As wedding season winds down and the holidays begin to ramp up, there's a few newlyweds planning on hosting their first Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. As exciting as the milestone is, the moment can come with its own bit of stress.
But it doesn't have to be, says Kathleen Schaffer, owner and creative director of Schaffer. And she should know, Kathleen's catering business is the go-to choice for many of Hollywood's biggest names (her clients include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney and David Beckham).
Kathleen shares the hacks that keep her in high-demand. Here's what she says it takes to nail your first time hosting a holiday meal:
Play to your strengths
Prepare dishes you have previously made. If you want to try something new, do a practice run. Do not attempt an ambitious menu that involves timing dishes and à la minute cooking. If you are not a professional chef, set yourself up for success by staying within your abilities.
Go for an easy spread
Buffets are the easiest for a home cook to prepare. Once you put the dishes out, join the group and spend time with your guests. A comfortable, happy host makes for a great event.
Greet your guests with food Make sure you have appetizers out before your guests arrive. Choose room temperature items that create a beautiful display. Cheese and charcuterie plates are easy options. Platter and then cover with damp paper towels to keep the sliced meats from discoloring, and the cheese from sweating. Keep your guests well-fed Plan the menu to include one or two protein items, three vegetable side dishes, two salads, a bread basket and butter. This way you have enough choices for all of your guests and their diets. Don't forget the ice Plan to have two pounds of ice per guest. Set up a self-service bar and let guests make their own drinks. Or, have a large batch of a specialty cocktail ready to serve over ice.
Make your table Instagram-worthy Use matching tableware and serving utensils for an upscale look. Visit a restaurant supply store to purchase simple white platters and metal serving utensils (such as scissor tongs and slotted spoons). This will make your buffet look professional and clean. The upside is, you'll use these pieces again and again. Incorporate candles, small floral groupings or succulents in between plates to create a great design element.
Don't sweat the small stuff Remain calm and keep things in perspective. Your life does not depend on the outcome of your dinner party, and your marriage is more important than this one night. The event industry exists because experts entertain for a living. Make sure you enjoy yourself and are also a guest at your event. Your guests and spouse should appreciate all of the effort you put into the evening. If they do not, you are hanging out with the wrong people.
Style Me Pretty Contributor - Ximena N. Larkin is a writer and publicist. She lives in Chicago with her husband and dog.