I love the initial idea of having friends over for Christmas festivities. I dream up lavish menus, create special cocktail recipes and spend far too long thinking about table decorations. The problem is, I dream too big and I’m often left feeling overwhelmed or too exhausted to enjoy the night. This year, however, I’m on a mission to keep things simple. I still want my friends to feel special and have a wonderful night. I still want them to indulge in a Christmas feast and be impressed by the table decorations. I want all of this but with minimal fuss and stress! This year I’ve learnt some tips and tricks to minimise the workload and stress so I can enjoy the night as much as my loved ones do.
I often believe friends or family will be disappointed if everything isn’t perfect. What I’ve learnt, however, is that no one really cares if your food’s over-cooked or if your dessert’s too runny! True friends are happy just to spend time with you. To eat, drink and be merry together – despite any slight imperfections or burnt edges. So, let go of the notion that everything must be perfect and enjoy the night for what it is.
Prepare in advance
Of course, you’re going to feel stressed if you start preparing a 3-course meal an hour before your guests arrive. Be realistic. If you’re time poor, ask your friends to bring a dish, or keep it simple with just one course. If you’re really looking to impress with a 3-course meal, prepare things like dessert and certain elements of the main a day or two ahead of time. Many people don’t realise that most desserts can be made weeks ahead and frozen. I always have a couple of little desserts stored in my freezer for last minute entertaining.
There’s no shame in cheating! In fact, sometimes your meal can end up more delicious if you do. Familiarise yourself with nearby shops that sell good quality premade dips, snacks and starters (I know there’s plenty in Paris!). Italian delicatessens are also great for buying good quality fresh pasta or premade lasagnes. As long as you buy the best quality premade food within your budget, your friends won’t be disappointed in the slightest.
Decorate with what you have
The table setting in my photo was created using material scraps, bits of wrapping paper, Christmas tree decorations and an odd assortment of glasses and plates I already owned. The only thing I had to purchase was a couple of candles to set the mood and a little bunch of festive flowers. There’s really no need to spend a lot on matching cutlery or linen tablecloths. Just be creative with what you have at hand.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Asking for help is something I’ve only recently become ok with. In the past, I’ve been so set on preparing and organising everything myself, only to end up stressed and exhausted. This year, I’ve asked friends to help me prepare little things or pick up a baguette or wine on their way. Allowing your friends to help out certainly makes the night more enjoyable and most of the time they’re more than happy to help.
If you have any entertaining tips or a favourite recipe you make for specials occasions, be sure to comment below and let me know!