The Checklist That Makes Every Party Stress-Free
Photo: Courtesy of Bevy Smith
One Month Ahead
Send out invites. "Use Paperless Post or another website for invitations—and let people know what's happening when. Designate a specific time for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and a specific time for dinner. Informing guests of your plans is the best way to make sure you don't end up waiting for them."
One Week Ahead
Buy the hors d'oeuvres. "Always cheat where you can. I cut down on prep time by buying premade frozen canapés. People love pigs in a blanket. They love mini quiches. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll do pan-fried lamb meatballs—just ground lamb, breadcrumbs, onions and chives—but I serve them with store-bought tzatziki sauce."
Two Days Ahead
Draft your seating chart. "You know those people who can talk to anybody, who are great listeners and are interested in everything? I call them ringers. You need those. Every gathering has at least one person who has to be the main event. You sit a ringer next to him at the dinner table or usher him to a corner where he can reign supreme and just guide your ringers over to him, like a receiving line."
Six Hours Ahead
Clear the decks. "Sometimes it's really helpful just to get extra people out of the house. For holiday dinners, my sister will stay at home and cook, and I'll take her kids and our parents to the movies. By the time we come back, the food's all done and we can help get ready for the party."
Photo: Getty Images
One Hour Ahead
Raise the bar. "The most important thing you can do—ever—is have cocktails already pre-batched. I prefer something light and bubbly, because who doesn't like to sparkle during the holidays? Put a few pomegranate seeds—you can buy them loose—and a drop of St-Germain in each flute, and then pour chilled Prosecco just before everyone arrives."
Half an Hour Ahead
Get gorgeous. "People come over to spend time with you. You don't want to welcome them with a cooking spoon in your hand and your hair in disarray. Put on a sequined sweater and nice flats—that says party, and it's not hard! You open the door dressed for the occasion, cocktail in hand, and you look like you're entertaining."
Photo: G. Giraldo
Smith is host of Sirius XM's Bevalations, the podcast Bevy Says, and the exclusive dining event Dinner with Bevy.