19/12/2014 7:50 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

10 Ways To Plan And Host A Stress-Free Holiday Party

As much as it might tempt you to look on the Internet for the most complicated recipe to make you look like a pro. For successful party menu planning, keep your recipes simple, as time is always an issue.


As holidays and festive season descends, we start thinking of entertaining friends and family at home. And planning and putting things together for holiday parties can be quiet a task.

I have hosted countless parties over many years and in almost all of them there is always a talk about food and drinks. I love it when people gather around my table or my kitchen, move around with their glasses, picking up some good food and also having a good conversations. It makes it completely worth the effort you have put in when you and your guests are having a good time.

Over the years of helping people to host parties, there are a few things I notice people find hard to deicide

- What to serve and how much to serve

- Should I to make lots of appetisers or many main course dishes?

- Should I make multiple cocktails or stick to wine and beer?

To answer these questions and more, I have carefully thought out a list of ten suggestions to aid you to host a stress-free holiday party.

1. Buffet-Style Cocktail Party Or Sit-Down Dinners?

First things first - make a list of the number of guests you plan to invite? Based on the number of guests, you will decide whether it's going to be a sit-down dinner or a buffet-style dinner with cocktails and appetisers.

Most often, the sit-down dinners would involve a lot more work with setting up the table and laying all the mats, dishes, glasses and cutlery in place and beautifying your table. This works when you have a just couple of families coming over. It will not work when you have a larger crowd.

The "Buffet-Style Cocktail Party" is a phrase that I have personally coined for Indian Parties. For in most Indian parties along with cocktails and appetisers, the main course is also given a lot of importance (Smiles).

Buffet's make holiday parties much easier. A buffet party involves just laying out the placemats for the dishes ahead of time so the guests can help themselves with the food when served. This makes socialising much more fun and effortless even for the hosts.

2. Put Together The Guest List

Once you have decided what kind of party you are going to have. Have the guest list written down. Make note of the number of children, adults and make a special note if any of your guests have food-related allergies.

Ask your guests if the children or elderly have any special meal requirements. It always helps to have age-friendly, non-spicy meals, so every guest can enjoy the party at their own pace.

It's important to have finer details about your guests, so your parties can be enjoyed by each and every one of them.

3. Buffet-Style Cocktail Party Menu Planning

In most cocktail parties, guests tend to socialise over cocktails and bite-size appetisers. The main course is most often limited to one-dish meals and of course ending it with show-stopping desserts.

The way to think through the process of planning a party menu is to define according to the season. Using the season as a cue, you decide on the temperature (hot or cold dishes), textures (soft or crunchy dishes) and flavours (spicy, sweet, sour or mild dishes) that go on the plate.

With the tips and recipe ideas below I do hope you will be able to plan your party in a stress-free way.

4. Stock Your Pantry, China & Glassware

The key to a cooking up a storm for a simple dinner or a party is to stock up your pantry with ingredients ranging from olive oil, to salts, to sauces, to spices, to cheese, to eggs, to milk, to vegetables and herbs -- all the basics that you would use in an everyday kitchen. Then based on your menu, shop for the related ingredients.

If you are a person who host's parties often; having a well-equipped kitchen with appliances, pots and pans, and tools (peelers, knifes and boards) can help you break down the work load to less than half. As you cook often and host parties often, you will begin to understand the need for collecting the above to help you ward off last minute headaches in the kitchen.

And don't forget to keep collecting serving dishes, bowls, platters, casseroles, tooth picks, napkins, place mats and more that will be required to serve the food for parties. Not to miss the serving ladles, tongs, forks, spoons, knives and ice buckets.

And if you are serving cocktails and mocktails then do make sure to stock up on elegant glassware to serve. You don't want to be using plastic glasses or disposables -- after all we also have to think of the environment.

And lastly, pay attention to the serving bowls or platters for the desserts as this is going to be your party stopper!

Want to know a special secret "I am a Stockist of Every Kitchen Thing".

5. Prep Ahead And Make A List Of The Menu

If you are hosting a party for about 20 people, you must begin planning at least a week before.

First List:

Make a list of the menu for the drinks, appetisers, main course and desserts.

Second List:

Write down under each menu item (dish)

- Ingredients that needs to be shopped

- Set the time and date of when this dish has to be made

- Make a note of any final prep has to be done on the party day.

The above list can be long, so use a computer or a smart phone task list. And don't forget to keep ticking off the ingredients as you buy them. It will help you figure out if you have missed out something and if you did, set a reminder to shop for them if needed.

Third List

On the night before the party, make a list of the dishes completely made, half made and fully remaining to be made on the D-day.

