Whether you’re hosting family or friends, it takes the right mix of entertaining essentials to make it through the holiday season in style—and with your sanity intact. From party-planning veterans to entertaining novices, the best hosts are prepared for anything (hopefully the dramas only escalate to seating arrangements) and can put together a tablescape that’s Instagram-ready in a snap. Does it feel like the pressure’s on?
We’d be lying if we said hostess-with-the-mostest credentials could be earned overnight, so to make life easier, we’ve interviewed three top interior stylists and designers to give us the only entertaining checklist you need. From party prep to setting the table, throwing a party can feel like serious business, especially when your mom won’t stop texting about the casserole. But it should be fun! Enter everyone’s go-to essentials emporium: IKEA.
Steady your glasses—that champagne isn’t going to pour itself.
Prep Like a Pro
Finalize your guest list in advance so you can plan to accommodate any dietary restrictions and make the seating arrangements. “I once had a dinner party where I asked each guest to bring someone who didn’t know everyone but was the kind of person who just gets along with people,” says design editor and curator Jill Singer. “That was fun.” Next, you’ll need to plan a pitch-perfect menu. Plop your tablet down, find your favorite recipe pins, and ready your arsenal—pots, pans, knives, and a prep surface. Keep everything at the ready with a multipurpose kitchen cart, and store any excess (the less-pretty bits could be used in a soup stock) in sealed containers.
This simply chic bamboo tablet stand can be propped up on your countertop or be hung on a wall to create more space when cooking.
This solid wood cutting board is durable but gentle on knives.
When your aunt and uncle roll deep, a bottomless pot should be top of mind—mashed potatoes for all!
This stainless steel multitasker offers up extra prep space as well as diverse storage options, from extra shelving to a wine rack.
You’ll need a good knife to chop your produce efficiently. Choose one with grooves in the handle to allow you a firm nonslip grip.
Set the Ambience
Once you’ve nailed down the party prep, it’s time to determine the ambiance for your soirée. “Always have a good playlist ready before your guests arrive,” says stylist Anthony D’Argenzio. Bring in textiles for a cozy vibe, even switching rugs from room to room, and use tapers for intimate, low-key lighting that’s flattering on Instagram stories—if you don’t share it, did it really happen?
Finally, the right florals are just as crucial. Singer looks to NYC-based Metaflora for inspiring botanical arrangements, while interior designer Michael Zipp suggests decorating with large bunches of a single kind of flower for an easy, impactful arrangement.
Create a dynamic arrangement of florals with vases of different heights.
A cluster of candles creates a sense of intimacy and provides flattering light.
Rugs and throw pillows add warmth and create visual interest.
The scent of something baking in the oven is sure to whet guests’ appetites.
Set the Table
Creating an inviting table doesn’t need to be a chore. “The food should be the center of attention, and the dinnerware should play a supporting role,” says Zipp. Singer agrees: “Have one or two ‘conversation pieces’ that guests can ask about; then keep everything else super simple and chic.” Encourage guests to come together over good food and great conversation with refined dinnerware that showcases your hard work in the kitchen. Wineglasses and water glasses should be at the ready; linen napkins accentuate each place setting, but any version can work here. “The details matter,” D’Argenzio reminds us.
A set of durable glass tumblers help round out each place setting.
Don’t forget the refined stemware. Remember to pick wineglasses that have large and round bowls; this helps aromas and flavors open up throughout the course of the evening.
Cloth napkins are beautiful, functional, and environmentally friendly.
Simple and simply beautiful, this ain’t your grandmother’s matching china.
Now that you’ve got your priorities in order, be sure to check out our easy-to-use shopping guide for the season ahead.
It’s like mom always said: When the going gets tough, the tough start shopping. Get a head start with our picks above, and don’t forget to share your hosting hacks with us!