There is no shortage of ways the holiday season seems to take hold of our schedules and energy. With all the moving parts surrounding the joyous festivities to come, we thought it apropos to introduce you to some entertaining experts that are sharing their tips to make sure your holiday gathering goes off without a hitch. Coming straight from our darling friends at Chalkboard Magazine, where this article made its debut, these guidelines are sure to make your celebration this year the best (and most stress-free) ever!

From Chalkboard

You’ve got this. Or at least now you do. The holidays may be the Olympics of eating, but we’ve got a line-up of gold medal level pros with the guidance you need to pull off a stylish and delicious celebration.

Whether it’s your first go-round or you’re a well seasoned (and brined) veteran, everyone can learn something from our round-up of advice below. From Bon Apetit’s Editor In Chief to the caterers and party planners who rule and reign over L.A., here are all the things you need to know to keep yourself sane and victorious this weekend and beyond.


Timeline Of To-Dos

To keep ourselves in good spirits for the holidays we always start with a solid plan! This includes menu planning ahead of time and placing orders for the items that can’t be made at home. As the day grows near, we make a small timeline of things that will need to happen that day so we can enjoy time spent with guests. -Paige Appel + Kelly Harris, Bash Please

Share The Responsibility

We love including our friends and family in pulling the holiday together, and don’t hesitate on asking them to share the food duties if they have a killer recipe we know everyone loves! -Paige Appel + Kelly Harris, Bash Please

It’s Okay To Outsource

I would suggest creating a prep list for traditional family dishes you plan on making yourself, and then feel free to supplement other sides with the many restaurants that are providing holiday menus this year. Why do everything yourself and then be frazzled when your friends and family are over? -Tara Maxey, Heirloom LA

Menu Planning

Know Your Audience

You’ll get the most love if you know the crowd you’re serving: I know when I’m hosting a dinner for my friends, it’s creamy ricotta on toasts, colorful salads, and strawberry shortcakes that are always sure things. -Kristen Miglore, Food52

Keep It Simple

Never serve anything too fussy. The point is to be out enjoying the party with your family and friends, not stuck in the kitchen. It’s a celebration, not a State Dinner. -Adam Rapoport, Bon Appetit

3-To-1 Rule

I always have a 3-to-1 rule with cooking for an event: three make-ahead dishes, like a soup that can be easily reheated, a kale salad that can sit in the fridge overnight, or a big cheese platter; and one “hot” dish that needs to be made at the last minute or taken out of the oven, like a turkey. You will feel much, much saner. Also, NEVER make a recipe for the first time on a holiday – you’re just courting disaster. Stick to classics you’ve made one thousand times. -Claire Thomas, The Kitchy Kitchen

Aim For Balance

Opt for at least half as many or equivalent non-starchy sides as starchy. If you have mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potato casserole, you need 2-3 non-starchy sides like a salad, green beans and cauliflower. I think most holiday menus are lacking salads and non-starchy vegetables, in general. Salads are the easiest to add onto a menu because they can be prepped way ahead and they don’t require an oven. -Pamela Salzman, Cooking Instructor

Keep Snacks Quick

We always put out stationary boards of cheese and charcuterie for our guests before the big feast. This way I’m not fussing with last minute hot hors d’oeuvres or having to replenish throughout cocktail hour. I select a few different cheeses and fill the board in with colorful fruits (e.g. grapes, apples, asian pears and persimmons), fig jam, charcuterie, nuts, olives, crackers and pickles. -Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Do A Dessert Potluck

While I hate making pies, the a holiday feast is all about the pie. So dessert in our house is a potluck! I take care of the buffet but my guests handle the sweets – it’s great! -Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

The Week Before

Prep The Kitchen

Get your knives sharpened early, especially your carving knife. A razor-sharp knife is the most important tool in your kitchen. Also, clean out the refrigerator. I do this the weekend before the celebration to make more space in the fridge. -Pamela Salzman, Cooking Instructor

Know Your Menu

Be aware of which dishes (or dish elements) can be made a few days in advance, like chopped vegetables, vinaigrettes, toasted nuts, stock, etc. -Pamela Salzman, Cooking Instructor

Buy To-Go Containers

I always make too much food and I like sending care packages home with my guests to enjoy the day after, especially our single friends. This year I am definitely packing up all the extra desserts so that they aren’t tempting me the next afternoon when I’m shopping for holiday gifts online. I love the idea of having people bring their own reusable containers, but for me it’s easier to get these disposables from my local store or Amazon. -Pamela Salzman, Cooking Instructor

The Day Before

Set The Table

Set the table the day before to save stress the day of. As far as the table setting we love to keep it simple with warm tones in textures (like napkins) and incorporating natural elements to compliment the food being placed on the table. -Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Play With Details

Be playful with your place settings! Use a square plate instead of round, tie the napkins in a knot instead of using napkin rings, use a paper placemat and calligraphy your menu on it. -Erin Sprinkel +Angela Margolis, Sterling Social

Print Menus

Print menus for each place setting and lay a piece of greenery or a fresh herb on top. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to dress up your table. Plus, it provides a glimpse of the feast to come will get your guests chatting and stomachs growling! -Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Make A Simple Centerpiece

When setting a long table, garlands are a stunning and cost-effective way to dress your table. Just wire together some seasonal greens like maple leaves, olive leaf, and some herbs to heighten the senses. Then simply poke in some floral heads for a pop of color. -Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

The Day Of

Coordinate Cooking

Make dishes like mashed potatoes ahead of time and re-heat over a double boiler the day of to save room in the oven for things that need to crisp, like stuffing, the turkey and pies! And don’t be afraid to serve some room temperature dishes like a green bean salad or roasted squash with burrata so you’re not rushing to heat everything up right before dinner. -Gaby Dalkin, What’s Gaby Cooking

Pre-Make Cocktails

I make a pre-batched pitcher of cocktails so that guests can help themselves and I don’t have to play bartender. This year I am going to serve persimmon margaritas or cranberry mojitos. -Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Have A Drink

As a mixologist, my tip is pretty obvious, but…have a drink! In this case, I’d recommend getting some digestifs like Cynar or Angostura Amaro. Put this bittersweet sipper over ice for a perfect after dinner drink. -Talmadge Lowe, Pharmacie

Make Traditions

During dinner, we go around the table and say what we are thankful for. This has become a really special tradition amongst friends. We always play a big game of Celebrity after dinner. It’s a very fun tradition. Be sure to make your own! -Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Images via: Couture Events CA, Linked Contributors