Hostess do's and don'ts for entertaining during the holidays

Hostessing holiday parties is a little more than just popping turkey or ham in the oven. A hostess needs to be warm, welcoming, and has thought of everything. From parking to decor, from special diets to the cocktails, the holiday hostess has a lot on her plate. Don't worry; here are some expert tips to keep you cool in your hostessing role.

Do:

* Make your party the hot spot - Make your holiday party an interesting place to be. "Invite someone outside of your immediate circle. You'll feel great about including them in the holiday, and the new face will liven conversation," says Wayfair.com's Style Director, Kristine Kennedy.

* Put fun in the details - Pay attention to the details when serving dinner. "Do use festive food labels to identify dishes. If you have a show-stopping dish, consider having the recipe pre-printed on a card that you could easily hand out should someone request; that is if you are willing to share," says Katie Jordan of Flourish Events in Greenville, South Carolina.

* Lose the awkward moments - Make it easy for party guests to eat and mingle, without trying to juggle foods and handshakes. "Keep finger food simple and bite-sized, so it's not awkward," says award-winning Maitre d' Felix Albano of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse in New York City.

* Make seating arrangements - Parties with formal, seated dinners require some thought on your part. Kennedy says, "If you are hosting many guests, put some thought into the seating arrangement (separating spouses, mixing family with friends) to ensure lively conversation. Use place cards or feel comfortable telling people where to sit."

And keep those whispering, too-chummy couples and best friends apart when making a seating arrangement. Jordan explains, "For a seated dinner, do not seat spouses, significant others, or best friends together. Encourage new friendships and conversation to develop."

* Fill their time, not just their bellies -

Because holidays often revolve around a meal, Kennedy advises to make other activities available like games, music, and puzzles.

Don't:

* Rely on potluck guests for their timing - "Have simple appetizers and wine on hand for a potluck. It never fails that the person with the appetizers or wine is late! It's happened to me! I hosted a large, potluck-style holiday party last year, and my two guests who were bringing the wine were driving together, and they were two hours late! I was so embarrassed (and angry) that I didn't have but one bottle of wine to offer my guests!" says Coco of Vidacoco.com.

* Overdress the table - "If you are hosting a seated dinner at home, don't overdo your table décor. Remember to plan where food dishes will go and how much space they need. If guests feel decorations are in the way, they may move them and destroy your decorative theme," says Marie Ackerman, Vice President Education, Teleflora.

* Kill your holiday budget with new dinnerware - You don't need to run out and buy new dinnerware for a large dinner party, says entertaining expert and designer Mark Addison. He advises, "Mix and match your existing dinnerware, patterned with simple white dinnerware and silverware to design an eclectic and engaging tabletop. You can always rent white dinnerware from a party rental company and return them after your event."

* Serve boring dishes -

"Do not shy away from dishes that have unusual ingredients, instead use them and help expand someone's palate," says Katie Jordan of Flourish Events. Take a moderate approach by serving some traditional dishes and have fun in the kitchen by making some updated entrees with modern twists.

More by this contributor:

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The Sensible Woman's Guide to a Yummy Thanksgiving