Tips for Stress Free Holiday Entertaining

If you’re hosting friends and family this year for the holidays, keep reading for my best tips for stress free holiday entertaining, such as what to prepare in advance, how much wine to factor in for guests, wine pairing tips and more.

If you’re planning any sort of holiday gathering this year and could use some help making it go as smoothly as possible, keep reading because I’m sharing all my best tips for stress free holiday entertaining in partnership with Geyser Peak Winery.

Stress free holiday entertaining tips from a chef and caterer

As a private chef and caterer for over ten years, I’ve picked up loads of helpful tricks along the way to make cooking easier and more efficient. No one ever wants to be the frazzled host too busy running around to enjoy the company of their guests, so these tips will help prevent that from happening! I also worked in the wine industry for several years before becoming a chef, planning and hosting countless wine club parties, so in this post we’ll also touch on things like simple wine pairing tips and how much wine to plan for. Let’s get into it!

The key to stress free holiday entertaining is knowing what to prepare in advance

My top tip for making holiday hosting stress free is to start as early as possible with the things you know you can do in advance, so that you’ll be free to mingle with your guests. Start by making a list of everything you can think of that needs to be done. Then prioritize what can be done early and determine what needs to be done the day of. Certain tasks can be completed a week or more in advance, some a few days before, some the morning of, etc. And if you stick to checking as many things off as you can early on, you’ll find that you will actually have very little to do once your guests arrive!

Here are some typical examples of things you can check off of your to-do list a day or more in advance:

  • Tidy up the house
  • Curate your music playlist
  • Shop for ingredients, supplies and beverages
  • Decorate and set the table
  • Pull out and label serving platters/serving utensils- I got this tip from Ina Garten and it really helps cut down on stress when it’s time to serve the food!
  • Determine which food from your menu can be made in advance, what needs to be made the day of and what you can outsource to someone else

Have a game plan for drinks

The holiday season is a festive time, so it’s natural that you’d want to offer something fun for your guests to have in their glasses. Here are my top tips for stress-free holiday entertaining when it comes to the beverage aspect:

  • Offering a full bar can get expensive and difficult to manage. To keep things simple, I recommend setting up a self serve beverage station with one red wine and one white wine. A signature cocktail can be fun to add too, but if you go that route I suggest something you can make a pitcher of in advance so you’re not stuck serving drinks all night. A winter sangria or mulled wine is a great option!
  • If you’re unsure of how much wine to purchase, a good rule of thumb is to plan for 2 glasses of wine per person. If you’re offering a signature cocktail or know that certain guests won’t be drinking wine, you can reduce that amount.
  • If you’re having a large gathering, don’t feel like you need to break the bank on wine! If your gathering is more intimate then it might be a good time to break out that special bottle you’ve been saving. Geyser Peak Winery has you covered with several options, from their budget friendly California series to their reserve and appellation family of wines, such as their Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Remember to offer non-alcoholic options too! Keep a pitcher of water available and some bottles of sparkling water so your guests can stay hydrated.

Wine pairing tips

Wine pairing can seem intimidating when you’re hosting a party with a wide variety of food on the menu, but it doesn’t have to be! I like to offer a crisp, bright white like Geyser Peak Winery’s lively, citrus-forward 2018 California Sauvignon Blanc. Wines with a decent amount of acidity such as this one are generally quite food friendly and can pair well with a wide range of foods, from rich, to spicy to tangy.

As far as a red, anything medium to full bodied will have the structure to hold up to the rich, winter comfort foods that are typically served at holiday gatherings. Their 2017 California Cabernet Sauvignon fits the bill perfectly, with its notes of dark cherry, black plum and mocha.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

My last tip for stress free holiday entertaining is this: don’t feel like you need to do everything yourself! Asking for help can be hard for some of us, but delegating is one of the best ways to cut down on the stress that’s often associated with hosting. Whether it’s rallying your family to help clean and decorate the house, hiring staff the day of the event to help with set up and serving, outsourcing part of the menu to a catering company or using some store bought shortcuts, anything you can take off your plate as the host is going to make your life easier. And if a guest offers to bring something or help with dishes at the end of the night, take them up on it!

I hope you found these tips for stress free holiday entertaining helpful! For more helpful tips, check out my ‘Be A Better Cook’ series! And thanks to Geyser Peak Winery for sponsoring this post. Be sure to check out their selection of wines for all your holiday needs and beyond!

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