And finally, on the day of the party, you should have at least an hour of free time before the guests arrive. Use this time to light incense, candles, play some music and set the mood for the party. This time will also make you relax, get ready and look fresh and happy when the guests arrive.

6. The Drinks Station

Allocate a special section in your party space where you can arrange your drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages). Make sure you keep a lot of glasses stocked and of course plenty of drinking water. Once again make a checklist for the Drinks Station:

- Alcoholic Drinks

- Juices

- Glasses

- Napkins

- Water

The next most important thing is deciding on what alcoholic drink to serve. You must keep in mind that you cannot keep everyone happy in this section. If you plan to make hard liquor cocktail, then make a large pitcher of just one cocktail; the rest can be wine or beer, giving people enough choices.

And as with juices always, stick to favourite juices like a mango, orange and litchi, these are most often crowd pleasers. And remember you had to stock for children and the elderly too.

7. Keep The Appetisers Simple And In Plenty

As much as it might tempt you to look on the Internet for the most complicated recipe to make you look like a pro. For successful party menu planning, keep your recipes simple, as time is always an issue.

We want the best tasting dishes on the table. And this means, showing what you are best at and of course running into fewer complications towards the last minute. You really don't want to be frying a hot Pakora or a Bajjia or a Puri and making your party floor smelling all oily.

So here is a list Holiday Party Recipe Ideas for Appetisers. Some of them can be made ahead and many can have prep work done.

Dips - These are some of the dips can be made ahead of time (like a day or two before) and refrigerated. Serve the dips along with tortilla chips, vegetable crudités and pita bread wedges. The vegetable cruidtes can also be cut and preserved in airtight boxes to keep them fresh for the day of the party.

Below are some of the Party Favourite Dips

Beetroot Pesto Dip

Spicy Mexican Salsa

Peanut Chilli Dipping Sauce

Tzatziki - A Greek Yogurt Dip

Homemade Guacamole

See How To Make The Party Dip Recipes

On the day of the Party: Place the dips on separate bowls and surround the dips with the tortilla chips, vegetable crudités and pita bread wedges and serve.

Warm Appetisers - Apart from serving dips, that are most often cold, it's a good idea to team them with some warm appetisers. Most of these appetisers have be prepped ahead and warmed up and served in elegant bowls.

Gobi Manchurian

Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Vegetarian Hariyali Malai Kebab

Fennel Potato Croquettes

Lettuce Wraps with Asian-Style Roasted Vegetables

Patata Bravas

See How To Make The Party Appetisers Recipes

And if you are having wine, then its great to have a slab or two of cheese that people and cut and serve themselves.

8. A Striking One Dish Meal

At most Indian parties, having a main course is a must. After all the fun over appetisers and drinks, guests do love to eat some comfort food. I always believe that the main course should lean towards all things that comfort the mind. It's the time of the party, when people start to sit down and unwind, so why not think of food options that are wholesome and comforting.

If you felt your party had a predominantly Indian flavour to it, then you can most definitely stick to Indian food or Asian food. But this is purely your choice. You know your guests, so you will be able to make the best decision. Below, I have listed down some favourite one-dish main courses from three different cuisines. They can be prepped ahead, warmed or tossed just before you are ready to serve.

European Cuisine

Spaghetti pomodoro, or roasted vegetable lasagna, or both along with warm garlic bread.

Asian Cuisine

Thai green curry, plain rice and Thai basil vegetarian fried rice or vegetable noodles.

Indian Cuisine

Paneer kofta curry, rajma masala, plain rice and raita.


Egg curry, bhagara baingan, biryani and raita.

9. Finish With A Show Stopper - The Dessert

I always believe that desserts are the showstoppers at every party. I personally give an attention to detail for desserts at parties. My personal preference is to set the desserts in individual bowls (like shot glasses or juice glasses), so its easy to serve and makes a great presentation as well.

Small portions are just what people want at the end of an eventful party.

When it comes to dessert, the same menu planning as above is required. Make a list of what you can prep ahead and what needs to be kept ready to serve. One of the favourites among parties is Trifle Pudding along with fresh fruits and cream.

These can be served very elegantly for parties in small glasses. If you are using fruits, use the ones that are in season to give it a fresh flavour. Assemble the trifle, and leave the topping of fruits and crumbs for the end when you are ready to serve.

Here Is A Favorite: Strawberry Trifle With Grand Marnier

10. Come Up With A Playlist And Enjoy

Last but not least take time to enjoy yourself and get yourself to hold a drink at the party. If you are having a good time, your guests will have a great time as well. And don't forget to prepare a good playlist to jazz up your party.

And finally, half hour before guests arrive, set out appetisers and drinks, jazz up your home with some music and set the ball rolling. And when you hear the first doorbell ring you will be ready to kick-start your party in style.