Throwing a holiday dinner is a tall order, especially if it's your first time. Here are tips to make the job easier―and more fun.
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

1. Share the work: One strategy: Come up with a menu,prepare the main dish, and ask other guests to bring the appetizer,sides, and dessert.

2. Think bigger: Plan for more food and beverages thanyou'll need. It's better to enjoy leftovers than to run out ofeither.

3. Supply snacks: Offer assorted munchies before dinner,such as a crudité platter, cheese and crackers, or dips, whichwill keep guests from growing peckish as you put the finishingtouches on the meal. But avoid anything too substantial; you don'twant to spoil appetites.

4. Learn their limitations: Ask your guests a few days inadvance if they have any food allergies or strong aversions thatwould prevent them from enjoying your offerings. If you know aheadof time, you can adjust menu items to suit their needs.

5. Cook ahead: Prepare food in advance whenever possible,which leaves less chance for mishaps and more time for fun.

6. Get set: Have your table set before guests arrive; itwill make them feel welcome and spare you last-minute stress.

7. Clean as you go: Clear countertops and load thedishwasher when you find a free minute. This will save work laterin the evening and keep your kitchen uncluttered.

8. Keep it casual: A low-key vibe is most comfortable forboth you and your guests. Remember, your guests are likely to enjoythemselves if you do.