How to Host The Most Stress-Free Holiday Dinner Party Ever


Hosting a Friendsgiving or holiday dinner party? While skipping out on holiday travel and family dinner table politics in favor of a low-key and tasty meal with friends is, for many, an obvious trade-off, pulling off the fete isn’t as effortless as it may seem. Avoiding being saddled with all the cooking, shopping, and cleaning, organization is key. Everyone may mean well and intend to chip in, but without a bit of oversight, you might just end up with five sides of mashed potatoes and a barrage of wine bottles. To avoid any holiday party stress, follow my cardinal rules for hosting the most stress-free dinner party of all time. 

Who doesn't love a good potluck? If you're a smorgasboard lover like me, nothing is more fun than having your friends each bring a dish of their own. But before asking your guests to bring something, make a list of the dishes you’d like to serve and how many people will be eating. Compile the details into a shared Google Doc (you don't even want to know how many shared spreadsheets I have in my account) so you and your guests can plan together. If someone isn’t confident in their cooking or baking skills, have them bring wine or help with day-of prep.

Asking for help is key for coordinating a stress-free dinner party. In addition to delegating food and beverage for the potluck meal, consider assigning other pre- and post-party tasks as well. Sign up a few friends to help you set the table and finalize food before the whole gang arrives, task someone with drink duty during the meal, ask someone to be in charge of clearing the table post-meal, a couple of people to handle dishes, and even someone to package up leftovers for guests to take home. Be as granular as you like. You'll be surprised how many of your friends actually want in on the hostess action. Some of my most favorite dinner party memories were made when a friends or two joined early to prep, getting that quality time in before things get crowded isn't just helpful, but fun too.

Don’t go crazy with delicate wine glasses and fancy plates that require special cleaning. If there was any day the dishwasher was made for, this is it, so use it! Focus on festive food, candlelight, and flowers to dress up the table.

If part of the appeal of hosting is going all-out on decor, then get down with your bad self. But for a holiday when the food should take center stage, there’s no need to spend days decorating. A tidy house, a few pretty  candles, and ample comfy seating are all you need to make guests feel at home. The holidays is all about a relaxed get-together, not a stiff, formal affair. To that end, be sure to suggest an appropriate dress code; nobody wants to be the one person in a cocktail dress while everyone else is in jeans.

The secret to any hassle-free soiree? Utilizing the night before for all your prepping. We’d take it a step further and say that the week before is golden party-prep time. Tidy up, make sure you have enough serving dishes for your proposed menu, and maybe even set the table in the days leading up to the festivities. And, of course, pre-cooking any dishes on your to-do list is the way to go. After all, a relaxed, happy host is the best host.

While I actually love getting busy in the kitchen, it's not always an option. This year, I just knew I wouldn't be able to host a Friendsgiving dinner at my home. Between work, travel and everything else going on, it just wasn't possible. I decided to team up with my friends at Palamino San Francisco to throw a Friendsgiving dinner party at their gorgeous restaurant. I picked Palamino San Francisco because of their inviting atmosphere, exquisite menu (with something for everyone - dietary restrictions and all), world-class service and stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Bay Lights and (my most favorite bridge of all time) the Bay Bridge. My dear friends Jennifer Kendall Thomas of One Fine Day Events put together the most gorgeous table with the dreamiest flower arrangements, Kristina Yee of Bumble Yee Designs offered her lettering magic to create personalized place cards for each guest, Megan Sokhn of SF Wine Society collaborated with Palamino to pair each course with wine and Shannon Zurawski photographed every detail so we could each have the memories captured. Having someone else take care of the cooking, serving and cleaning allowed us all to focus on connecting and catching up with one another at the dinner table. 

Looking for dinner party inspiration? Here are photos of my Friendsgiving Dinner Party at Palamino San Francisco


How to Host The Most Stress-Free Holiday Dinner Party Ever