you with that! It has taken me years to understand how to be a better host and I want to share with you my very best holiday dinner tips.

I’m one of those people who love to try to do everything myself when entertaining.  I want to make the dinner, do the décor, serve tempting appetizers, and make everything in my home sparkling clean to have the most amazing dinner party ever.  But I can say from sad experience that this thinking is a perfect recipe for exhaustion, disappointment, and stress.

The most important thing to remember…

… is that people are coming to see you, be together, and enjoy a few hours of good food and good conversation.  As long as you keep that in mind, you will have a successful event and actually enjoy yourself during it.

From past experience I know I try to do too many things on the day of my party.  I neglect myself and my needs… plus I over-do.  I have learned from past failures to space out the things I feel I must do myself and reduce the amount of cooking I do on the day of the big event.

So, let me help you avoid my mistakes! Here are my top 4 tips for a stress-free holiday dinner:

tip #1 – clean early and set the table in advance

I like to do a full house cleaning one week before my event.  This lets me concentrate on the kitchen and the cooking in the days before the party.  Set the table a couple days in advance and put a sheet over everything.  On party day all you will need to do is remove the sheet, add arrangements, and adjust anything that looks out of place.

tip #2 – shower and dress early

I can’t tell you how many times I have been short on time preparing everything and then had to rush to get ready for my own party.  Yikes!  Shower early and dress at least 2 hours before guests are expected.  I guarantee if your invitation is for 6 pm, someone will come at 5:30 to “help” or “not be late”.

tip #3 – buy the appetizers and buy the dessert

Yes! Seriously! Too many complicated dishes can be a worry, so lighten your load of things to do and buy ready made things. This tip is straight from the great James Beard and when I read it, I took it to heart. It has saved me many times from overloading my schedule.

Appetizers and desserts can be simple items.  A beautiful cheese board with the right wine or cocktail will keep you sane.  As for the dessert… if you are planning an extravagant or time-consuming main dish, keep the dessert simple.  A good quality ice cream or sorbet with delectable cookies from an excellent bakery is all you really need.

Is your mind set on having pie? Think frozen. Frozen pies are remarkably good. You can actually slip the frozen pie out of the aluminum container and put it in a ceramic or heavier pie tin for a homemade look. Do this before baking or thawing the pie and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for baking, thawing, and storing.

tip #4 – have a timetable

My last tip is that I always write out a timetable for the day of the party.  Even though I know what needs to be done, it helps me stay calm and organized, and a calm and organized me, makes a better host.  My guests get my undivided attention and I can actually have moments of being a guest at my own party.


So, those are my very best holiday dinner tips and it really doesn’t matter what the holiday or event is. It could be Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, Easter, or even a birthday, baby shower, or anniversary celebration. These 4 tips will save you from stress and help you be an even more entertaining and joyful host and isn’t that really what these events should be? ….. Joyful with the sharing of great food with great friends and dear family!


Looking for holiday dinner inspiration? Here is a great dinner plan and a fabulous cocktail!

One Pan Turkey Dinner

Looking to simplify your holiday dinner? My One Pan Turkey Dinner has everything you need except the appetizers and dessert!


Maple Beam and Cream Cocktail

Easy to make… delicious to drink!

Are you hosting a holiday dinner and feeling stressed? Let me help you! Here are my best holiday dinner tips for stress free entertaining! #holidayparty #entertainingtips #stressrelief

2 Comments

  • Nipa

    Hi Jan! This is such a great checklist. #2 is the one that I always forget to do. The last time I hosted a party, I didn’t leave time to wash my hair and I regretted it when I saw all the party photos. xo Nipa

    • Jan Nunes

      Thank you Nipa! #2 has also been my hardest lesson. LOL…I can’t say how many times the door bell rang and I had wet hair!
      Wishing you a Great Thanksgiving! ~Jan

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