Hosting a holiday party is no small endeavor. Not only are you shouldered with the responsibility of preparing food for a house full of people—but there's also cleaning, re-arranging, and entertaining involved, all of which combined is capable of making you spiral into insanity before guests even arrive. Seeing as we're in the throes of the festive season, we tapped two consummate entertainers for their pro tips on how to decorate and cook with ease. Here, interior designer Nate Berkus and Eyeswoon's Athena Calderone, who both partnered with LG Electronics during the lead-up to the holidays, spill their stress-free hosting secrets.
VIDEO: Watch Nate Berkus's Team Decorate a 15-Foot Christmas Tree
Scroll down for their candid hosting mishaps—and how to avoid them. Take notes, people.
1. PLAN AND PREP YOUR MEAL IN ADVANCE
"I always choose dishes that can be prepped ahead of time," says Calderone. "If you are hosting guests, the last thing you want to think about is slaving over the stove while your friends and family are drinking and hanging out in the other room (resist the urge to create a dish as laborious as risotto—a massive no-no!). Slow-cooked meats or roasts are great options because they only get better over time." (Smart technology like LG's SmartThinQ is also a great home hack, says Calderone: "You can preheat the oven remotely from your smartphone, keeping an eye on progress and cooking time left to keep meal time on track effortlessly when you're not in the kitchen.") Adds Berkus: "The secret to any great party is choosing menu items that you can prepare ahead and that you know your guests will love. And if all else fails, order in!"
2. CREATE AN IMPRESSIVE TABLESCAPE
"Stick to a neutral color scheme during the holidays," says Berkus. "Add in metallic accents for some holiday shine—things like brass candleholders and napkin rings will instantly up the ante. Another go-to of mine is to pull in greenery from the garden and finish off your tablescape with candles. Also, make sure your table linens are fresh, pressed, and ready to go."
3. PREPARE A CHEESE BOARD
"A cheese and charcuterie board is essential," says Calderone. "It gives guests something to nosh on as soon as they arrive. And another great feature: the cheeses can and should be served at room temperature, allowing you to free up valuable space in your over-stuffed fridge in that final, crucial countdown to mealtime! As with all things aesthetic, the way to create a beautiful cheese board is by mixing, matching, and layering. I love the look of huge hunks of cheese on a rustic wood board, but to help keep it from becoming a mess as soon as guests attack it, I do pre-slice it just a bit. My general recommendation is three to four types of cheese per board, to keep it varied but not overwhelming. Offer some sweetness in the form of a homemade jam or seasonal fruits—Concord grapes are amazing this time of year. Add nuts (I typically use Marcona almonds). And finally, finish off the board with an herb bundle for a necessary pop of color."
4. MAKE SURE YOUR KITCHEN IS READY
"Without fail, your kitchen becomes the number one place guests like to congregate," says Berkus. "Embrace it. Use your kitchen island to set up snacks, a bar, and add extra seating. You want people to feel at home, especially during the holidays." And that's not the only reason to get your kitchen in order. "I NEVER have enough space in my refrigerator and the queue for my oven is endless, so I design my meal plan with kitchen efficiency in mind," says Calderone.
5. SERVE THE FOOD FAMILY-STYLE
"Not only do these formats save you from having to formally plate each dish, and allow you to sample many more foods—they can also be stunning and elevated," says Calderone. "The key to creating an eye-catching buffet is to use different colors, textures, and heights. So, think about the hues of the food beforehand to avoid a monotone palette, use platters and pedestals to create a multi-level composition, and mix and match styles. I never like it to be too rustic, for example, but if I use a vintage wood piece, I contrast it with matte gold utensils. It’s all about creating beauty and uniting vibrant colors and textures that play off one another." Adds Berkus: "Have fun with your seating chart, too. You want guests to get to know each other and spark unexpected connections. Sometimes it puts people out of their comfort zone, but I'm always mindful of who I'm bringing together and I try to seat guests next to someone I know they will have something in common with. Also, I love having a super chic place card at each setting."
6. PRE-STOCK YOUR HOME BAR
"As host, you want to make sure you get to enjoy the party along with your guests," says Berkus. "Make sure your bar cart is fully stocked and pre-mix a pitcher with your go-to holiday cocktail."