I (we) have been hosting Holiday Appetizer Parties for more years than I am going to admit here. I like to think, I have the plan pretty well in place and am ready to share how I plan a memorable meal each year for my family.
It is an exciting party to host when it all comes together, it is so worth it. Your family will want to come back year after year.
This is all about making lists. Get out a notebook or your laptop and get ready to make your own lists, with the titles:
What Do You Have To Do?
How You Are Going to Do It?
When You Are Going to Get It All Done?
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What Do You Have To Do?
- Decide what type of appetizer party to want to have. Are you going to serve a dinner following appetizers, or are the appetizers your full menu?
Our party is an Appetizer Dinner. I tell people to not eat for days before they come. I want them really hungry.
2. How many People are you going to invite? Do you need to consider special dietary needs?
3. Pre-Planning and following a guide such as this, will put your mind at ease that you aren’t forgetting anything
How Are You Going To Do It?
Here is how I start my menu planning.
- Create categories for the appetizers I want to serve.
- This will help you feel confident that you have a balanced selection of appetizers for your guests.
- Foods, of course, live in more than one category.
- Basically, I think about hot, cold, meat, fish, vegetables, dips, finger foods, cheesy, crunchie creamy and sweets. I look over my chart, make adjustments if needed and I’m good to go.
|Luau Riblets||A Caprese Wreath||Cheeseball/Crackers||Holiday Cookies|
|Spinach Artichoke Bread||Turkey Roll-ups||7-Layer Bean Dip /Tortilla Chips||Holiday Candy|
|Spicy Meatballs||Vegetable Pizza||Party Mix||Assortment of Cheesecakes|
|Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites||Deviled Eggs||Philly Cheesesteak Dip||Pies- French Silk and Peppermint Supreme|
|Italian Beef Stuffed Buns||Pickle Roll-ups||Shrimp & Andouille Sausage -Dip||Desert Cocktails|
|Pepperoni Stuffed Bread||Spicy Shrimp Skewers||Spinach Artichoke Dip|
|Marinated Mushroom Skewers||Antipasto Skewers||Hot Cheesy Beef Dip|
|Buffalo Chicken Wings||Mexican Caviar with Chips||Sausage & Pepper Wontons|
Need Recipies? I have made a list of 24 of the best recipes on Pinterest for you ( reflected in the table).
I know you must be thinking great, but where is the alcohol. Trust me it is coming. You will Love it!
Ready Made Foods
You don’t need to make everything yourself. The stores today have got you covered. There are so many ready-made delicious appetizers you can use to “fill-in” and round out your selection.
Examples here are nuts: vegetable trays, cheese balls /crackers, fruit plates, sushi, and sweets.
Consider putting together a Charcuterie Board
They are really popular right now. They don’t take a lot of work but they look and taste really impressive.
Here is a delicious example: Sopressata, Prosciutto, Soft, and hard cheeses cubed, Brie, olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, nuts ( almonds, cashews, flavored nuts) fill in with grapes and dried fruit.
- Don’t kill yourself. Plan on making a few things that you know are family favorites and then 3 or 4 new appetizers as well. if your party isn’t for your family,
How Much of Each Should You Make?
You have decided how many guests you are expecting, you determined your menu, now you can start thinking about quantity how many appetizers and how much of each.
Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to this part at all because I want to serve what I think would be delicious and not limit my choices.
I could do the math, but why?
I have never ever run out of food If my family is reading this they are shaking their heads and smiling.
Honestly, you might think I am entertaining an entire neighborhood instead of my family of about 20-25 people.
Just for you, I was able to find a couple of recommendations online to would help you. Thank-you to BHG.
- 10-20 guests = 5 appetizer selections
- 20-40 guests = 7 appetizer selections
- More than 40 guests = 9-13 appetizer selections
Just FYI, I always have 13+ appetizers- Sorry
Establish a beverage station or bar in a convenient space away from the food prep area. Guests are likely to linger after they help themselves or are served. Use our free Beverage Quantity advice below, to estimate what you’ll need.
Here are 14 festive cocktails for your Holiday Beverage Menu You are welcome.
I didn’t mean to get this so far down on the page before talking about drinks, as it is SO important!
You need a variety of course.
A good rule of thumb is to plan on two drinks (of any kind) per person in the first hour, then one drink per hour thereafter.
Tom and Jerry’s are something I try to include. Don’t forget to provide non-alcoholic drinks, as well.
Tip: Set up a bar area where people can help themselves. You don’t want to be chasing people around to see if their glasses are full. You need to be sipping on your own cocktail by this time.
Our family favorite is Apple Cider with mulling spices every year because true, it is so delicious but also makes the house smell wonderful.
Tip: I read in a gourmet magazine years ago that if you serve alcohol with apple cider use Apricot Brandy. Not kidding- delicious
It is imperative you plan this out ahead of time for obvious reasons. How many things will you want to keep warm or hot?
- How many platters will you need to display finger food
- Do you have enough serving spoons, spatulas for each dish?
Do You Have Enough Crockpots? I am not a fancy gal, so I admit loving crock pots and food warmers. I totally use them for serving.
Tip: Make sure your crockpots or warmers have a WARM setting. You don’t want to leave your food on “low”, not the same thing.
I spread them out a bit but together on one end of my serving area with an electrical strip.
More Serving Considerations: As I said, I am not a fancy gal, so on this occasion, I do buy pretty holiday paper plates and very sturdy plastic silverware. I Use real glasses and stemware for beverages.
I have included all of this is a list of my picks of the “items you might need” below.
When Are You Going To Get It All Done?
Okay, Now you have your party and menu overview, made an inventory of what you are going to need, so let’s move on to the details with a timeline.
One Month Before the Party:
- Complete pre-planning your guest list and menu
- Do an inventory of needed cooking equipment, serving platters, etc. Order that now. ( see the choices below)
- Purchase any paper products you need so you get the best selection.
Two to Three Weeks Before the Party:
- Create complete shopping lists
- Pull out your recipes. Make a complete list of ALL needed ingredients. Cross off the things you already have.
- Highlight non-perishables you can get buy right now. Do it.
- Now SORT your recipes. Are there any foods you can make ahead and freeze? I make the Italian beef for my stuffed buns early and freeze.
- Plan what can be made one or two days before. In other words, make a draft of a schedule for the week before your party.
- Purchase all alcohol and other beverages
- Create complete shopping lists
A Week Before the Party:
- Create a detailed day by day schedule of what you need to accomplish each day.
- Finish any party decorations that can be purchased like candles, greens, etc.
- Grocery Shop for most of the perishables you will need.
- Make any recipes that are easily stored, like Party Mix.
- Create your holiday music playlist.
A Day or Two Before the Party:
- Prepare all appetizers that can be stored in the refrigerator.
- Make ahead anything that will save you time the day of the party. An example for me is wrapping the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites.
- Pull out serving dishes and utensils
- You should only have 3 or 4 menu items left to make on the day of the party. (pretty much crockpot items.)
The Day of the Party:
- Make the final appetizers by planning backward so you are done making appetizers 1 hour before guests arrive.
- If you need to keep things warm, put your oven at 175º
- Set up your serving areas and chill beverages. Place stemware, Ice bucket, open wine.
- Prepare the table. – Plates, silverware, napkins, centerpiece
- 30 minutes before guests arrive, put the food out. The only thing you should have to watch is if you need to replenish cold items.
- Turn on the music, pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy yourself.