My friend, Julie, and I recently published our first book together. Gatherings is a collection of recipes, how-to’s, and easy decor ideas designed to assist you with planning any party you might consider hosting over the course of a year. From showers to sleepovers, and backyard barbecues to big family gatherings, we’ve tried to cover almost every major occasion on your calendar.
I’ve spent almost a decade organizing events and home parties at a professional level, and no party is easier to execute than an open house. Comprised mostly of a low-maintenance, make-ahead menu, the food is typically served buffet-style and requires almost nothing from a hostess, just the occasional reheating and replenishing of foods.
A holiday open house is an ideal way to open your home to friends and family during the holidays, when the desire to host is the strongest, but you have the least amount of time to do it. The tone for this gathering should be warm and casual, offering a break to your prospective guests who are likely overwhelmed and over-committed by the season’s schedule. It keeps the focus on the people in attendance and not the preparation, which naturally forces you to make merry with those you like and love the most.
Here are my best tips’the ones I published in the book’for hosting a successful holiday open house:
- Avoid cooking during an open house. With guests coming and going at different times you want to be free from the kitchen so you can greet them appropriately.
- This should be the easiest type of gathering you host. Keep self-serve in mind when it comes to planning the menu.
- If serving hot foods, prepare them so they can be heated in batches, keeping a constant rotation of warm foods at the ready.
- Mostly offer foods that do well at room temperature and require nothing more than a quick refresh and replenish.
- Avoid the need for utensils whenever possible. Fingers and cocktail napkins are all that should be required.
- Keep decorating to a minimum and focus on one key area, like the buffet table and bar.
- Embrace the use of disposable plates, cutlery and napkins.
- If hosting an evening event, don’t forget to offer decaf coffee to your guests in addition to a regular variety.
- Empty your coat closet, leaving it free for your invited guests to hang their jackets themselves. If you don’t have the space, store the jackets in another room and direct guests to where they can find their coats themselves.
- Make sure the second wave of visitors doesn’t arrive to empty platters and warm punch. Do a quick glance around the room every hour or so, bulking up the food, tidying the buffet, refilling the punch bowl, and tossing crumbled cocktail napkins.
Have you ever hosted an open house? Was it simple or stressful? What’s your favourite thing to serve at this type of party?